Electricity Regulation Bill, 1998: Report and Final Stages.

On a point of order, will the Chair briefly state the rules of debate for Report Stage?

I had intended asking that question also.

I do not know whether it is a matter of great minds thinking alike or fools seldom differing.

Great minds thinking alike.

All Members may speak twice. A Member may make a second contribution which shall not exceed two minutes. The Member who moved the amendment also has the right of reply. In other words, they will be afforded the opportunity to speak three times, when moving the amendment, a second contribution of two minutes and a third contribution to conclude the debate. That refers to the mover of any amendment. Other Members have two opportunities to speak, the second not exceeding two minutes.

Does that apply to every Member?

Twice for every Member and three times for the mover.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 8, to delete "RIALÚ" and substitute "RIALÁIL".

Deputy Stagg's amendment No. 195, which was accepted on Committee Stage, inserted the Irish language name of the Commission for Electricity Regulation into the long title of the Bill. The Bill's Office has advised, however, that the spelling of part of the name in Irish was incorrect, and the word "RIALÚ" should be replaced with the word "RIALÁIL". This amendment will make that change. It is Deputy Stagg's amendment incorporated in this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 2 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are alternatives and amendment No. 13 is related. We will take amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 13 together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, to delete lines 1 to 4, and substitute the following:

"‘combined heat and power' means the simultaneous production of utilisable heat and electricity from an integrated thermo-dynamic process where the overall process operating efficiency, based on the gross calorific value of the fuel used and defined as the ratio of energy output usefully employed to the energy input, is greater than 70 per cent. and where the integrated thermo-dynamic process satisfies such technical, operational, economic and environmental criteria as may be specified by the Minister from time to time, following consultation with the Commission;".

This amendment follows from a commitment I gave to Deputies Yates, Stagg and Sargent on Committee Stage on 12 May, the first day of Committee Stage. We agreed that a new definition of "combined heat and power" would be worked out which would give a firm indication to the industry of the definition of CHP but which would leave some scope for flexibility for the commission to take account of technological developments in the future. The Bill is now to be amended by inserting the new agreed definition which has been worked out with the help of the sustainable energy division in the Department, in consultation with the Irish Energy Centre.

I welcome the approach of the Minister and her officials to the dialogue that has taken place between Committee and Report Stages. In particular I welcome the Minister's amendments Nos. 2 and 13 and I am happy to withdraw amendments Nos. 3 and 4 in my name. On Committee Stage it was proposed that CHP would be defined at a future date by the regulator. I found that all groups, regardless of their perspective on CHP, were opposed to that because it created an air of uncertainty. The Minister has opted for the 70 per cent thermo-efficiency ratio while dropping the 30 per cent ratio I had proposed for the heat requirement. I am prepared to accept that, however, because it is a major step forward in an attempt to define it.

Does amendment No. 13, which is being taken with this amendment for debate purposes, open a Pandora's box in that the 70 per cent ratio could be changed at any time? Perhaps the Minister would outline the circumstances whereby it would be redefined from 70 per cent? In other words, does this create a new uncertainty or is it only in very prescribed circumstances? We have rehearsed all the arguments. We have come up with a definition of CHP, and I am prepared to withdraw amendments Nos. 3 and 4 on the basis that amendment No. 2 in particular is a major step forward.

I tabled amendments on Committee Stage which I have not retabled. I am happy to accept the Minister's amendment. It is important that it recognises that it is a policy matter for the Minister rather than the regulator to make these types of definitions. I am somewhat concerned about amendment No. 13 which I have not seen before. It is a matter we had not discussed—

I will explain that when I reply.

Perhaps we might return briefly to that issue.

I too welcome the way the Minister and her staff dealt with the dialogue on this matter. I support her amendment as a result and have not tabled any amendments in my own name. What lobbying does the Minister envisage taking place – I am sure it would be intense – if it came to the point where she altered the terms of CHP definition? Does the Minister intend to lay down any ground rules for such lobbying, perhaps by way of legislation proposed by the Labour Party or the Government?

Is the Deputy talking about the lobbyists?

Lobbying will continue to be a large part of the interpretation of this legislation, given the high stakes involved. Will the Minister lay down any of the ground rules at this point in anticipation of legislation to control that? The Minister has already said that she may prescribe a greater or lesser percentage and I am sure that will be watched with great interest by the people who will invest a considerable amount of capital in CHP.

Everybody is welcome to meet me. I meet people with officials from my Department and what I do after that is between myself and the officials. I think a great deal about various matters.

On behalf of the officials I thank Deputy Yates for his kind words and note that he will withdraw amendments Nos. 3 and 4. Amendment No. 13, which we are discussing with amendment No. 2 for debate purposes, leaves some scope for flexibility with the commission but it is to take account of technological developments in the future. This amendment provides that the Minister of the day may, by order, alter the efficiency ratio of 70 per cent in the definition of combined heat and power. If 70 per cent proves too high, it can be lowered and if a technology change so requires, it can be raised to encourage the most efficient ratio. It is not to do with the 28 per cent but with efficiency of operation.

I am concerned that this new subsection will invite trouble. If the Minister had said she could vary the ratio upwards, that would be fine but all the expert advice we have available to us would indicate that 70 per cent is a reasonable figure. There is no possibility that the technology will get worse. The Minister is unintentionally inviting people to come in and make a case for having it reduced. I suggest the Minister should look at this again, though I am not sure when. She should include "greater" and leave out "or lesser" as that would remove the possibility of pressure to reduce this so that this false CHP could get into the market again, when we think the Bill excludes it.

Is Deputy Stagg saying "or lesser"?

Take out "or lesser".

What procedure would apply to the new section 7, as set out in amendment No. 13? Would that require a new role for the Oireachtas, as some other sections in the Bill provide? Would that apply in this case?

I do not see that applying in this case, as the amendment states that " . . . the Minister may by order. . .", which would be a ministerial order. A later amendment includes the requirement of a resolution of Dáil and Seanad. Deputy Stagg's point about "or lesser" is fair enough. I am prepared to remove that from amendment No. 13.

When we reach amendment No. 13 the Minister may propose an amendment to amendment No. 13.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are consequential on amendment No. 15 so we will take those amendments together.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 6, between lines 16 and 17, to insert the following:

"‘electrical contracting industry' means the industry of all electrical contractors in Ireland;".

