Charged atmosphere as EirGrid and CRU disagree on Republic’s electricity squeeze

Grid operator says it cannot support utilities regulator’s plan to add €100m to network charges at peak times over next 12 months

It’s a biscuit; it’s a bar. National grid operator EirGrid and industry watchdog the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU), clearly differ about the same problem: the Republic’s electricity shortage. This was obvious from EirGrid’s response to the regulator’s recent consultations on different aspects of the issue, but it came right into the open at an Oireachtas committee hearing this week.

Mark Foley, EirGrid’s chief executive, told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment and Climate Action that electricity demand here grew just 9 per cent over the last five years, which he argued was not unusual for a vibrant western economy. So the problem is not really demand, but meeting it. However, CRU chairwoman Aoife MacEvilly maintained that demand, specifically from big data centres, was part of the challenge facing the system, so this has to be mitigated or eased in some way.

This is the logic behind the CRU’s proposal to add €100 million to network charges at peak times over the 12 months from October 1st. Consultation on this was due to close on Friday. In response, EirGrid says that it cannot support the measures in their current form. Leading business lobbyists have also questioned the plans, not least because a small group of 22 industrials users, many of them data centres, will on their own shoulder €70 million of the total CRU hopes to raise.

The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland, which represents 900 US companies employing 190,000 people, and Ibec, which speaks for pretty much every sector, have misgivings that are not that far removed from some of EirGrid’s points. The chamber points out that the proposal focuses on a small group of energy users, something to which the grid operator refers. Ibec highlighted the short time allowed to implement the CRU’s measures, just one month from now, something that EirGrid also questioned.


At some point this month, we will know if the regulator was swayed by the fact that EirGrid and two of the Republic’s more influential business groups have problems with the proposals. In the meantime, it’s worth pointing out that everyone agrees on one thing: we need more power plants.