The government’s “reckless and disjointed” energy policies all point to “looming catastrophic” energy shortages in this country, as warnings come in from energy experts, the regulator, and Eirgrid.
That is according to the leader of the Rural Independent Group, Mattie McGrath, who has said that this crisis is “so dire” that the country will likely be forced to curb or ration electricity usage to prevent power cuts in the winter months.
He outlined that temporary emergency generators have not been delivered due to “a complete lack of planning and any degree of government urgency”.
He accused the government of failing to curb growing data centre electricity usage, as homes, farms, and SMEs face blackouts due to surging demands.
The deputy claims that this highlights how the government is “completely captured by the lobbying power and influence of foreign multinational corporations and tech giants”.
He said despite Ireland’s “fragile” electricity supply, the government allowed data centres to increase their power demand by 32% alone over twelve months in 2021 and 144% between 2015 and 2020, according to the CSO.
McGrath added that this means 70 data centres now “gobble up” 14% of Ireland’s total electricity and are likely to reach 29% by 2028, as existing centres use more electricity and new ones are added to the grid, according to Eirgrid.
“As Ireland faces a winter of energy scarcity, in conjunction with possible rolling blackouts due to being the worst prepared European country, the Taoiseach’s promise of another review rings hollow and misplaced.”
“Against this backdrop, the Taoiseach last month announced no moratoria on these energy-intensive IT facilities, which also enjoy low taxes here.”
“Ironically, this is occurring when the government is banning sales of petrol and diesel cars in favour of EVs and pushing people towards electric heat pumps to heat homes.”
“Cumulatively, the additional electricity demand driven by government policy will almost certainly result in more frequent blackouts and costlier electricity in the years ahead.”
Energy security and demand crisis
The Rural Independent Group moved a PMB motion earlier this year, aimed at addressing Ireland’s lack of energy security, especially in the event of a crisis.
The group is now calling for an “urgent” Dáil debate on electricity security when it resumes in September.
It has urged the Taoiseach to “do something tangible” to address Ireland’s energy security and demand crisis.
McGrath continued: “For instance, Ireland now has no gas storage, with the Kinsale gas field depleted.”
“The government had the option to use that field as a gas store, by pumping gas in during the summer months when demand is low, ensuring that a secure backstop was available in case of crisis.”
“Instead, the storage infrastructure was allowed to be dismantled, underlining the utter lack of strategic planning on the part of the government.”
“Other EU countries, including Germany, are busily filling their gas storage at the moment, where they have 100 days’ gas storage.”
“Meanwhile, Austria has nearly a year’s gas storage. Meanwhile, our government, at the very end of the gas pipeline, chose to ignore every warning, undermining our energy security and having no storage capacity whatsoever. This is now one of the greatest risks facing Ireland today.”
Furthermore, he said Ireland is “the only” country in Europe with a coastline that does not have a liquid natural gas import facility.
He suggested it would have provided us with an alternative option to the pipelines through the UK.
“The government chose not to have LNG, despite natural gas providing over 50% of the electricity in Ireland, according to statistics from EirGrid,” he concluded.