I regard this as a very serious defect in the Bill and a matter the Minister did not see fit to accept at any stage. She said she would discuss this with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, but I have received very disturbing representations from the Register of Electrical Contractors of Ireland on this matter. Statistics show that almost 500 fires in households are caused by faulty wiring. One must get a RECI certificate before the ESB will connect a commercial premises. The Health and Safety Authority has some role in policing working conditions, but living conditions in houses are not subject to control. The Minister or I could set up a group to give out certificates without any controls being placed on us. This is self-regulation and any contractors who do not want to adhere to RECI's high standards can set up their own regulatory body.

This amendment proposes to give the commission a role in this matter. The Minister says that the commission will only look at the economic and commercial aspects of this matter, but Ms Etain Doyle, the telecommunications regulator, has found gaps in that sector. This amendment addressees a genuine concern in the interests of safety and putting houses on the same footing as workplaces. Amendment No. 6 seeks to define the electrical contracting industry and an electrical contractor. Amendment No. 15 seeks to ensure that the electrical contracting industry operates to the highest possible standards. It does not prescribe what the rules may be, but this is a pass the parcel situation between the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Public Enterprise. I feel strongly that this matter should be taken seriously.

Deputy Yates is right. This is a pass the parcel situation. The Tánaiste wrote to me about this and I replied in what I would call a game of pass the parcel between our Departments. I do not feel it should be the responsibility of my Department and Deputies will say, "You would say that, wouldn't you?", but the Tánaiste does not feel it should be her Department's responsibility either. The Health and Safety Authority has some expertise in this area whereas my Department does not.

Deputy Yates referred to domestic dwellings, but from my time on local authorities I understand that local authorities have the right to ensure wiring in local authority dwellings is to a particular standard. I know they insist on repairs being carried out to those standards. I have not spoken to Mr. Tom Reeves since he became regulator, as I do not think it would be proper, but the regulator has been speaking to officials who have conveyed to me his opinion that this should not be within his remit. He has an economic focus and concentrates on opening markets and defining eligibility, which is necessary work.

The officials and I discussed these amendments this morning and I am not satisfied by the pass the parcel arrangement. It is turning a blind eye to the matter. RECI has contacted me as well. I have not discussed this matter with the officials, but there will be another electricity Bill in the autumn which will deal with those parts of the directive not dealt with by this Bill. By the time we debate that Bill I will seek to have the situation regarding RECI resolved. It is not good enough to leave this hanging.

I appreciate the Minister's bona fides in this regard as no Department will take responsibility. The Tánaiste opened RECI's new offices some weeks ago.

They asked her, not me.

The considered position of the Tánaiste's Department is that this is not a health and safety matter at work so it will not deal with this. The ESB says it has no responsibility beyond the meter. However, the chairman of the ESB has said that the regulatory situation is far from satisfactory. I think the Minister will agree it is not good enough that the public must endure a system, designed to ensure their protection and safety, that is far from satisfactory, to use the words of the ESB chairman. There will be a serious fire in a house because its wiring is not up to the RECI standard. I will withdraw amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 15 and will put them down again for the next Bill. I am glad the Minister has accepted that unless she puts the boot in on someone, this matter will continue to float. I withdraw the amendments based on the Minister's good intentions, but I press her on it because this is a genuine issue of public safety.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.

We now come to amendment No. 7. Amendments Nos. 10, 11, 25, 58, 62 and 63 are cognate and all the amendments may be taken together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 7, line 15, to delete "renewable" and substitute "renewable, sustainable".

This amendment is the result of a commitment I made to Deputy Sargent on Committee Stage. I agreed to "sustainable" being inserted into the term "renewable or alternative" wherever it appears in the Bill. There are seven such places.

I thank the Minister for accepting the need for the word "sustainable" as well as the word "renewable" in the Bill. This will bring us into line with the highest international standards and help us to work towards meeting our international obligations. That will be a difficult task and I do not lighten it. This amendment points the way towards meeting our obligations and I hope we will be prepared to co-operate in the work which will be necessary for that.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 7, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following:

"(e) biofuel,”.

This amendment follows a commitment I gave to Deputy Stagg when the Bill was discussed on Committee Stage on 12 May. I agreed that the word "biofuel" would be inserted in the definition of renewable or alternative fuels. I wish to record the name of the originator of each amendment where an amendment was agreed on Committee Stage.

Biofuels are fuels made from biological materials. Usually produced and refined examples include alcohol and vegetable oil.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 7, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

"(j) combined heat and power in conjunction with district heating systems;”.

During the debate on Committee Stage on the supply of electricity in aggregate, the question of "single premises" was raised. Can the Minister define the term "single premises"? The IDA has asked me to clarify the position with regard to industrial sites. Others have suggested that allied buildings will be included. How limiting will the definition "single premises" be?

We can follow only the definition in the Bill. On page 7, line 27, the term is defined as, "one or more buildings or structures, occupied and used by a person, where each building or structure is adjacent to, or contiguous with, the other buildings or structure;".

That is quite subjective.

It is quite subjective.

One could say every building is adjacent to another. I am happy to withdraw the amendment on the understanding that a logical, reasonable and practical interpretation will be made and that the use of steam in pipes in neighbouring buildings will be allowed for heat and power, where there is a bona fide district heating system.

I recall that the term "single premises" is also used in the directive. There were long discussions about the definition at European level, before the term was agreed. It was agreed, subjectively, to allow for a generous interpretation, if required. Our regulator, who will beau fait with the area will interpret the term. However, this definition does not deal with district heating. Users of district heating schemes, whether tenants in a block of flats or a local authority housing scheme, would not be the main purchasers of electricity, while they would be the main purchasers of heat. The purchaser of heat can sell on the heat to others.

The terminology in the Bill is vague. The term "district heating" connotes huge blocks of flats in Moscow.

Ballymun has district heating. I suggest that we leave the interpretation of the term to the regulator and presume upon his good sense.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 8, line 17, to delete "renewable" and substitute "renewable, sustainable".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 8, line 18, to delete "renewable" and substitute "renewable, sustainable".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 12 is consequential on amendment No. 39 and both may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 8, line 19, after "section 1(2)" to insert "or section 26(6)"

These amendments insert a new subsection 26(6), which requires that before the Minister could make an order to reduce the threshold for eligibility and thereby provide for a greater level of liberalisation, a resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas would be required. These amendments remove the need, as required under section 3, for such an order to be made before each House of the Oireachtas. This is in the spirit of the suggestions made by Deputy Stagg.

I welcome these amendments. They implement, effectively, what was proposed in my amendment and which I withdrew on Committee Stage.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 9, between lines 40 and 41, to insert the following:

7.–(1) The Minister may prescribe a greater or lesser percentage than that specified in the definition of combined heat and power.

