'The buck lies with the Eamon Ryan' - Former Minister calls for action over electricity supply

A former environment minister says the onus is now on Eamon Ryan to make sure 'the lights stay on...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

06.51 29 Sep 2021

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'The buck lies with the Eamon...

'The buck lies with the Eamon Ryan' - Former Minister calls for action over electricity supply

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

06.51 29 Sep 2021

Share this article

A former environment minister says the onus is now on Eamon Ryan to make sure 'the lights stay on' in every Irish home.

Denis Naughten was speaking as a new report says Ireland is expected to have a shortage of electricity supply for the next five winters.

EirGrid, the State-owned company which operates the national high voltage electricity grid, says this winter will be 'challenging'.


It also says there will be regular warnings of a shortfall in power supply.

The group says it is due to a rise in demand for electricity and the closure of older power plants.

In response, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) is outlining a programme to address the forecasted increase in capacity.

It says this will see two decommissioned plants being brought back into operation in October and November.

Other measures will come into force over the coming months and years.

Deputy Naughten says there will be power blackouts if the Government does not take action.

"The buck lies with the Minister for Energy, Eamon Ryan.

"The first responsibility that he has as Minister for Energy is to ensure that the lights remain on in every single home and business across this country.

"And priority must be given now in the short-term to keep those lights on while we transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner fuel sources.

"If we have a very cold winter then I think that prediction could very well come to light this winter.

"But the likelihood is that it will come to light at some stage over the next few years.

"And that's why it was critically important to have a structured wind-down of our fossil fuel plants over a number of years as we ramped up renewable energy."

While speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Minister Ryan says Ireland will need fossil fuels going forward.

And he says it will be 'tight' for the next several years.

"We will need some fossil fuels, and we'll need them to back up the renewable power that is going to dominate our electricity system and our economy.

"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 is going to be difficult in the next three to four years, it's quite a tight situation... because we will need new, more flexible generation plant [sic] that can match with the wind more effectively.

"We're particularly challenging this winter and the next two to three winters while that new plant is purchased.

"But we can and will manage this".

Another former energy minister, Pat Rabbitte, says the IDA should be explaining to the public where we stand on electricity supply.

"It seems to me that the IDA ought to be heard on this: if you take big data centres, for example, the energy demand is larger than a very big Irish town.

"A single data centre has a bigger energy requirement than a major Irish town.

"I think the IDA should - I'm surprised they haven't entered the debate - they should give us an assessment of the pros and cons.

"They may be doing that to Government, but I think the public would deserve to hear them", he told Newstalk on Tuesday.

Acknowledging data centres are important to the economy, he says there has to be an end point.

"I think we have to decide where is the tipping point: do we have to continue to build out new, big data centres merely because we have an attractive climate for that purpose - and perhaps an attractive climate in more ways than just the temperature".

Data centre ban

The Social Democrats have called for a moratorium on new data centres in Ireland, in order to assess what impact they are having on the national grid.

The party will introduce a motion in the Dáil this week, arguing that the country's electricity system is being stretched beyond capacity.

Wicklow TD Jennifer Whitmore told Newstalk: "At the moment, the Government really has no understanding of the impacts that the data centres, their energy use, their water use, are really having on the country. And they’re not managing it properly.

"So the Social Democrats are calling for a moratorium on data centres. Just to give the Government time to actually conduct a risk analysis of what it means for our country. How many data centres are too many?"

While Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has called for immediate action.

"The electricity demand is increasing, driven by additional consumption from data centres, heat pumps and electric car chargers, etc.

"This demand growth has been recognised for decades, how did the entities responsible... fail to prepare and implement appropriate plans to ensure that there is adequate generation capacity to meet the electricity demand?

"The IDA is proactively attracting new Foreign Direct Investment into Ireland but access to the electricity grid is a major barrier limiting the potential for investment and job creation.

"How can the IDA do their job and attract new investment without certainty of basic infrastructure?"

Deputy Cowen suggests "effectively harnessed" renewable resources could be the answer.

"If harnessed effectively indigenous renewable resources - wind, solar and wave - would increase Ireland's energy independence and enable sustainable economic growth by powering our data centres, manufacturing, heat pumps and electric vehicles with decarbonised electricity.

"The capacity shortage appears to be concentrated in the Dublin region.

"The midlands and other regional locations should be considered for new data centres to stimulate the creation of sustainable jobs where they are most needed since the abrupt withdrawal of ESB and Bord na Mona."

Additional reporting: Eoghan Murphy

Main image: Denis Naughten speaking to the media in Dublin in June 2018. Picture by: Leah Farrell/

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Barry Cowen Data Centres Denis Naughten Eamon Ryan Eirgrid Electricity Supply Electricity Supply Shortage IDA Jennifer Whitmore Pat Rabbitte

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