Investment of €120m but ESB improvements are still needed
IN recent years almost €100m has been invested in County Wexford’s electricity infrastructure, with a further €20m spend under way, but problems persist.
ESB Networks Ireland confirmed to this newspaper that the company has set up a working group to address specific concerns raised at a meeting of Wexford County Council this summer about poor electricity supply in the south east of the county. In early August a fault in Wexford town saw 1,760 customers lose power for an hour or more. Customers were left frustrated by the way power was restored - on and off again, multiple times, over a 20-minute duration, which negatively impacted electrical devices and surge protectors. ESB spokesperson Paul Hand said: ‘Fault situations can occur to both overhead and underground networks for a variety of reasons – a tree falling on an overhead line, a civil works contractor hitting a cable, a lightning strike. In this case, a cable fault occurred in a section of line. Crews were immediately mobilised and restored supply to all customers within a number of hours. Supply restoration takes priority over fault location. The location of a fault is not always obvious and as such ESB Networks need to go through a process to locate the source of the fault.’
He said this process can involve switching in and out different sections of network until the exact location is found – so hence the intermittent nature of supply while the fault location was pinpointed. ‘ESB Networks are constantly seeking ways to improve the “fault hunting” process by using remote technologies. We are acutely conscious of the imperative for reliable information on restoration times. Our network technicians will generally have updated the Estimated Restoration Times on the PowerCheck app and www.powercheck.ie to reflect the time it will take to locate and repair the fault.’
Mr Hand said a group is looking at existing data and gathering new information to determine what is causing the continuity problems in the Kilmore Quay, Our Lady’s Island, Rosslare areas. ‘ESB Networks will make the investment necessary to improve continuity in the area. The output from the working group is expected in the coming weeks and will result in a programme of work to address our findings. It could involve bird deterrents, cattle deterrents, greater use of smart technologies etc.’
He said there are no capacity problems in the area that would prevent new business and do- mestic connections coming on stream in the future. ‘We are working to create a more reliable, more resilient, more secure, cleaner and safer supply to homes, farms and businesses across the county.’
ESB Networks is investing a further €20m worth of key infrastructure projects in other parts of County Wexford. These investments specifically target the southern portion of the county and are being introduced as part of ESB’s continuity improvement plan. Mr Hand said. ‘It means that cumulatively, €120m will have
THE ENHANCED NETWORK WILL BRING SIGNIFICANT LONG TERM BENEFITS FOR THE PEOPLE OF WEXFORD
been spent on County Wexford’s electricity infrastructure during the ten years up to 2020. These significant capital investments are already bearing fruit, facilitating a 26 per cent increase in business connections in the county in 2018 alone.’
ESB Networks Divisional Manager Carmel O’Connor said that in the past decade, ESB Networks continues to invest in state-of-the-art infrastructure in Wexford. ‘The enhanced network in the county will bring significant long term benefits for the people of Wexford, with a more efficient, cleaner and more resilient electricity system helping local businesses grow and attracting inward investment. ESB Networks is deeply embedded in the communities we serve, so we are dependent on the cooperation and understanding of homes, farms and businesses with all such upgrades, particularly in relation to accessing lands and planned electricity outages, so I would like to thank all those in Wexford for their patience.’
Ms O’Connor said that with climate change increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, the investment in a resilient and smarter network for the county is timely and essential.