(2) The Minister may by order amend an order made under this section including an order made under this subsection.".

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 13:

In line 1 of amendment No. 13, to delete the words "or lesser".

Amendment to amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment No. 17 is an alternative to amendment No. 14 and both may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 10 between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

(c) to advise the Minister on the impact of electricity generation in relation to sustainability, and international agreements on the environment to which the State is or becomes a party,”.

This amendment fulfils a commitment I gave Deputy Sargent on Committee Stage. I agreed that the commission would have a duty to advise the Minister on sustainability and Ireland's international environment agreements. Deputy Sargent's Committee Stage amendment mentioned Local Agenda 21 and the Kyoto Agreement on Global Climate Change. We agreed that specific mention of such agreements was not advisable since they could be superseded by other agreements. I agreed to follow the spirit of Deputy Sargent's amendment.

I welcome the Minister's amendment. On reflection, Local Agenda 21 and the Kyoto Agreement on Global Climate Change could have been mentioned, followed by the words "and other such international agreements". This would not have precluded other agreements. We should consider the agreements into which we enter. As it is the practice to write them in lower case letters, there is a danger they will be ignored. We have not lived up to our commitments with regard to these two agreements; in fact, we are flagrantly disregarding them. I hope the considerable significance of this amendment will be understood.

I would welcome any advice the Minister could give on the impact of electricity generation in relation to sustainability. The amendment should refer specifically to the issue of incineration as part of that process, as there will be a dispute as to whether incineration as a means of generating power is a sustainable activity. In time this will become very controversial in Dublin and throughout the country. Because of this, incineration, which is a very dangerous means of waste disposal and which will be discussed in terms of heat and power, should be referred to. The Bill should be specific as there is clearly a very strong lobby trying to get incineration up and running and which uses various covers, including the generation of energy through incineration. The generation of energy must not override the huge concerns of communities about incineration and the very serious dangers of environmental pollution which result from it.

We are dealing with various types of incineration in the creation of electricity. We incinerate turf, coal, oil, gas and biomass which we grow specifically for the purpose of burning. We also incinerate chicken litter and mushroom waste. There are objections to incinerating domestic refuse. There are clean streams of domestic refuse which do not have the negative effects referred to by Deputy Higgins. There are proposals to incinerate toxic waste and the problem arises in this area. Nothing in the Bill will encourage or facilitate such incineration.

Deputy Stagg is correct in saying there is nothing in the Bill which explicitly encourages incineration. However, there is nothing debarring it either, and this is the point I am trying to make. It is clear that incinerators, depending on the material being incinerated, can release cancer causing and toxic chemicals, including heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, etc., from their smoke stacks. This is a crucial issue for communities. I do not know if the Minister is aware of the huge lobby which exists. The issue is one of waste disposal but it is relevant here because incineration is being discussed in combination with electricity generation. Because of this, the matter should be dealt with in the Bill. In view of the studies which have been carried out in many countries, which show serious health effects resulting from incineration, the Minister should have ruled it out.

The Government is favourable to privatising electricity generation in the same way as it is privatising, selling and flogging every other State asset to what will eventually become multinational concerns. These people are driven only by profit, and the well-being of the communities which will endure the down stream effects are not being taken into account. If the Minister was really dealing with sustainability and environmental considerations from the point of view of the community, what I am suggesting would have been made explicit in the Bill.

I share the disquiet of Deputy Higgins on incineration. I have debated this issue several times in the House, particularly during the passage of the Waste Management Act.

I wish to raise a point of order. I thought that on Report Stage only matters dealt with on Committee Stage could be dealt with. This matter was not dealt with on Committee Stage and I would like the Ceann Comhairle's ruling in that regard.

New matters cannot be introduced on Report Stage.

There is no amendment on the matter.

This is an elaboration of the amendment.

The Deputy cannot elaborate on Report Stage. He must strict strictly to the amendment.

Who is in the Chair – Deputy Yates or the Ceann Comhairle?

I am pointing out the procedure.

The procedure is that it is not in order to introduce new matters on Report Stage.

On a point of order, I understood Report Stage dealt with amendments.

I wish to clarify this issue. I am fully in order as the amendment suggests insertion of the following: "to advise the Minister on the impact of electricity generation in relation to sustainability". Deputies are perfectly entitled to make a contribution relating to this and this is what Deputy Sargent and I have done.

I cannot allow unlimited latitude.

I appreciate that – I did not want latitude. Deputy Yates tried, momentarily, to take over the Chair by introducing a red herring and cutting across the debate.

I made a valid point of order.

I ask Deputies to bear in mind that we cannot have a wide-ranging discussion on incineration. In a very limited way it is relevant to the amendment.

I have no intention of having a wide-ranging discussion on the matter. I was making a simple point and I appreciate that a point of order was made in mid-sentence. I felt it was important to point out that the inclusion of sustainability in the Bill will allow incineration to be challenged. Given the European directive as it stands, it will be up to people to challenge incineration—

I ask the Deputy to resume his seat as his contribution has exceeded one minute.

I will be one of the people challenging incineration on the basis of sustainability.

I am at a loss to understand the last two contributions. As I understand sustainability, we are not talking about dumping our rubbish in holes in the ground in future .

I know we are talking about the amendment, but the debate has strayed into the meaning of sustainability. I have been following this debate with some interest and participated in it on Committee Stage. Earlier we were talking about CHP. I urge the Minister not to listen to the two prophets of doom who have spoken. Otherwise we will be consumed by a waste mountain.

The Deputy should address the amendment.

In countries such as Denmark, where CHP is extremely well developed—

We are drifting into a Second Stage debate.

In Denmark heat is generated and the system of district heating is used very efficiently by burning waste. Incineration does not need to be a threat.

Deputy Sargent is singing a different hymn from that of his former colleague on Wicklow County Council. However, consistency is not something I expect from the Deputy.

Former is the word.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 15 not moved.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 10, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

"(e) to provide a consumer complaints service for all matters relating to the generating, supply and distribution of electricity.”.

I will be brief in my comments as I want to facilitate adequate debate on all sections. This provision seeks to have a customer complaints service. Since Committee Stage I have examined this matter further and was referred to the ESB's customer complaints arbitration service. Outside the scope of the only existing arbiter are: ESB retail, ESB finance electric, ESB electrical contracts, including public lighting, power generation, national grid businesses and a series of other points on page five of the complaints' commissioner's report. If a customer has a complaint, he or she cannot go to the Minister, the regulator or anybody else. I am prepared to look at this in the context of a new Bill but the Minister should accept amendment No. 16, which would deal with the deficiencies which the complaints' commissioner acknowledges in his first annual report are beyond his scope.

