Energy supplies to be stress-tested to ensure State is prepared for major shocks

Regulator calls for electricity firms to charge users more during peak evening times due to ‘significant risks’ to supply

The Government is to conduct a stress-test of energy supplies next month in what has been described by sources as a “war-game” type exercise to ensure the country is prepared for major shocks.

It comes as the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) said that electricity companies must charge users more for energy use during peak evening times due to the “significant risks” to the State’s supply.

Consumers will pay more for electricity used between 5pm and 7pm each day, which the CRU anticipates will lead to a “reduction in demand at the critical peak period”.

The proposal came in a consultation paper published by the CRU on changes to electricity network tariffs that will apply for 12 months from October 1st.

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The Government is preparing emergency plans that focus on potential shocks to oil and gas supply and an emergency drill-type exercise is due to be held in September to test the State’s preparedness.

Sources said the emergency exercise will take place in the National Emergency Coordination Centre in Agriculture House in Dublin. It will feature attendees from every department, as well as emergency services, Defence Forces, State utilities and others.

External facilitators will describe particular scenarios and the group will discuss the likely responses and then raise any issues that need clarification in advance of any potential emergencies.

The CRU has said that if demand for electricity during peak times is not reduced, it could result in power cuts due to supply issues.

The CRU has statutory responsibility to ensure security of electricity supply. It also has a duty to monitor electricity supplies and to take measures as it considers necessary to protect security of supply.

Pressure on Ireland’s electricity supply has been increasing in recent weeks, with EirGrid, the national grid operator, issuing two “system alerts”, meaning there was enough electricity to meet the demand, but possibly not enough in reserve should something go wrong.

Asked about the Government’s response, a spokesman for the Department of Environment said that an emergency energy group co-ordinates and oversees a “national-level activity and responses in relation to the impact of the war on energy security.”

“The group includes representatives from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, Gas Networks Ireland, EirGrid, the National Oil Reserves Agency and the SEAI.”

The department is currently carrying out a review of the energy security of Ireland’s gas and electricity system which will be finalised shortly.

The review is looking at the risks to both natural gas and electricity supplies, and is examining a range of measures including the need for additional capacity to import energy, energy storage, fuel diversification and renewable gases – such as hydrogen.

About 25 per cent of Ireland’s gas comes from the Corrib Gas Field and the remaining 75 per cent comes from the UK.

The supply of electricity is linked to the supply of natural gas. Approximately half of the electricity generated in Ireland comes from gas-fired power stations.

A source said there are still questions around whether Irish gas-fired power stations would switch to use oil in emergency situations.

The Government is currently working on securing a much larger tranche of temporary back-up generation capacity for winters from next year onwards.

It is understood there have been delays to the first tranche of temporary generation for this winter.

In June, the Government agreed an increased borrowing limit of €3 billion for EirGrid for works including strengthening the national grid.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times