ESB customers to be urged to plug in off-peak to avoid strains on supply
The ESB is warning that customers will need to be persuaded to use power at off-peak times as the network comes under strain from the increase in data centres, electric vehicles (EVs) and heat pumps.
Incentives such as 'time of use' tariffs are being considered to encourage householders to put off non-essential jobs until night or other times when demand for electricity is low.
ESB chief executive Pat O'Doherty said electricity prices changed as often as every half-hour depending on demand and savvy customers could monitor them to reduce their bills.
The less technically minded will be aided by smart meters, which are being rolled out in counties Cork, Kildare and Laois from this month, with 250,000 meters to be installed by the end of next year. But ultimately smart home appliances will do the calculations.
"You'll switch on your dishwasher but it will only come on when the price falls below a certain point," Mr O'Doherty said.
"That's a little bit down the line but it is the way technology is heading."
In the interim, he said incentives would have to be introduced to ensure, for example, that EV owners charged their cars only overnight or householders heated their water off-peak.
Mr O'Doherty rejected fears of blackouts if the current surge in data centres continued or if the uptake of EVs or conversion from oil and gas central heating to heat pumps happened faster than projected.
EirGrid warned that the dozens of new data centres opening annually would cause problems for supply.
"It is going to require investment in the electricity infrastructure," Mr O'Doherty conceded, but he said there was spare capacity in the supply most of the day.
"The electrification of heat and transport has to find ways of using that spare capacity in the system off-peak," he said.
"We have to find ways of making all that happen so making it attractive for people is important."