On 18 May we talked about this on Committee Stage. I am keen that the issue of supply to customers other than eligible customers will be dealt with in the next Bill which will complete the implementation of the directive. That Bill is already in gestation. That will form part of that Bill.

This Bill is initially about the 28 per cent and clearly they will have macro issues. Once it is passed and we move on to the main directive, I will provide for a section which relates to a customer complaints' service which will come into operation.

This issue was discussed earlier. Where we effectively hand over monopoly powers in some areas it is important that there be a customer complaints' service. The Minister's sets out the most valid way of having this.

A major lacuna in law in the past 15 years is that we excluded the commercial and non-commercial State sponsored bodies from the remit of the Ombudsman. It was a dreadful mistake because it meant one could not ask a question here or anywhere else. I am pleased with the model the Minister is proposing. Deputy Yates's concern is a valid one but the Minister's response is the most obvious, and the best one.

I welcome the Minister's remarks and will withdraw amendment No. 16. I take the Minister's point that when we move towards a position where 100 per cent of customers will be eligible to shop around, it will still be an ESB monopoly in terms of transmission and supply. We are only talking about competition for generators. There is an acknowledged series of areas for which there is no service. I hear many complaints about Etain Doyle's operation, that she has no consumer complaints service worth talking about. I understand there will be legislation to deal with that.

I hope that when the section comes, it will not be minimalist and will deal with things, like power cuts over Christmas when the storms blow, how quickly people are entitled to have their service back, to complaints about the metering of bills. We hear of difficulties with premium rate calls from Telecom Éireann where people hotly dispute their bills. In some cases such people take their complaints to the Ombudsman. This section should not be an adjunct of the next Bill but a principal section and covering an area where, as the State has reduced ownership of these companies the Minister will not be accountable as there will be arms length regulation from the legislators, and there will be proper accountability in terms of a customer complaints' service. On that basis I will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 17 not moved.

Amendment No. 18. Amendment No. 19 is an alternative. Amendments Nos. 18 and 19 may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 10, lines 42 to 46, to delete all words from and including "which-" in line 42 down to and including line 46 and substitute "which does not discriminate unfairly between holders of licences, authorisations and the Board, and they consider protects the interests of final customers.".

I tabled these amendments because we had a long discussion about the issue on Committee Stage. Subsequently I had further discussions with the departmental officials, who had done further research on the matter. They satisfied me that the words "discriminate unfairly" should be co-joined in this situation.

Amendment No. 19 is in my name and in the name of Deputy Stagg. I was less convinced by the information given by the departmental officials last week.

I got more information since then.

The argument put to me that "unfairly" was self-evident was almost superfluous because of the existing wording around it. It was put to me by those directly involved in the field that "unfairly" needed to be deleted. I want the Minister to accept amendment No. 19.

What did Deputy Stagg say?

I said I will withdraw that amendment but Deputy Yates said it stands until the Minister says something about it.

We checked again with the Attorney General's office following the meeting with Deputies Stagg, Yates and Sargent. We followed up on amendment No. 19. The Attorney General strongly recommended that we should leave it as it is.

I will withdraw it on the basis of the Attorney General's advice.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 19 not moved.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 10, between lines 46 and 47, to insert the following:

"(c) does not discriminate unfairly between producers of electricity from renewable, sustainable and alternative sources and producers of electricity from fossil and carbon fuels, and”.

This amendment is quite similar to amendments Nos. 18 and 19 but it makes a different point which I ask the Minister to take into account. I will not press the amendment to a vote. When we are talking about discrimination, which the Minister acknowledged on Committee Stage is needed from time to time in the interests of public service obligations or general fair play, there is a point to be made between electricity generated from fossil fuels and from renewable sources in that the cost of producing electricity from renewable resources would tend to internalise the overall costs of pollution, health effects, etc., whereas those producing electricity from fossil fuels would currently be able to operate without the downstream health or pollution effects which were mentioned in international agreements and obligations we have as a country. That is why I ask that the discrimination be in place to take into account the externalities in electricity generation which are borne by the renewable sources, given that wind power and wave power do not involve emissions. If we are talking about fair discrimination, I ask that this be a subject of consideration.

We looked again at that. The commission already has the duty in section 8(3)(a) not to discriminate unfairly between holders of licences, authorisations and the board. The Bill already provides for the thrust and the substance of the amendment. Renewable and alternative forms of energy are already promoted in the Bill at section 8(5)(a), section 8(5)(d), section 13 and section 27. While I accept the reason the Deputy wished to insert this amendment, the Bill has already a heavy overlay of that in it so that the thrust of it is accepted.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 11, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

"(f) to promote the use of renewables and alternative forms of energy.”.

Is the Minister disposed to accept this amendment?

The Deputy withdrew the amendment on Committee Stage and I said I could accept it subject to a small change in wording.

It was amendment No. 39 on Committee Stage and I dealt with it.

The Committee Stage amendment was discussed on 25 May. I could accept that amendment subject to a small change in wording. The wording should be changed to refer to renewable, sustainable or alternative forms of energy so that it is consistent with the rest of the Bill. Does the Deputy see the point?

I accept that.

Deputy Yates's amendment reads: In page 11, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following: "(f) to promote the use of renewables and alternative forms of energy.”.

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 21:

In line 1 of amendment No. 21, to delete "renewable and alternative" and substitute "renewable, sustainable or alternative".

Amendment to amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Amendment Nos. 22 and 26 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 11, line 15, after "use" to insert "and production".

I gave a commitment to Deputy Stagg on Committee Stage to insert the words "and production" in order that the commission would be obliged to encourage the efficient use and production of electricity.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 11, line 15, after "electricity" to insert ", in particular the use of combined heat and power".

We spoke about the benefits of combined heat and power on Committee Stage.

Amendment No. 22 will result in the inclusion of the words "and production". It is considered that the commission should have a duty to encourage efficient electricity production generally, rather than the specific production of combined heat and power which is encompassed in the content of amendment No. 22.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 11, line 15, after "electricity" to insert "in liaison with relevant public authorities and interested non-governmental organisations".

This matter may be dealt with through a clarification from the Minister. The amendment seeks to ensure that the commission would consult public bodies and non-governmental organisations in the course of its work. The Minister indicated that that might occur and my amendment is simply an attempt to ensure it does.

