Interruption to energy services would 'immediately' hit medicine supplies, pharma giants warn

Interruption to energy services would 'immediately' hit medicine supplies, pharma giants warn

Early morning fog covers the Johnson & Johnson manufacturing facility in Cork. Picture: David Creedon

Any interruption to energy services would "immediately" hit medicine supplies, pharmaceutical representatives have warned.

It comes as Ireland's energy regulators warn that the winter will be "tight" in terms of supply and demand, with big energy users set to be hit with "peak demand" tariffs after a plan to build emergency generators did not come to fruition.

Ireland's energy watchdog said it would shortly publish "a consultation on additional measures to reduce peak demand this winter".

The Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), which represents Irish-based pharmaceutical giants, said the "entire medicines supply chain" must be protected from energy shortages.

"That includes the production of medicines and the upstream chemicals, components and materials, packaging, warehousing and distribution services," the IPHA said.

"For example, in the case of distribution warehousing, these centres rely on a stable and uninterrupted supply of energy to operate the entire facility. 

The energy is required to maintain the facility at the required temperature regimes. 

"A failure to maintain these regimes would mean immediate impact on medicines supply, potentially, and a time lag for the full recovery of inventory," it warned.

A similar warning has been raised by ISME, which represents small and medium enterprises. It said that while most of the issues raised with it around energy have been around price, industrial sectors have warned that even temporary blackouts could mean machinery being out of action for days.

"We have had contact from a member in the smelting business who has told us if gas was turned off, it would make his business unviable, since after four days with the kiln off, his business would spend a week getting the furnace up to working temperature and getting metals to liquid. 

"These furnaces are never turned off, even at Christmas. If there was to be any disruption to supply, they would prefer (economically) to shut down until normal uninterrupted supply could recommence.

We suspect there are a number of other industrial sectors where this would also be the case."

Both the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and Eirgrid have said supply of energy in the winter "will be tight".

An Eirgrid spokesperson said: "A process of securing emergency generation for the next number of winters has been instigated on the instruction of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities. 

"This emergency generation would only be used if required. 

"EirGrid is continuing to work on a range of actions to address this supply-demand shift for the medium and long term while we work with the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities and others to deliver on temporary emergency generation."

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities said it is "in the final stages" of a procurement process for the first tranche of 200MW emergency generators. Based on capacity assessments, it has also decided to procure a tranche of 450MW temporary emergency generators too, a spokesperson said.

A Department of Environment spokesperson said that the possibility of some outages could not be ruled out.

"While the possibility that the level of available generation capacity would be not sufficient to meet all demand at all times can never be ruled out, there is a range of actions being taken by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities and EirGrid to ensure security of electricity supply over the coming winter and years ahead."

Meanwhile, Clare County Council has approved the construction of a data centre in Ennis, the first since the new Government policy on the facilities was announced.

The €450m Ennis data centre is designed to use green hydrogen, a statement by its developer said. It has access to 200MW of power from both the network grid and gas generation on site. Its developer Art says it will create between 400 and 450 permanent jobs when the data centre campus is fully operational. Up to 1,200 will be employed in construction and 600 jobs in support services.

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