Energy supplies in Ireland are entering a “very tight situation” that could last up to four years, the Minister for the Environment has said.
Supplier EirGrid is set to release a report warning it will be unable to generate enough electricity in the coming years to meet a rapid increase in demand, according to the Sunday Business Post.
Earlier this year, it was warned the country could face rolling blackouts this winter due to energy shortages, but these fears were allayed by news that two major electricity plants will reopen in the autumn.
The Green Party leader and Minister for the Environment, Transport and Climate Eamon Ryan said that while the situation remains “very tight”, contingency plans are in place and he believes “we will be able to manage it”.
Speaking on Monday, he said: “There is a real issue. It has been very tight, it is very tight.
“Even the next number of weeks before those stations (Whitegate and Huntstown power plants) come back up, we have a very tight supply issue.
“But we have a path, we know what we need to do. It’s both managing demand and supply.”
He said the approach at both European and Irish level would be focused on managing renewable energy supplies.
He said: “Wind power at sea is huge. There’s real potential for us to tap into that, and be able to power not just industry, but transport, heat, a whole range of different needs.
“As we develop that we need balancing power and a lot of that will be battery.”
It’s a very tight situation for the next two to three, four years
He added: “It’s a very tight situation for the next two to three, four years, while we build up some of those battery and gas-fired back-up systems.”
Mr Ryan said that despite the challenges to energy supplies, he remains confident “that we can meet out climate change targets.”
He added: “It is tight and it’s tight because those two large gas plants were out of action for a year.
“A lot of other plants, because of Covid, are having to go to maintenance.
“So we’re very conscious of that. We’ll see Eirgrid and (low carbon energy supplier) Crew coming out this week, with their capacity statements, with their paths to manage this. I think we will be able to manage it.”
The Social Democrats will table a motion this week calling for a moratorium on the use of data centres in Ireland, amid concerns over the high level of demand they place on the energy grid.
EirGrid analysis shows that demand from data centres could account for 29 per cent of all demand in Ireland by 2028 in a medium-case scenario.
While Government has backed the development of such centres, Mr Ryan warned that “no one interest” would be allowed to expand in a way that could undermine climate targets or energy security.
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He said: “What I’ve said consistently, I’ll say in the Dáil in response to that motion this week, no one is exempt from the need to meet our climate targets and provide energy security.
“We won’t see projects flying ahead if they don’t have that capability to fit in to a low carbon and energy secure system.”
“Nothing will go ahead if it doesn’t fit in those climate targets” he added.