Section 8 sets out the duties of the commission. Where the functions of the commission are dealt with under the Bill in the formulation of the trading mechanism or in the modification of licences, ample provision is made for public consultation. The Deputy wanted to ensure provision would be made for such consultation.

I take it that material and information outlining its functions will be available from the commission. I urge the Minister to ensure that the public will be aware that the commission has a consultation function. I appreciate that copies of the Act will not generally be handed out when people seek information about the commission. I wanted to ensure that anyone reading the Act would understand the commission's functions.

I am sure the officials will pass on the Deputy's concerns to the regulator. There is no point in the regulator informing himself and his staff of the commission's functions and then pulling down the shutters. The commission should prepare a mission statement outlining the need for the constant publication of documents and liaison and consultation with interested parties. Ms Etain Doyle, the telecommunications regulator, regularly issues consultation documents and invites submissions from interested groups. The electricity regulator should operate in the same manner. He should clearly set out his and the commission's functions for the benefit of the public.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 25 has already been discussed with amendment No. 7.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 11, line 19, to delete "renewable" and substitute "renewable, sustainable".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 26 has already been discussed with amendment No. 22.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 11, line 22, after "use" to insert "and production".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 28 is an alternative to amendment No. 27 and they may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 11, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"(e) to require that the system operator gives priority to generating stations using renewable energy sources when selecting generating stations.”.

During our discussions on Committee Stage, there was a considerable level of agreement on the need to ensure the viability of renewable energy sources by requiring that the system operator would give priority to generating stations using wind or wave power when selecting generating stations. That was based on the commonsense understanding that it is not possible to control energy sources such as wind or wave. Therefore, it is essential to take the energy when it is available. The system operator should accord priority to such power stations. Can the Minister ensure that through the acceptance of this amendment or through some other means?

Put simply, wind energy stations want to ensure that when the wind blows, their electricity will be used. If the wind were to blow from 9 p.m. to 12 p.m. on a Thursday night and the ESB were to say it did not need the power because it was full to capacity, then God help the wind people. The Minister previously stated that if the ESB were to use a more expensive electricity source, it would have to have some mechanism of surcharging it.

Section 8(5) states that "without prejudice to subsections (3) and (4), it shall be the duty of the Commission .". If we are serious about wind power, the wind generating stations should be given something of a leg-up.

We are talking about wind and wave power.

I am primarily referring to wind power.

I support the general thrust of amendment Nos. 27 and 28. This matter also affects small hydro schemes which will have better electricity production rates when water levels are high. The schemes are very renewable as the water goes down the hill, evaporates and comes up the hill again. The wording should not focus on wind power alone. The term "renewable energy sources" would be the correct one.

The electricity directive allows member states to impose public service obligations on the system operator. There will be a cost involved as renewable energy source stations are usually more expensive than others. In effect, the obligation is a public service obligation and section 38 gives the Minister of the day the power to impose such obligations.

It would not be appropriate to place the duty on the commission without making provision for the payment of the public service obligations involved. I recall what Deputy Stagg's acquaintance at the treasury holding informed him when he said to forget about the amendment because someone would have to pay the public service obligation. This amendment would clearly involve the imposition of a public service obligation and provision would have to be made to pay for that. Section 38 confers power on the Minister to impose public service obligations. I appreciate that the imposition of such obligations would give a leg-up to the stations in question.

The logical extension of the Minister's argument is that the ESB's dispatcher could decide that, because it is too expensive to use wind in the generation of electricity, it will not be used. The previous Government introduced a provision in 1996 under which anyone who wants to can link up to a renewable energy source. The ESB, however, has refused to facilitate anybody. The logical extension of the Minister's argument is that the PSO could be used to stop the ESB using wind in the generation of electricity. We are talking about a small proportion of the overall uptake. Perhaps the matter can be dealt with in another Bill, but an imprimatur should be given to the regulator to instruct that the lever be switched when the wind is blowing. The question of who will pay can be dealt with later.

When people talk about the cost of using wind in electricity generation, they never mention that there is no pollution. This should be factored in. It is an essential safety net for those who generate electricity using renewable energy sources. Unless they are given priority, they will not get in. There are no public service obligations involved. As the Minister of State said, those who use wind in the generation of electricity are improving their methods with the result that shortly it will not be more expensive.

This is more of a lifeline than a leg-up for those who use wind in the generation of electricity. The situation is changing. With each new development it is becoming much cheaper to use wind in electricity generation. I contrast this with the recent Bord Gáis announcement that when supplies of gas eventually run out—

From the Marathon field.

—there will be no control over the price of gas which will have to be purchased at international rates. It will not be long, therefore, before there is a level playing pitch but we will not reach that point unless those who use wind in electricity generation are given this lifeline.

I am inclined to accept the amendments. Generating installations using renewable energy sources are tiny in number.

If the Minister wishes, I will withdraw amendment No. 28. A new paragraph may fit in better than a new subsection.

It would be less obtrusive. The words "sustainable and alternative" will have to be included.

I would be happy with that.

I move amendment to amendment No. 27:

In page 11, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

"(e) to require that the system operator gives priority to generating stations using renewable, sustainable or alternative energy sources when selecting generating stations.”.

The extra words are in tune with the rest of the Bill.

Amendment to amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 28 not moved.

We now proceed to amendment No. 29. Amendments Nos. 30, 33 and 45 are related. Amendments Nos. 29, 30, 33 and 45 may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 13, to delete lines 36 to 43 and substitute the following:

"(c) subject to section 27, to supply electricity to final customers which in aggregate does not exceed the amount of electricity which is available to the supplier and which is produced using renewable, sustainable or alternative forms of energy or electricity purchased, in place of such electricity, in accordance with the trading arrangements provided for in regulations to be made by the Commission under section 8(1)(c), or

(d) to supply to the single premises of the main heat customer electricity which is produced using combined heat and power at the generating station from which that main heat customer is supplied with heat, or electricity purchased, in place of such electricity, in accordance with the trading arrangements provided for in regulations to be made by the Commission under section 8(1)(c),”.

On Committee Stage Deputy Stagg expressed concern about the wording of the subsections and the ability of renewables or CHP suppliers to supply top-up electricity to their customers. This amendment clarifies that renewables or CHP suppliers will be able to supply top-up electricity which they purchase in accordance with the trading mechanism provided for by the commission.

