Header Item Renewable Energy Generation Targets (Continued)
 Header Item Hydraulic Fracturing Policy
 Header Item Energy Regulation

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 812 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte] Policy interventions through the ReHeat scheme, energy efficiency schemes, building regulations, REFIT 3 and CHP and natural market migration to renewable heating technologies will deliver the majority of the 12% renewable heat target.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

In addition, later this year I will publish a national bioenergy strategy which will further outline the role energy from biomass will play in contributing to the achievement of our national targets and, in particular, the target for the heat sector.

  With regard to Ireland's potential to produce renewable electricity beyond the level required by the 2020 target, expert advice suggests Ireland has the capability to achieve our national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone. However, it is widely recognised that Ireland has an excellent and abundant renewable energy resource which has the potential to produce amounts of renewable electricity significantly in excess of the amounts required to meet our 2020 target. It is in this context the opportunity to harness this resource for the export market, and realise its potential for investment, job creation and economic growth, has been identified and is being pursued with the UK Government.

Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy A number of microprojects cannot progress because of the cost of connecting to the national grid. Individually they are small fry but together a number of such microprojects have the potential to contribute fairly significantly to renewable energy in Ireland. Will the Minister speak to the ESB with a view to having realistic connection charges for small microsuppliers?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Microgeneration has been a problem in the country. The ESB was the only supplier prepared to take it on board and the uptake was not great. I suppose if it were commercially viable the others would be doing it also. Given the step-down in economic activity we have experienced in recent times there is not a big demand at present. We are examining the question of microgeneration and we are in discussion with the stakeholders. It will take a little time.

Hydraulic Fracturing Policy

 8. Deputy Sandra McLellan Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if in view of the fact that a company (details supplied) holds a 100% prospecting licence in the Clare basin, an area of 495 sq. km which includes the entire Loop Head peninsula, and that it now plans to apply for a shale gas exploration licence, his views on the compatibility of sustainable tourism and fracking; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [30944/13]

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Three onshore licensing options were granted by the previous Minister of State at the Department, Conor Lenihan, in February 2011 immediately prior to the general election. Two were over parts of the north west carboniferous basin of Lough Allen and one was over parts of County Clare. These licensing options conferred upon the holders the first right to apply for an exploration licence. I can confirm that two of the three companies have submitted applications for a follow-on exploration licence.

The Government has made it clear that any application for an exploration licence for hydraulic fracturing as part of unconventional gas exploration would be subject to an environmental impact assessment. It has also made clear that such assessment would be informed by the findings of further research to be commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, and that absolutely no decision would be made on any proposal for the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling in Ireland until there has been time to consider the outcome of this further research.

Earlier this year the EPA announced the draft terms of reference for the more extensive second stage of its research, the final results of which are expected in early 2015. The key questions to be addressed by this research are whether this technology can be used while fully protecting the environment and what the best environmental practice in using this technology might be.

Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy I wrote to the EPA on this when the terms of reference were published. I am not at all happy adequate socio-economic impact analysis has been done on hydraulic fracturing, including on the impact on the tourism and agrifood industries. Last year, the Minister, Deputy Deenihan, very graciously came to us in north Leitrim and we went up Boleybrack Mountain to see a red grouse management project. When we were on top of Boleybrack Mountain I pointed over to Thur Mountain, which is a beautiful hillside, and told the Minister it would be the centre of fracking if it is allowed in Ireland and asked him to imagine a tourist coming to look at an industrial wasteland. The Minister's honest answer was that he could not imagine a tourist doing so. I think the very same about the Clare basin. I am not at all convinced the work which will come from the EPA will include the detailed socio-economic research and analysis required before a decision of such import is made for the people of Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo, Clare and Donegal.

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd Hydraulic fracturing is not an industrial wasteland. I have been to the United States and looked at a site after hydraulic fracturing had taken place and it looks like any normal rural landscape. The assessment which must take place must consider the potential impact of the project on the population, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, the architectural and archaeological heritage, the landscape and the interrelationship between all of these factors. Under an EU directive it will not be possible to permit any such project unless it can be determined following assessment that it would not have an unacceptable environmental or social impact. The findings of this EPA research will provide a benchmark for assessment of these requirements. More than 1,308 submissions were received and are being considered. It is expected a call for tender will issue shortly in this regard. We must deal with facts and science in the issues raised. It is wrong to raise issues about industrial wastelands when no such facts exist anywhere.

Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy The Taoiseach was generous in his praise of fracking in Pennsylvania last January 12 months. I have letters in my file from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection advising people the waters were poisoned and there was a risk of explosion in their houses because of escaping methane gas. I ask the Minister of State not to lecture me on hydraulic fracturing. Nobody is speaking to the people who were affected by fracking in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the United States. The Government is speaking to industrialists and those making money from it but not to the people affected by it, who are the very people the Government should be speaking to because they are the type of people who will be hit here.

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I spoke to the environmental secretary in Pennsylvania, the person charged with this, about the issue. We must deal with facts, and we will not have the facts until the research is done. All of the issues the Deputy mentioned including the people, the population, the economic conditions, the flora, fauna, the archaeology, the heritage and the landscape are being studied and this is a fact. This is the only fact, and until we have the report, which will not happen until 2015, no decision will be made. People must understand and appreciate this fully, absolutely and categorically. Nothing will happen until this report is in and no other application will be considered by the Department in the meantime. I want absolute clarity on this.

Energy Regulation

 9. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte his views on whether there is enough flexibility for consumers in the energy market; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35035/13]

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and natural gas market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation, which is an independent statutory regulator. I am very mindful of the importance of well-functioning energy markets for business and domestic consumers. The Government remains firmly committed to increasing competition as the best means of exerting downward pressure on prices in the electricity and gas markets in Ireland. There is competition in both markets, with many players competing in the wholesale and retail segments of the electricity market and in the retail segment of the gas market. New players have moved into the various segments over the years, which is a welcome development, and which has increased competition.

  The regulator has issued eight licences in the electricity and gas supply sectors. The competitive market gives consumers considerable flexibility in choosing their energy suppliers. Furthermore, the regulator's simple switching process and the accredited independent price comparison websites, bonkers.ie and uswitch.ie help consumers to identify the electricity and gas products and price plans best suited to them.

  Business and domestic consumers can choose from a range of suppliers in electricity and gas. They can avail of the various competitive products and services, including discounts, on offer from a number of supply companies. I urge customers to shop around to enable them obtain the most beneficial package suited to their particular needs.

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