CONTRACTS for emergency electricity supplies will be signed this month, the Irish Mail on Sunday has learned.
However, the much-needed power back-up will not be in place this winter - and the national grid operator was unable to confirm if the new supplies will be in place by this time next year.
The ESB will generate a further 200 megawatts of electricity - enough to power more than 40,000 homes - at a plant in North Wall, Dublin. The State energy company is also in the process of trying to secure a further 400 megawatts of electricity from an as yet unnamed source.
Both these contracts are crucial to ensure the country has enough power to keep the lights on over the coming years.
EirGrid said contracts for the extra power would be signed imminently.
An ESB spokeswoman said: 'It is expected the process to finalise contracts will conclude in the next few weeks.'
In May, the Government signed off on the purchase of 650 megawatts of emergency power generation, more than doubling the State's emergency power needs from next year.
However, the Coalition has come in for widespread criticism for its failure to ensure the country has sufficient energy supplies.
Last month the MoS revealed that Environment Minister Eamon Ryan was briefed about threats to electricity supplies as soon as he took office in June 2020. The energy regulator also warned Mr Ryan over a year ago about the threat of power cuts this winter.
The threat to supplies comes amid a surge in demand from data centres.
Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show data-centre electricity consumption tripled between 2015 and 2021, rising from 5% to 14% of the country's overall output during the same period. And EirGrid estimates this percentage could hit 27% of all electricity demand by 2029.
In response to queries from the MoS, the ESB also accepted Ireland's fossil fuel plants have been unreliable this year.
A spokeswoman said: 'There have been high levels of power plant unavailability this year, with, on occasion, up to one third of generators unavailable for a variety of reasons.'
On Friday EU ministers approved a package that includes a levy on fossil fuel companies' surplus profits made this year or next, another levy on excess revenues that low-cost power producers make from soaring electricity costs, and a mandatory 5% cut in electricity use during peak price periods.