These amendments relate to section 13 which upset me so much that I voted against it last week. This matter featured in the discussions with the civil servants. The Minister's amendments represent substantial progress. The ESB has indicated that my amendments would have the effect of obliging it to provide low cost electricity to an independent. I can offer an example of the converse of spill. Let us say I am providing electricity to Deputy Stagg and he wants 40 megawatts but I can produce only 30 megawatts. The ESB would be obliged to produce cheap electricity for me to sell it to him and I would have a guaranteed profit margin on the ESB's electricity when selling it to Deputy Stagg. I do not want to do that. I accept that point.

The point I am trying to make is that Deputy Stagg would not buy the electricity from me because I would be unable to meet his full requirements. The ESB's response would be predictable. Will amendment No. 29 have the effect of ensuring, without going as far as I had proposed in amendment No. 30, that where somebody cannot meet the full need, the ESB will be obliged to produce the balance of the electricity? Let us look at the converse, where Deputy Stagg wants 40 megawatts and I can produce only two. The result would be the rape of the ESB for 38 megawatts at a cheap price while I make a profit from selling it on. That is not what I meant to do.

Does amendment No. 29 meet the objective of providing for a dual supply on a fair basis? I will be happy to withdraw my amendment on the basis of the Minister's assurances.

Amendment No. 29 puzzles me. No matter how often I read it, it does not make sense. It states:

(c) subject to section 27, to supply electricity to final customers which in aggregate does not exceed the amount of electricity which is available to the supplier and which is produced using renewable, sustainable or alternative forms of energy or electricity purchased, in place of such electricity.

What electricity? I do not understand that, and I am not being smart.

I accept that.

It means the shortfall of electricity. In other words, let us say a supplier is producing only 80 per cent, the 20 per cent would be in place of such electricity.

I understand.

With regard to amendment No. 29, I acknowledge that we covered a good deal of territory in this regard last week. Amendments Nos. 29 and 33 make it clear that suppliers will be able to supply top-up electricity to their customers in accordance with the trading mechanism to be developed by the commission under section 8(1)(c). Amendment No. 30 could be withdrawn in favour of amendment No. 33. This amendment is intended to address concerns expressed about suppliers' ability to obtain top-up electricity. I undertook to address this issue and emphasised that top-up and spill would be dealt with in the trading mechanism.

The licensed suppliers will be responsible for meeting the contract needs of their customers. Any imbalance between the production of the supplier and the demands of the customer will be met by buying supplementary electricity or selling surplus electricity through the trading mechanism. We had nearly arrived at that formula in the discussion on Committee Stage but we did not have it in the correct format. There is general agreement among present and prospective suppliers about the composition of the trading mechanism. Amendments Nos. 29, 30 and 33—

Will the Minister reply to amendment No. 45 which is being discussed with these amendments?

Amendment No. 45 obliges the ESB and any other electricity generator in the market, other than green generators, to supply electricity to the customers of green generators in the event the green generators are unable to produce the electricity themselves. This is commonly referred to as top-up and can be dealt with under the trading mechanism to be developed in accordance with the policy direction from the Minister under section 8.

I accept the principle of an obligation to provide top-up electricity, subject to the trading mechanism.

Is BGE happy?

I do not know. The Department has not been in contact with BGE this week. My official spoke to its representatives last week and today but they did not mention it.

BGE sent me a fax today but I do not have it with me. I am happy to proceed. This is a big step forward from where we were last week.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 30 not moved.

Amendment No. 32 is related to amendment No. 31. Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 can be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 14, line 14, after "any," to insert "as appropriate to the class of electricity generation concerned,".

Amendment No. 32 addresses a number of the arguments I made on Committee Stage. It is slightly less clear than my amendment, although it is probably legalistically more correct or suitable for the parliamentary draftsman. Can the Minister explain why she could not be more specific about the class of electricity?

We took advice on it. Amendment No. 32 puts words to what the Deputy hoped to achieve. The commission would have the flexibility to determine different fees, depending on the application, and would have to make information on the fees available on request. It is a fair compromise.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 14, line 15, after "determine" to insert "to be appropriate, having regard to the application being made, and the Commission shall make information on such fees available on request".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 14, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:

"(12) The Board shall be obliged to supply electricity to the holder of a licence under subsection (1) in accordance with the trading arrangements provided for in regulations to be made by the Commission under section 8(1)(c).”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 35 and 48 are related to amendment No. 34. Amendments Nos. 34, 35 and 48 can be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 14, between lines 41 and 42, to insert the following:

"(12) The Commission shall consult with the Competition Authority in carrying out all its functions relating to the granting of a licence to generate and supply electricity.".

Perhaps it is not appropriate to deal with this in law. Mr. Reeves should have some consultation or liaison with the Competition Authority and I put down this amendment with the intention of finding out what the Minister proposes as the best form of liaison with the authority.

The Minister's esteemed colleague, the Tánaiste, is particularly sweet on the Competition Authority. In the interest of maintaining good relations between the two Marys, the Minister might consider outlining an appropriate relationship with the Competition Authority.

It is essential that the Competition Authority or any other authority is not able to second guess a regulator or there will be a crazy mix up. The Minister indicated on Committee Stage that this issue had to be addressed, although I am not sure if it was to be in this Bill or in other legislation.

The Tánaiste is, rightly, keen on the Competition Authority. It is under her aegis. There was an advertisement in a newspaper on Friday or Saturday under the heading of the Competition Authority which said it was going to investigate the entire transport competition area, including taxis, buses and trains. They did not even tell us beforehand, although it would have been good manners to do so. We read it in the newspaper and that was how we knew.

That is what we get for setting up quangos.

The amendment mentions doing all these things, but the Competition Authority has taken the upper hand. There should be a discussion on the primary legislation establishing the Competition Authority. I presume there will be discussions from time to time between the authority and the regulator, but not in a statutory form.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 35 not moved.

There are 40 minutes until 7 o'clock and if we do not complete this before then we will have to come back at 8.30 p.m.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 15, to delete lines 29 and 30.

I accept the amendment.

I thank the Minister.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 16, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

"(b) the extent to which the authorisation will contribute to competition in electricity and lead to increasingly competitive electricity prices for customers,”.

I move this amendment in the hope that it may elicit the same response as the previous one.

This matter was discussed on 15 June and Deputy Yates was not present during that week.

That is correct.

This amendment would impose a requirement which would be practically impossible to meet. It would require a subjective view to be taken of the effect on the market of the grant of each authorisation.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 21, between lines 35 and 36, to insert the following:

"(3) Where appropriate a supplier who supplies electricity to one or more eligible customers as defined in subsection (2) shall be regarded as an eligible customer for the purposes of purchasing generation output.".

