The energy regulator warns of power outages due to high power consumption during peak periods


Peak-time electricity consumption must be reduced to avoid blackouts, the energy regulator has warned.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has ordered electric utilities to find ways to dampen the surge in electricity demand, which occurs between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily.

If this does not happen, security of supply would be at risk, she warned.

The CRU also said customers are paying more for electricity as the cost of boosting generation and buying electricity to meet periods of high demand increases.

The warnings come at a time when customers are already reeling from repeated price hikes and bills that have skyrocketed over the past year.

In a document sent to electricity companies, the CRU said there will be serious challenges meeting demand for electricity this winter.

“There is a significant risk to the security of electricity supply in Ireland in the coming years,” it said.

“A capacity bottleneck is to be expected in the coming years if not mitigated, with particular challenges expected in the winter months of 2022/23 and 2023/24.”

The regulator blamed the situation on “the closure of large power generation units, failure of new contracted power generation, accelerated deterioration of the existing fleet in response to intermittent wind generation, and significant growth in demand across a number of sectors of the power generation economy”.

As aggregate demand increases, the CRU said 62 percent of the expected increase by 2025 will come from a small number of extra-large energy consumers (XLEUs). It highlighted “particularly data centers.”

“The significant growth in demand for XLEUs cannot be overlooked and the CRU believes it is important to take the necessary actions to influence customer behavior and drive demand.”

The CRU is proposing changes to tariffs and usage policies for large energy consumers to get them to adjust their demand patterns, effective October 1.

They would also be penalized for not reducing demand when winds are light and renewable supply is falling, and during amber alerts, which are issued when demand rises dangerously close to the maximum available supply.

There will also be an impact for domestic customers.

Those with smart meters that have smart tariffs, or “time-of-use” tariffs, could see further increases to their already higher peak-time rates offset by larger off-peak reductions.

Those with smart meters who are not yet using smart tariffs are being pressured by their suppliers to switch.

The majority of households still do not have smart meters and do not have different peak and off-peak tariffs, so it will be more difficult to incentivize them to delay unnecessary use of electronic devices beyond the 5-7 p.m. period.

But electricity companies are being told they need to find ways to encourage behavior change. ESB Networks proposes a “Beat the Peak” initiative that encourages customers to receive prompts to reduce their usage when demand becomes dangerously high, and receive a reward for doing so.

Failure to generally respond to the call from the CRU could result in power outages and increased network charges that apply to all customers, regardless of what meter or plan they have.

The CRU said it will not speculate on what ideas and initiatives electric utilities might come up with because they have until September 1 to act on them.

EirGrid, which operates the national grid, has told the CRU that the deadline is too tight and the proposed October 1 start date is too early.

The CRU said the tight schedule was “unusual” but it was necessary to “act quickly”.

“There was not enough time to carry out a detailed analysis of the proposals developed. However, it is considered prudent to take action now,” it said. The energy regulator warns of power outages due to high power consumption during peak periods

Fry Electronics Team

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