Government knew of energy issues, 'they just hoped it would go away' - former head of ESB

The former head of ESB International, Don Moore, said the energy crisis was highlighted last October and was nothing to do with the war in Ukraine
Government knew of energy issues, 'they just hoped it would go away' - former head of ESB

Vivienne Clarke

The former head of ESB international, Don Moore, has expressed surprise at Government claims it was unaware of the energy capacity situation.

Mr Moore told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that “everyone” knew of the problem, “they just hoped it would go away.”

A decision had been made not to pursue gas exploration on the basis of “sure something might not happen,” he said.

Mr Moore added that the current crisis had nothing to do with the war in Ukraine and the situation had been highlighted in October last year, months before the war broke out.

Having back up energy capacity was the prudent thing to do, he said. Most big industry energy users have backup generators, including the data centres, which were for use in emergency situations.

The situation had not been planned for properly, Mr Moore added.

He explained that Eirgrid and the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) both reported to the Department of Energy, so they have shared this information about capacity.

Warnings

Eirgrid had warned of the impending problem in a report in 2017, with the information available to access on their website. The Taoiseach should not have been surprised at this situation, Mr Moore added.

Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley acknowledged the information had been available, but if it was not highlighted or brought to attention, it was difficult to act on.

“I don’t recall anyone raising a red flag or calling for action,” he said, adding that the issue had not been highlighted in the media who also had access to the Eirgrid website and report.

Mr Moore said it was up to the relevant Minister to share the information across Government.

He added the Department had commissioned its own report on energy security some years ago which had yet to be published, and Mr Dooley acknowledged it would be very helpful if the findings were published.

Mr Moore said that when data centres, especially those based in Dublin, were being given licences it should have been a requirement that they use gas for their back-up generators, not diesel which is what they have now.

“That could have been part of the granting of their licences. Time is ticking on,” he said.

Mr Moore said there was a history of “complete inaction” and a lack of planning regarding energy, adding that measures should be taken now to start building storage, otherwise there would be problems every winter.

Mr Dooley said that gas was necessary as a transition fuel from fossil fuel to renewable energy, adding there was the potential for further exploration in the Corrib gas field.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) also had to be considered in light of the current geopolitical situation, he said, adding floating storage facilities could also be utilised.

Mr Moore also called for clarification on the granting of licences for gas exploration, and said domestic electricity users should be asked to reduce use at peak times to conserve energy.

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