Irish government assured over power outage fears from no-deal Brexit

The Irish Environment Minister has assured a government committee that they are not anticipating blackouts or power outages on either side of the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Richard Bruton, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment said although power supply should be relatively unaffected, legislation in the omnibus Brexit Bill will see new powers given to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities in Ireland (CRU) to alter licences in the event of a crash Brexit.

Currently, any person or company who intends to supply electricity requires a supply licence from the CRU – if a no-deal Brexit were to go ahead, certain licences would have to be altered to ensure they are compliant with EU law.

“In the event that there was severe disruption that led to unexpected market activity, we’re giving the CRU, the regulator, the power to alter licences in the event of certain things happening,” Mr Bruton said.

“This is clearly something that is a precautionary move, but when the full evaluation was done, it was believed this would be a prudent piece of legislation.

“However, the provision to alter licences will be constrained and have to have ministerial approval to say it’s justified, it will only last one year and can only be exercised in no-deal Brexit, and contingent on absolute necessity being established.

“Those are the main provisions on it, the CRU will have this reserve power should there be unanticipated activity in the market.”

The minister added that coal, oil and gas systems should operate normally without fear of any significant disruption.

There are no tariffs imposed by the EU on gas and electric imports and that should continue to be the case, which Mr Bruton says means prices will be unaffected, after concerns were raised by Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley about cost increases.

“On the issue of controlling the price, this is a market system, a supply and demand,” he said.

“It is a regulated market, where the regulators set the requirements in public interest and trades on day-to-day basis, in terms of those decisions, they’re independent, I have no role in asking them to review.”

Northern Ireland has shared a single energy market with the Republic of Ireland for more than 10 years as a result of the Belfast Agreement.

Mr Bruton assured committee members that there are provisions within Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and a strong commitment from the UK Government to see the current arrangement continue.

“In crash out, there are certain trades that now occur on the single electricity market that no longer will occur, however the remaining inter-day trades will continue to support pretty normal business on the system and that it won’t lead to any short term problems,” the minister added.

“In so far as I can tell, the UK recognise the importance of being interconnected to the EU market and they see that as one of the benefits they want to continue and signalled their intention in their own material they published. They signalled their desire to maintain interconnection and want to see benefits.”

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