Will the Minister please give her views on this matter?

I think that amendment was withdrawn.

It was resubmitted.

The amendment seeks to insert the following wording: "Where appropriate a supplier who supplies electricity to one or more eligible customers as defined in subsection (2) shall be regarded as an eligible customer for the purposes of purchasing generation output". This was covered by section 13(8) which was inserted by an amendment I tabled on Committee Stage.

The point has been met.

Yes, it has.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 39 has already been discussed with amendment No. 12.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 21, between lines 43 and 44, to insert the following:

"(6) Where an order is proposed to be made under this section, a draft of the order shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas and the order shall not be made until a resolution approving of the draft has been passed by each such House.".

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 40 to 43, inclusive, and 46 may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 21, to delete lines 46 to 48, and in page 22, to delete lines 1 and 2, and substitute "electricity from combined heat and power which may be supplied to final customers under section 13(1)(d) in any specified period.”.

This amendment arises from a commitment I gave last week that a mechanism to enable the Minister to place a cap on the amount of CHP would be inserted into this section. This amendment would mean the Minister of the day can impose a cap on CHP so that there will be no possibility of CHP expanding too quickly and opening the market significantly over the 28 per cent mark. It takes out the limit on the renewables but inserts it on CHP.

There are two points here. One is that under the heading of renewables, CHP, if so defined, would muscle out wind and other energy sources. The Minister has met that point.

That is right, I have met that point.

If Aughinish Alumina built a power station and had a surplus of electricity, there would be a basis on which it would be bought back by the ESB at the spill price, which could be half the price at which they would sell it to eligible customers. The Minister has segregated other renewables from CHP, but has she met the other point?

The other point in my amendment was to seek to give comfort to CHP where it would have excess capacity over the amount it supplied on an occasional basis, so it could be spilled into the system. I looked at the trading mechanism and we had a long discussion outside the committee with the Minister's officials. The discussions were most helpful. Arising from that, I see no need for a spill mechanism because of the trading mechanism that is now in place.

To answer Deputy Yates, we have met the first concern which was that CHP would gobble up the other renewables. As regards the second concern, we have put forward the trading mechanism under which that concern will be met.

To clarify that, the trading mechanism will allow spill electricity to be purchased?

That is right.

Not in an unlimited way, but the parameters of it will be set.

What does the Minister have in mind as a possible range of ceilings? I received one set of briefings to say that CHP would be in the order of 5 per cent of the market, but 5 per cent of 4,000 megawatts is 200. Does this make it a non-runner for Aughinish Alumina? The Minister has made the point that the spill provision is there – the surplus of electricity will be bought back but it will be subject to an overall ceiling. That is the Minister's compromise. What indicative megawatt figure is the Minister talking about, in that this will determine if there is Aughinish Alumina co-generation? Is it 50 or 250?

The independent sector will be able to sell spill electricity to ESB generators at an avoidable fuel cost, for an initial tranche of 25 per cent of total eligible customer demand.

That is one quarter of 28 per cent, which is only 7 per cent.

Yes, that is right.

That is quite small.

The trading mechanism as published, along with the policy of the Minister of the day and the regulator's implementation of that policy, will provide an equitable resolution of the issue.

To facilitate progress, I will withdraw my amendments.

I tabled amendment No. 46 as a safety net. The Minister has met the requirement for some type of capping facility for CHP, which I am glad to accept. I would be interested to hear her views on the other amendments also.

I am trying to reach a fair compromise. In setting any ceiling, the Minister should consider unique circumstances, such as the extraction of aluminium from bauxite, which requires a huge amount of heat. There should be sufficient flexibility, without distorting the electricity market, for the benefit of CHP. If an individual project makes economic sense, given the amount of steam, heat or waste energy that goes up a chimney, the Minister should consider it.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 41 to 43, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 22, to delete lines 7 and 8.

When this amendment was originally discussed on Committee Stage on 23 June it was not moved in error. Amendment No. 110, which this proposes to delete, is no longer necessary since the references in it to subsection 27(1) are redundant following the substantial amendment made on Committee Stage to section 27(1) on 23 June. The original section 27(1) referred to an entitlement to buy electricity. The issue of the supply of electricity is now dealt with in section 13 and section 27(1), which is amended, does not refer to entitlements. Since section 27(3) still refers to such entitlements, it is redundant and should be deleted.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 45 and 46 not moved.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 22, line 32, to delete "by order as soon as practicable" and substitute "within one month".

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 48 not moved.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 26, line 35, after "interest" to insert ", as determined in writing by the Commission,".

This amendment would require the commission to establish the public interest in writing. The public interest would be different depending on the circumstances of each individual. An example is the Freedom of Information Act where decision-makers are required to take account of the public interest. Section 33(4)(a) states: “it has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Commission that it is not in the public interest to provide additional capacity to meet the requirements to be imposed by that agreement,”. The amendment should not be accepted. Every public interest debate would be different depending on the circumstances of each decision.

The ESB should not have sole discretion to determine what is or is not in the public interest. That is more properly a matter for the commission or the Minister. Such a privilege, although there is an appeals procedure, gives the ESB the opportunity to delay, without penalty, the projects proposed by its competitors. This was a concern from the IPPs.

That surfaced last week with regard to giving and getting information and on day 54 they allege they were put to the end of the queue so to speak. The regulator will be the decision-maker as to whatever information the ESB gives him. He will not have to accept what he is given.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 27, between lines 26 and 27, to insert the following:

"(9) Nothing in this section shall disadvantage applicants for licences or authorisations in making offers to potential final customers prior to the issuing of such licences or authorisations.".

The original amendment No. 127 was discussed on Committee Stage and withdrawn. My amendment No. 119, which was accepted on Committee Stage, addressed this issue by enabling any person, whether they have a licence or authorisation, to enter into negotiation with the ESB regarding access to the grid.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 51:

In page 27, line 29, after "charges" to insert "in respect of the various classes and categories of primary electricity supplier".

I recall the Minister discussing this matter with some sympathy. Is she still sympathetic to it?

This amendment would enable the board to impose different charges on different electricity suppliers for the use of transmission. Costs for connection should be on a cost reflective basis. Section 33(7) places a duty of non-discrimination on the ESB in dealing with the provision of access to the transmission. This provision meets the requirement of the electricity directive. As the ESB will be granting access to its own generating station as well as to those of its competitors, it is important that it be required to comply with a statutory duty of non-discrimination. In page 27, line 29, after "charges" the Deputy seeks to insert "in respect of the various classes and categories of primary electricity supplier". That duty was imposed on the board earlier in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 52:

In page 28, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

"(e) the nature of information to be provided to applicants seeking connection to or use of the transmission or distribution systems and its presentation and transparency,”.

