The operators of the national electricity grid issued seven amber alerts in the past year as the system came under pressure from supply constraints, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan has said.
Growing demand and the shutdown of two big power plants in Dublin led to moves earlier in the year to bring in emergency generation for this coming winter.
Although those plans were subsequently abandoned because of the projected return of the Dublin power stations, grid operator EirGrid and market regulators approved plans in September to maintain fossil fuel generation for longer than previously foreseen while the development of new gas and wind generation is awaited.
Regulators have raised the prospect in recent months of curtailing grid connections for power-hungry data centres but they have yet to conclude a formal review of market access rules.
In reply to a parliamentary question from Labour TD Seán Sherlock, Mr Ryan said six of the alerts were due to "reduced margin" between the level of electricity generation and demand.
A seventh – on April 13th – related to the temporary failure of some systems in EirGrid’s control centre. “This failure occurred during the testing of back-up systems and was quickly resolved.”
An amber alert is a warning made when grid operators believe it is possible there will not be enough supply in reserve should something go wrong in the system, even though they expected there to be enough energy to meet current demand.
The “reduced margin” alerts occurred on December 9th, 2020, and this year on January 6th, May 17th, September 6th, September 9th and October 28th.
Mr Ryan said EirGrid notified his Department of each of the alerts on the day they occurred. "There have been no system emergencies [previously known as red alerts] on the system in Ireland in the past 12 months or in recent years."
The September plan from the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, which is responsible for ensuring the security of electricity supply, includes procuring temporary generation capacity for winter 2022.