Electricity supply is a “real issue at the present time”, according to the Environment Minister.
Eamon Ryan says a number of factors have led to an “immediate, short-term problem” - but major problems should be avoided this winter as two key plants will be back in action soon.
The issue of electricity supply has become an increasing concern in recent months, with some experts warning that Ireland faced brownouts and blackouts.
It came after gas-fired plants in Cork and Dublin were brought temporarily offline for critical repairs, as well as amid the increasing power demand from the likes of data centres.
Eamon Ryan told The Pat Kenny Show the price of gas has “gone through the roof” following a very cold winter last year and huge demand internationally as the pandemic eases.
He said: “We have been very successful in rolling out renewable power - it's working, and is much cheaper than the gas price.
“What we need to do is make sure we have the back-up supply that matches that.”
He said the breakdowns at the two gas plants and the difficulty in getting repairs done during COVID has led to “an immediate, short-term problem in electricity supply”.
However, he said Ireland shouldn’t have power outages this winter as the plants will be back in action “sooner than people feared”.
It's expected the two power stations will be generating power again by October and November.
Minister Ryan did say there'll likely be problems with balance supply over the next three-four years as more power plants are switched over to new fuels or turned off completely.
However, he said he's "very confident" there'll be enough supply to meet demand into the future.
Some people have raised concerns that uncertainty around electricity supply will discourage large firms from building future developments here.
Ireland is still said to be on the shortlist as Intel plans another multi-billion euro investment in chip manufacturing.
Minister Ryan suggested Intel’s presence in Ireland for decades shows the reliability of the electricity supply here, and it's "why they keep coming back here".
He said Intel has been told there’s “no way that power supply constraints will be a problem”.
However, he stressed: “We say everyone has to fit in within the overall climate plan - we’re not just going to build every single data centre that ever wants to be built here.”
Another major environmental concern arose last week when it emerged unsafe drinking water entered the public supply in Wexford and Dublin last month.
At least 52 people fell ill in Wexford due to the incident, and the EPA sharply criticised Irish Water and local authorities for delays in the problems being reported.
No boil water notices were issued, despite the Gorey incident lasting for around five days.
Minister Ryan said such problems are “a different level” to other issues around water supply.
He said: “The EPA called it out with really strong criticism. It can’t be tolerated - 50 people getting sick is the last thing you would ever want in providing a water supply.
“We underinvested in our water and sewage system over the years - we’re still in catch-up. That will take time.
“But if there’s a failing in the system… [those issues are] not a good enough reason. It’s up to Irish Water to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
A meeting is taking place this morning between Irish Water and representatives from Gorey and Dublin over the issue.
An audit of all water treatment plants is set to be carried out nationally following the recent incidents.