The Taoiseach has said he hopes there will not be power blackouts this winter but there cannot be certainty on this, and the Government is taking measures in terms of energy procurement.

Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, Micheál Martin also said there is a need to work on demand reduction as part of the response to the energy crisis.

He said the Government will guarantee that people on pay-as-you-go energy tariffs will not be disconnected this winter.

Mr Martin said: "In an energy crisis of this kind we cannot have disconnections.

"We are very clear about that. We don't want people disconnected, particularly vulnerable people and people who will find it difficulty in terms of meeting their bills".

He said the Government will be working with the energy providers and the regulator is also working on this.

"And also through the social welfare system we will underpin and help people in terms of meeting their bills," he added.

The Taoiseach said the Government is taking measures in terms of energy procurement and while he anticipates this winter should be fine, "one can never guarantee."

"Next year will be challenging... and the following year ... and that is why we have to accelerate the planning and permitting system around wind energy."

He said there is a need to work on demand reduction.

"That is part of responding to a crisis of this kind.

"We have to support people financially, but equally we have to look afresh at how we consume energy."

Opposition parties have branded as "totally unacceptable" a Government plan to assist 180,000 pay-as-you-go energy customers through community welfare offices.

Socialist Party TD Mick Barry has strongly criticised the Taoiseach's comments, contending a "blatant double standard" was in play.

He said there would be a disconnections moratorium for bill pay customers, but pay-as-you-go customers would have the humiliating experience of going to social welfare offices for discretionary payments.

Mr Barry said there needed to be equal treatment for all sections of society, and he'd be raising the matter in the Dáil next week.

The Labour Party's finance spokesperson Ged Nash also criticised the Government's approach - saying more consideration should have been given to the issue before the policy was announced.

He told RTÉ: "The idea that someone who is relying on a pay-as-you-go meter should go to the community welfare officer to apply for supplementary welfare just won't cut it."

Mr Nash added: "There is no dignity in that. People are very proud and they simply won't do that."

Sinn Féin TD for Mayo Rose Conway-Walsh said that it was "quite ridiculous" that the Government had not taken pay-as-you-go energy customers into account.

She told RTÉ's The Week In Politics that such customers would be in danger of "self-disconnecting" as they simply wouldn't be able to pay for credit.

Earlier, Mr Martin said the €11 billion Budget package was never meant to cover the "full entirety" of the impact of the increase in energy prices.

Speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics, he said: "It is just not simply possible to do that but it will alleviate pressures significantly... and the Budget is targeted that those who need it the most will get the most."

He said money has been set aside to also tackle "uncertainties" next year.

The Taoiseach refused to be drawn on whether Ireland would impose caps on electricity or gas prices.

"Ireland imports its gas from the UK and Norway and we always has to keep an eye on energy security in respect of arbitrary caps", adding that the disadvantage with price caps is that there is no incentive to energy efficiency.

"There is a crisis, there is a war, we must realise that. And that has impacts. And we can't just go on blissfully pretending there is no war and there is no impact."

He said one of his concerns is the "lack of precision" as to how much money will be required for the business energy support scheme, in terms of how many businesses will use it.

Separately, the Taoiseach declined to rule-out going into government with Sinn Féin in the future.

He said it was policies which would dictate who Fianna Fáil spoke to after any general election.

The Taoiseach contended that Sinn Féin "does not have credible policies, at the moment" - citing its financial plans and opposition to the European Union.

However Mr Martin said he did not have a principled opposition to Sinn Féin, as has been the case with Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader, Leo Varadkar.

The Taoiseach also said he would continue as leader of Fianna Fáil "right the way through" to the next general election.