Ireland could become over-reliant on natural gas from the UK for power generation by 2030 due to dwindling domestic sources, the energy watchdog will warn TDs and Senators on Tuesday.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) will argue it would be “prudent” that a future role for liquefied natural gas (LNG) be examined by the Government.
It comes as the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment meets to examine energy security, LNG and power usage by data centres.
The Government has moved to allay concern at possible power outages this winter amid pressure on the electricity system and the higher demand that will be brought on by cooler temperatures.
Eirgrid, which runs the network, will outline at the committee how the supply of electricity is expected to be "tight" but consumers and essential services are not expected to be impacted.
LNG is controversial due to the use of the environmentally harmful fracking process used to extract the gas.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said it would not be appropriate to permit any LNG plant in Ireland – including one planned by Shannon LNG in Co Kerry – pending the outcome of an energy security review to be completed next year.
The new National Development Plan (NDP) commits to increasing the share of renewable electricity up to 80 per cent by 2030.
The CRU’s chairwoman, Aoife MacEvilly, is to tell the committee that the security of natural gas supply is “of increasing strategic national importance” as Ireland progresses towards renewable energy “backed up by flexible gas-fired generation”.
Her opening statement will outline how the recent closure of the Kinsale gas storage facility and "the ongoing decline" of Corrib gas production will leave Ireland dependent on a single supply source (via our interconnectors with the UK) for 90 per cent of our gas supplies by 2030.
She says “this means that we will not meet the N-1 security standard” and explains how Ireland would not have the capacity to satisfy total gas demand in the event of disruption to the single largest source of supply during a day of high demand.
Ms MacEvilly will say that on the basis of a ban on new indigenous exploration and in the absence of viable options for further gas interconnection, the CRU considers it “prudent” the Department of Environment’s review of energy security “includes an examination of the future role of LNG”.
Dublin City University professor Barry McMullin will tell the committee that suggestions that the construction of LNG terminals would represent a prudent diversification of supply routes is "flawed".
Among his reasons for this is “the risk that locking in additional natural gas supply will conflict with the speed with which we now need to exit its use” and “the risks associated with upstream release of methane in LNG production [especially via fracking]”.
Eirgrid, meanwhile, will move to offer reassurance on Ireland’s electricity supply this winter saying its contingency plans contain “detailed and sophisticated procedures”.
It will point to a return to full service of two gas-fired plants as the basis for its “positive” view of the situation and outline how Ireland’s wind turbines mean that “when the wind blows we have more than adequate margins”.
However, the agency will also say that an extended period with no wind will expose a “tightness” in the system and a reduced ability to call upon supplies from Britain for support.