Comments made after Eamon Ryan admitted uncertainty over winter power supply
Everything that needs to be done will be done to ensure no power outages through the winter, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
He was responding in the Dáil to Labour leader Alan Kelly who called on him to “guarantee that the lights will stay on” this winter after Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan said in an interview that he could not be “absolutely certain” there will be no power outages.
“He couldn’t guarantee that the lights would stay on this winter, so I want to ask you the same question,” Mr Kelly asked Mr Martin. “Will you guarantee that the lights will stay on?”
The Taoiseach said he could “absolutely assure” people that “everything that needs to be done will be done to ensure power supply.
During Dáil leaders’ questions he said that any short-term problems that arise will be dealt with through demand management, “working with large energy users who have their own back-up generation capacity”.
Mr Kelly said he was concerned that because of lack of long-term planning that “we’re sleepwalking into a crisis here when it comes to energy”.
He also asked about the role of the Department of Transport “because we’re expecting people to buy more electric cars in general and we want people to move to heat pumps” all of which will result in increased electricity demand while “we might not have enough electricity to be able to ensure that they work”.
The Taoiseach said the generation capacity studied published today by Eirgrid highlights short-term concerns.
Two gas-fired plants are currently undergoing maintenance and this was complicated by Covid-related delays in getting outside experts travelling from abroad.
But “we have been assured that these plans are to be back in operation in October and November, and that will ensure supplied throughout this winter. And any short-term problems could be managed by working with large energy users who have their own backup power supply.
Earlier, Mr Ryan, the Minister for Environment had said that the Government could not be “absolutely certain” there will be no power outages this winter.
Mr Ryan has said that while energy supplies will be “tight” for the next two to three years, he was confident that potential shortages would be addressed.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland and Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Ryan said that “some” fossil fuels would be needed to back up renewable power.
“Those fossil fuel plants will be turned on when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. That is part of managing our climate challenge, we always knew we were going to do this.”
It will be particularly challenging this winter, he said. “But we will manage this.”
It comes as the State faces keeping coal- and oil-burning electricity plants operating beyond their scheduled closing dates to avoid power cuts, in a likely blow to Government climate change ambitions.
There would be a “competitive advantage” to having renewable sources, given the high cost of gas prices, he said. “This plan will work and will save us money.” However, Mr Ryan acknowledged that recent auctions had not delivered the expected new generation capacity.
EirGrid and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities will seek to make sure that that does happen in the upcoming auctions early next year and into the next two to three years,he added.
“We can’t have the lights go out”.
Mr Ryan said that keeping the Moneypoint and Tarbert plants open would be a last resort, but they were likely to be kept as back up and this had always been part of the plan. They would be managed within the carbon budget.
Battery power to store renewable power is also planned, he said. “There’s not just one solution.”
When asked about the energy use of data centres, Mr Ryan said they would have to be sustainable and part of the solution, “they will have to live within the carbon budget”.
There will be a range of solutions, he said including micro generating for which there would soon be a proposal, he said.
Mr Ryan said Ireland is talking to various energy companies to make sure they can rely on the supply. – Additional reporting from PA