Taoiseach expresses confidence there will be no electricity blackouts this winter

Comments made after Eamon Ryan admitted uncertainty over winter power supply

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has signalled he is confident there will be no electricity blackouts this winter arising from capacity pressures which have occurred on the State’s energy grids.

“I don’t think it is going to come to that,” said Mr Martin on Wednesday, saying he was confident that the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and the utility which manages the State’s electricity network, EirGrid, would be able to deal with the issues that have arisen.

Speaking to reporters at the launch of a partnership between Google and St Andrew’s Resource Centre in Pearse Street in Dublin’s south inner city, he said: “It’s not just a political issue. It is a fundamental issue for people, industry, jobs, investment in the economy.

“We have a very proud record of having strong utilities to support and underpin industrial development, both domestically and FDI.


“It is crucial that the right steps are taken and definitive steps are taken.”

Mr Martin said that despite the Government’s intent to end dependence on fossil fuels, it was “very clear that gas will be an essential transition fuel into the future”.

The Taoiseach did accept that demand for energy had increased dramatically and that data centres had played a part in this. But he said that the CRU would shortly be completing a review of energy use by data centres and said that from that would emerge a different approach, where each data centre having a “back-up energy supply” would be a prerequisite for them.

He said a number of factors had led to the current pressures on the grid, including two gas generators stopping production because of maintenance issues.

“They are due back in by early November. That will reduce any potential risks to supply.”

There has also been a very low wind summer, a one-in-a-50-year event.

He also noted that the State will have to contend with the expected closure of coal- and oil-fired plants by 2025.

“The responsibility is with CRU and EirGrid.

“I have met with them. There will be a memo coming to Government shortly.

“Government will be doing everything it possibly can to make sure that we plug that gap between now and 2025,” he said.

‘Every effort’

Earlier in the day Mr Martin had said that everything that needs to be done will be done to ensure no power outages through the winter.

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.

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 study 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 plants are to be back in operation in October and November, and that will ensure supplies throughout this winter.”


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 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.”

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 CRU 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 budgets.

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. – Additional reporting from PA