Government looking for solutions to spiralling energy crisis 

1 September 2022

As the impact from the current energy crisis continues to loom, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan met with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action to discuss issues and solutions facing Ireland’s electricity security. Minister Ryan was joined by representatives from both the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) and EirGrid, Ireland’s electric power transmission operator.  

Speaking to the Committee, Minister Ryan noted that the current spike in the price of gas is unprecedented, and with detrimental impacts expected to hurt households and businesses, he added that this is by far the biggest challenge which faces Ireland and Europe.

Continuing, Minister Ryan also stressed that present levels of capacity within Ireland’s energy system are a real issue, but one in which government continues to work and focus on. In addition, he stated that a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies will be one of the options that the Irish government is currently looking at. 

However, the Minister also warned that there will be “no miracle cure” to the present problems, and that there is “no end in sight” to the current forces driving inflation and high electricity prices. 

Meanwhile, Chief Executive of EirGrid, Mark Foley, said that “we see a heightened challenge, in that we have less generation available than last winter,” adding that while the energy operator had managed to avoid electricity blackouts last year, the risk of customers being impacted is set to increase in the coming months. Nevertheless, in responding to questions, Mr. Foley also insisted that growth in demand for electricity was not an issue.

However, Commissioner of CRU, Aoife McEvilly disagreed with this view, telling the committee that “growing data centre demand is a challenge, and that has been clear in advice we have received from EirGrid.”

This week’s meeting of the Oireachtas Climate Committee also comes as the European Union pledges to reform the European electricity market in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In response to EU sanctions imposed on Russia due to their actions in Ukraine, European energy sources have become tighter, leading economic inflation to soar as a result. In the meantime, discussions regarding solutions to problems imposed to energy security are ongoing in Europe, with recent strategies such as the REPowerEU plan having been proposed by the European Commission as recently as May.

On Monday, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen promised further “emergency intervention” aimed to curb soaring prices. Speaking on a visit to Slovenia, she said that “we need a new market for electricity that really functions and brings us back into balance.”