Ireland has a largely stand-alone electricity grid. An Electricity interconnector with Northern Ireland was recommissioned in 1995 and is used to optimise peak demand management. Peat development in Ireland is undertaken by a State enterprise, Bord na Mona (Peat Development Board), which has been a world leader in exploitation techniques. Ireland has one of the world's highest levels of peat output. The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) is the State-owned generator and distributor of electricity. Electricity demand in Ireland has grown in excess of 5% per annum for the period 1988-1998, an extremely high rate by international standards. In 1997, peak electricity demand, a record for the State, was 3373Mw. In 1997, the number of people employed in the industry was 9,383 on average. Natural gas from Irish offshore fields is making an important contribution towards energy policy, at around 20% of total national requirements. Demand for gas is growing strongly. Almost 50% of Ireland's gas supply is now being imported through the Bord Gais (the Gas Supply Board) Interconnector Pipeline (extending from Ireland to the UK) and this percentage, is expected to increase. The Kinsale Head/Ballycotton gas fields, on the south coast of Ireland are in decline and are expected to be commercially exhausted by 2003. While Ireland is totally dependent on imports for its oil supply, the proportion of primary energy derived from oil has been reduced significantly in the last decade in line with EU policy. The State-owned Irish National Petroleum Corporation operates the country's sole refinery at Whitegate in Cork and has reactivated the crude oil terminal at Whiddy Island, Bantry Bay.

by Michael Green
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