The Government's policy statement on security of electricity supply sets out that the development of gas-fired generation is a national priority and should be permitted and supported in order to ensure security of electricity supply and support the growth of renewable electricity generation.
The policy statement supports the need to deliver about 2 GW of new gas-fired generation which is set out in the National Development Plan 2021-2030 and the Climate Action Plan 2021. The need for this level of new gas-fired generation capacity was identified by the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities, which has statutory responsibility for security of electricity supply, and EirGrid, the electricity transmission system operator.
As set out in EirGrid's Generation Capacity Statement 2021-2030, much of this new capacity is needed to replace older high-emitting power stations, such as those fuelled by oil and coal, which are due to close over the coming years. It is also needed to meet growing demand from large energy users, such as data centres, and the electrification of the transport sector and of heating in our homes and businesses. It is important to note that the development of flexible gas-fired generation is to provide security of supply and support high levels of renewable electricity generation. The new capacity will only run when needed and therefore the level of associated emissions will be minimised.
A number of actions are being taken to manage the impact of data centre growth on our electricity system and emission reduction targets. The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities has published a direction to EirGrid and ESB Networks that requires each of the system operators to prioritise data centre connections based on location, the availability of on-site generation and flexibility in reducing demand when required. In addition, the Climate Action Plan 2021 commits the Government to reviewing its strategy on data centres to ensure the growth of such users can only happen in alignment with our sectoral emissions ceilings and renewable energy targets.