EirGrid has warned that unless action is taken, Ireland could face a shortfall of electricity supply over the next five winters.

The warning is contained in a key report by the operator of the national grid.

In response, the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has ordered several measures to boost supply, including temporary generators and keeping older plants open.

It comes as the lowest wind speeds in a decade and disruption to gas supplies across Europe have stoked concerns for the supply of electricity here.

Two key gas fired stations which have been closed for maintenance are expected to be back up and running before the onset of winter. But even with them onboard, EirGrid says the system will remain “tight”.

The warning has prompted the CRU to step in.

Temporary generators will be ordered to be in place for next winter and until an additional 2,000 mega watts of flexible gas-fired generators can be built.

Older plants, including the coal-fired Moneypoint which had been scheduled to be wound down because of emissions targets, will have their lifespans extended.

EirGrid’s report says the demand for electricity in Ireland keeps growing, primarily driven by data centres. The CRU notes the issue of data centres will require a “specific response”.

It also warns that ensuring a secure energy transition will not be “costless” and will be funded by energy customers.

The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has warned that customers face higher charges for their electricity in the coming years due to record demand and reduced supply.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Commissioner Jim Gannon said that new generated capacity is not coming to market as quickly as needed to fulfill that demand and replace older parts of the fleet as they require.

Mr Gannon said that the two major gas plants that had prolonged outages that may have put supply at risk this winter are scheduled to come back in November and December.

He said “although things will remain tight and we may have some amber alerts, it will be challenging but manageable” this winter.

The Commission has put in place a work programme with a number of pillars to address the shortfall in the coming years as Ireland gets an enduring gas plant in place.

Mr Gannon said these including bringing in temporary generation, retaining access to older generation for longer and reducing needs at time of scarcity as well as other contingency measures .

He said the measures will be largely delivered through competitive markets or competitive processes “to make sure that we get the best price for consumers”.

He added “it is anticipated that, yes, they will have to pay more”.

He stressed these are temporary measures until the new plant which partners with wind energy can be put in place to help Ireland reach its emissions targets.

He said due to the delays in supply, EirGrid will need to retain access to plants set to close in the coming years including Tarbert, Moneypoint and Edenderry.

He said that EirGrid is entering into dialogue with these plants to stay open to cover a bridging period of two to three years until the enduring capacity comes into place, possibly up to 2025 or 2026.

The Commission is making recommendations to ensure that these risk issues are addressed and is also “working with partners to see how send signals around real volume we need”,” Mr Gannon added.

Ibec called on the Government to address energy supply challenges by investing in new capacity instead of restricting economic growth.

“The energy constraint we face today is a major concern for businesses big and small across the country,” CEO Danny McCoy said.

“If left unresolved, it will greatly undermine our national competitiveness, the climate agenda, and our attractiveness to inward investment.”

“The need to keep higher carbon, costlier plant operational longer than planned, represents a policy and planning oversight that must be resolved with haste.

He added that targeted restrictions on sectors or blanket bans on any type of development, including data centres, must be avoided.

“The National Development Plan review and updated Climate Action Plan must support investment in critical natural gas infrastructure and new renewable generation to support the transition,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, Wind Energy Ireland said the rollout of renewable energy infrastructure needs to be speeded up.

“We cannot ignore the growing urgency of the challenge we face,” said Noel Cunniffe, CEO of the organsiation.

“We need to speed up the development of renewable energy to avoid any scenario where we are looking at increased carbon emissions.”

“This means that the onshore renewable energy auction, which was postponed to next year, must be brought forward.”