Unscheduled power plant shutdowns will contribute to a winter electricity supply squeeze in the Republic, according to a report from national grid operator EirGrid published on Thursday.
The State company says growing demand, including from data centres and other large energy users, along with scheduled power plant closures will leave the Republic facing electricity shortages in the short and medium term.
However, Northern Ireland will have surplus electricity supplies for most of the rest of the decade, barring 2024 and 2025.
The new report from the grid company shows that outages – where technical and other problems cause unscheduled or unexpected shutdowns at power plants – have closed generators for this winter. Those plants produce 350 mega watts (MW) of electricity, almost 7 per cent of peak demand in the Republic.
They include three electricity units of SSE Airtricity’s oil-burning Tarbert power plant in Co Kerry, which EirGrid says will not be available through the winter months to provide electricity this winter.
Unexpected power plant shutdowns pose a growing problem for electricity supplies in the Republic, particularly as the facilities age.
Tarbert is due to close at the end of 2023, but SSE has told EirGrid that two of the units will be out of action until March next year, while another is expected to be shut down until December 2023.
EirGrid says that its latest generation capacity statement (GCS) shows the Republic facing electricity shortages past the middle of this decade.
Mark Foley, EirGrid chief executive, pointed out that the company has been warning of “increased tightness between demand and supply” since 2016.
“This year’s GCS forecasts significant capacity deficits over the coming years with an increase in the tightness between supply and demand,” he said.
Planning and licensing problems left power companies unable to build generators that would have produced 366MW of electricity on time for this winter.
The report, which covers the period up to 2031, calculates that demand for electricity will grow by about 180MW a year, while power plants including Tarbert, and ESB units at Moneypoint, Co Clare, and Aghada, Co Cork, are due to close.
The State company predicts “significant capacity deficits in 2024 and 2025″ with pressure on supplies beginning to ease in 2026, as planned new generators begin to come on stream.
Northern Ireland enjoys a small surplus in electricity supplies currently, with likely shortages in 2024 and 2025, before returning to a surplus until 2031.