The chief executive of Eirgrid has said that he cannot guarantee that there will not be blackouts in the coming months but said it would be unlikely.
Mark Foley said it would take “an extraordinary confluence of events for the lights to go out” this winter.
It will be a “tight” winter and he could not guarantee that there would not be blackouts.
The “extraordinary confluence of events” would include “a very, very cold winter”, no wind on a cold January evening, high demand (such as Christmas), an interconnector failure with the UK because of similar extreme weather conditions and a major fossil fuel plant failure.
Mr Foley said there had been very good engagement with large energy users such as big industrial users and data centres and that Eirgrid and the ESB had “deep experience” in dealing with difficult conditions such as last winter.
Data centres would make their backup generation available to keep the system stable.
“This is a very positive part of this contingency. They're ready if we need them and we can count on their support," he told RTÉ radio’s.
While the peak demand growth in Ireland for electricity over the five years had been 9%, which was a relatively small increase in demand, Ireland had problems accommodating this because of the failure to deliver new forms for generating energy.
Growth over the next decade was forecast to be 30%, he said.
Mr Foley called for incentive mechanisms to be changed so more certainty could be given to developers to build new plants.
The continuing gap between energy demand and generation was because new forms of gas generation capacity had not been delivered to the market and older plants were becoming less reliable.
Mr Foley was commenting as EirGrid’s Generation Capacity Report was published on Thursday.
According to the report, Ireland's power grid will have deficits in production for at least another nine years.
It said that deficits will increase in the short term due to the deteriorating availability of power plants, resulting in their unavailability ahead of intended retirement dates.
It adds that, towards the end of the decade, the deficits are expected to reduce as new capacity comes forward through single electricity market (SEM) capacity auctions.
It will mean that Ireland will face concerns over energy generation until at least 2031.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities has begun the process of auctions to secure an additional 2000MW of generation, along with 700MW of temporary generation.
The report says Ireland’s generator performance “continues to be poor” and “it is assumed that some generation capacity which due to close in September 2023, is not available for either 2022 or 2023”. The report states:
“Looking out to 2030, electricity demand is set to increase as consumers use electricity in new ways," it states.
"New Government policies are expected to help guide us away from fossil fuels toward alternative heating methods, such as electric heat pumps, and cleaner modes of transport, such as electric vehicles.”
Generation capacity of 365MW previously awarded has been withdrawn since last year’s report, in addition to 266MW which was previously pulled. This means that most new capacity that was expected to come online over the coming years has now been withdrawn, with the operators paying termination fees.
Trends in the data centre sector show demand levels around 140MW higher by 2030 than previous forecasts. This growth is from contracted projects, the report says. It adds that under the most likely scenario, the demand for electricity will increase 37% by 2031.
Under this scenario, the residential, commercial, and industry sectors remain “relatively consistent”, with the largest growth coming from data centres and new large energy users, along with increased uptake of EVs and heat pumps, particularly later in the decade.
By 2031, 28% of electricity demand is expected to come from data centres and other new large energy users. The report says any increase in data centre energy use must be met with commensurate hikes in power generation.