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Eamon Ryan gives strongest hint yet that blackouts are likely every winter from 2022 to 2025 

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, has all but conceded that the country will face the prospect of rolling blackouts every winter from 2022 to 2025 if the government fails to adequately confront the significant challenges posed by the pursuit of its decarbonisation strategy.

Minister Ryan was responding to questions in the Dáil where he was asked to provide assurances that the State will not face blackouts in winter 2021 as a result of the demands on the electricity generation and transmission network, including from data centres.

Minister Ryan could only insist that the situation was “complex” and that he could offer no assurances that power outages will not take place.

He went on to state that while it is government’s expectation that we will not have outages this winter, in reality “we never know” what may happen.

Minister Ryan also confirmed to the Dáil that energy blackouts will only be avoided this coming winter “subject to the return of the two gas power stations” that were closed earlier this year.

According to Minister Ryan, while government expect to be able to get through this winter period, “no one should underestimate the scale of the challenge we will face in the coming winters, particularly the three or four after the coming one.”

He also reiterated his view that government will “have to retire, by 2025” some large generators, such as those at Moneypoint, Tarbert and Edenderry, or “at least switch them from being high fossil fuel generation stations to low fossil fuel generation stations.”

Related issues were also raised during a later Dáil debate on the Maritime Area Planning Bill 2021. There, former Minister for the Environment, Denis Naughten said he feared that Ireland “will end up giving away its renewable energy rights in order to hit 2030 and 2040 targets in an attempt to be the good boy at the top of the class, while electricity customers continue to pay the most expensive electricity in Europe.”

Deputy Naughten further stated that data centres sucking up electricity “will leave us in a situation this winter like that in African countries where there are blackouts due to insufficient electricity supply because we have not planned appropriately for this.”

He said while we need data centres “they should cover their own electricity costs. Irish families should never have to subsidise the cost for that electricity.”

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities, which has statutory responsibility for monitoring and taking the measures necessary to ensure the security of electricity supply in Ireland has advised Minister Ryan that a range of actions are being taken by the CRU and EirGrid including “maximising the availability of existing generators and working with large energy consumers to reduce, where possible, their electricity demand during peak periods.”

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