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Explainer: What is an amber alert on electricity supplies?


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Ireland’s electricity market is under pressure with the news that an amber alert has been issued for the second day in a row.

The amber alert acts as a warning signal and indicates that the amount of electricity currently available is lower than it should be to meet demands. Here’s what it all means: 

What’s causing this?

The growth of data centres over the last number of years has increased the demand for electricity and as a result there is a threat to supply.

Low wind speeds, as a result of prolonged heat across the country, means that there is also less electricity available from wind energy.

Eirgrid, the national grid operator, said the amber alert was issued in response to “tight margins on the power system”.

“The alert means that the buffer between the demand for electricity and the available supply is currently smaller than optimum. It does not indicate a loss of electricity supply to customers,” Eirgrid said.

It said the reasons for this system alert also include “limited electricity imports and forced outages at a number of generators”.

“Just over one third of conventional generation is currently unavailable out of a total capacity of 6.3 gigawatts,” it said.

How close are we to seeing power cuts?

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) introduced restrictions to access to the national grid due to fears of blackouts because of the strain data centres put on electricity.

Ireland may be forced to limit electricity usage to prevent power cuts in the winter months if emergency generators are not up and running in time.

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Energy expert Don Moore said Ireland is the "worst-prepared country in Europe" for an energy crisis.

"I would hope, fingers crossed, that we might scrape through the winter but the consequences of rolling blackouts in our system, even if only a small chance, would be catastrophic,” he told the Business Post.

What advice should people follow?

Homeowners and businesses are advised to reduce their energy use where possible. Retrofitting can also help reduce consumption as it aims to make your home as energy efficient as possible.

Ireland also needs to increase the amount of renewable energy supply to avoid a risk of interruption.

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