Ceisteanna — Questions Oral Answers. - Sulphur Dioxide Emissions.

Roger T. Garland

Question:

17 Mr. Garland asked the Minister for Energy if the ESB have negotiated the right to increase their level of sulphur pollution by 25 per cent.

I am not aware of any arrangement within which the ESB would have an opportunity to negotiate sulphur dioxide emission levels. This is a matter which is determined by Governments. As a result of the Government's decision in the Environment Action Programme to accede to the Helsinki Protocol, far from increasing sulphur dioxide emission levels, the ESB will have to achieve approximately a 30 per cent reduction in its emissions by 1993 based on 1980 levels.

I am somewhat reassured by the Minister's reply, but there is information at present that the ESB have applied for a 25 per cent increase in emissions from their plants. Can the Minister confirm that this information is definitely not correct?

I think the Deputy may be mixing up two different things. There was an EC directive on large combustion plants. The principal requirement for Ireland under that directive was to maintain overall emissions of sulphur dioxide from large combustion plants within a ceiling of 124,000 tonnes by 1993. This is an increase of 24 per cent on the ESB's 1980 levels. This target was agreed for Ireland because the choice of 1980 as the base year was extremely disadvantageous in our case since there was a vast usage of gas in electricity generation in that year and coal burning plant did not come on stream until some years afterwards. Furthermore the Commission and the Council accepted that Ireland's air quality was comparatively much cleaner than that of other countries and our contribution to overall cross-boundary pollution and acid rain in the Community was negligible. In any event the targets set in the EC directive have now been superseded by the requirements of the Helsinki Protocol and as a result the ESB will probably have to hold their emission levels within a ceiling of approximately 75,000 tonnes of SO2 by 1993.

Would the Minister not agree in any event that the emissions from Moneypoint are far too high and that we require to fit desulphurisers? Would the Minister not agree to make immediate arrangements with the ESB to fit desulphurisers so that we can reduce emissions even further?

The installation of so-called scuppers at Moneypoint is not the only option if the position arises where we are not succeeding in keeping within the required emission levels and have to take action. There is the gas option. It is important that the Deputy should take that into account. If we succeed in our plans to build a gas inter-connector we will not be restricted as we are now in the consumption of gas for electricity-producing purposes due to our limited supply from Kinsale. In the event of another major find at Kinsale or elsewhere or in the event of the pipeline being constructed, gas will be a realistic option for the future as a major clean fuel. I do not see the need ever arising for scuppers at Moneypoint. We could convert from coal to gas if needs be.

Would the Minister not agree that what he has said is not the right answer? Gas finds should not be used in power stations but directly for heating and cooking. That has been generally recognised. Why use gas in power stations?

It was good national policy to restrict the use of gas in power stations as long as we had a finite supply and were restricted by the extent of the gas discovered. In the event of being able to obtain gas from the European grid, which is the possibility that opens up with the construction of a pipeline, we are in a position to move towards using gas, which is a cleaner fuel. I am surprised that a Deputy from the Green Party would argue as Deputy Garland does. Most Green policies would advocate increased use of gas as a major contribution towards reducing global warming.