The key point here is the row still ongoing between NIE Meridian and the ESB about the release of information. The Minister made the point last week that we have to wait until the Bill is enacted. It should be a two-way process, the same should apply North and South. I accept all those points. Is there any way the ESB can be prevented in law from blocking information? I am happy to withdraw my amendment if it has side effects. The point is valid. If there is someone who is the sole person with transmission, distribution and supply, IPPs cannot get to first base without this information.

IPPs are not entitled to the information until this legislation is passed.

I accept that.

We are talking about a private monopoly operating in Northern Ireland which would not give information to any competitor which tried to get into Northern Ireland. It has the cheek to come down here and tell us our main operator should give it the information before there is a requirement to do so. I do not support that operation and the ESB is right in this regard.

I thought we were in love with our Northern friends.

We are not in love with a private monopoly which—

This amendment would only come into effect once the Bill becomes an Act. I accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 53:

In page 28, between lines 13 and 14, to insert the following:

"(5) The Commission, solely, will determine what constitutes an ‘appropriate proportion' referred to in subsection (4)(a) and a ‘reasonable rate of return' referred to in subsection (4)(b).”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 54:

In page 28, line 35, after "capacity" to insert "or where the applicant considers that the Board's proposed charge for work to be carried out is excessive".

I said on Committee Stage that it is preferable to have a single transmission distribution system. This is the most effective way to operate an electricity system. The EU electricity directive provides for the making of a grant of a direct line permission conditional on the refusal of access to the electricity system on the basis of a lack of capacity. This is reflected in the Bill.

Is the Minister saying the point is made already?

The point is already covered in the Bill. The Deputy suggests that the EU directive will provide for making the grant application conditional on the refusal of access to the electricity system on the basis of lack of capacity. This is reflected in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 55:

In page 29, line 8, after "line" to insert "As a minimum the owner of the direct line will be compensated to the extent of the Modern Equivalent Asset Value of the direct line"."

The amendment refers to the assessment of compensation risk in respect of a direct line where the owner is directed by the commission to transfer ownership to the board. The Office of the Attorney General has advised that the provision made in the Bill using the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act is the standard approach when compensation is to be made by any of the local authorities.

I propose that, at a minimum, the owner of the direct line would be compensated to the extent of the MEAV. I am advised that the MEAV is probably the fairest accounting methodology for the purpose of valuing long life, partially depreciated assets in today's money. Is the Minister accepting the MEAV?

The Office of the Attorney General advises that the mechanism always used is that provided for under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act. I am, therefore, unable to accept the amendment.

The amendment gives the commission the power to allow a person to construct a direct line where it is satisfied the person can build the line more economically than the cost quoted by the ESB. This does not compromise the specification of the line. Its main impact is to ensure the ESB's quotations are disciplined by the knowledge that an alternative is available to the applicant. The ESB can often provide an exorbitantly high quote to connect a house. The mechanism proposed by the amendment would provide a discipline and enable a supplier to provide electricity at a cheaper rate.

The Office of the Attorney General has advised that to use the provisions of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act is the standard approach used where an assessment of compensation is to be made.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 56:

In page 29, line 33, to delete "and".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 57:

In page 29, line 35, to delete "relates." and substitute "relates; and".

This is a technical amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 58:

In page 29, line 37, to delete "renewable" and substitute "renewable, sustainable or alternative".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 59:

In page 30, line 12, to delete "from the date" and substitute "on and after the date".

The amendment is in response to a commitment I gave to Deputy Stagg.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 61 is an alternative to amendment No. 60 and both may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 60:

In page 30, to delete lines 31 and 37 and substitute the following:

"(a) generating stations which use as their primary energy fuel source peat harvested within the State provided that the amount of peat used in any calendar year to generate that quantity of electricity may not exceed 15 per cent. of the overall primary energy necessary to produce the electricity consumed in the State that year, and”.

I agree with the amendment moved by the Minister and will not move the amendment in my name.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 61 not moved.

I move amendment No. 62:

In page 30, line 42, to delete "renewable" and substitute "renewable, sustainable".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 63:

In page 31, line 3, to delete "renewable" and substitute "renewable, sustainable".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 64:

In page 32, line 24, to delete "or under construction" where it secondly occurs.

This is a drafting amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 65:

In page 32, line 25, to delete "may" and substitute "shall".

This meets a commitment I made to Deputy Stagg. The Minister of the day should be obliged to make a transitional regime order.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 66:

In page 32, line 31, after "in respect of" to insert " the annual specified amounts of unrecovered costs or revenue that may occur in each single year applied only to".

I accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 68 is an alternative to amendment No. 67 and both may be taken together. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 67:

In page 35, line 8, before "lop" to insert ", taking due care and attention,".

I propose to withdraw the amendment and accept amendment No. 68 in the name of Deputy Sargent.

I believe the words "due care and attention" would not necessarily result in good practice, which should be what we aim for.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 68:

In page 35, line 8, before "lop" to insert ", taking due care and attention to avoid unnecessary damage,".

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 69:

In page 35, to delete lines 53 to 56, and substitute the following:

"45.-The application of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, shall not apply to commercially sensitive data of the Board.".

The amendment would remove the commission from the application of the Freedom of Information Act by replacing section 45, which makes the commission subject to that Act. It is unlikely the Deputy intended this.

The ESB asked me to consider this matter. I accept the amendment would have the effect outlined by the Minister. The board is afraid that certain commercially very sensitive data would be affected by the Freedom of Information Act.

The amendment would remove the commission from the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

The purpose of the amendment is to remove from the provision of that Act the board's commercially sensitive information.

It would not be appropriate to amend the application of the Freedom of Information Act by making a specific exclusion with regard to commercially sensitive information held by the ESB because that Act already provides for commercially sensitive information. There is a high degree of protection afforded to all commercially sensitive information under section 27 of the Act. It is strongly recommended that the amendment not be accepted because it would have the opposite effect to what the Deputy requires.

I withdraw the amendment on the basis that the Minister is indicating that the data which the ESB is concerned about will be protected by the Freedom of Information Act and a specific amendment is not, therefore, required.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move the following technical amendment:

In page 11, line 17, to delete "and" and in line 23 to delete "electricity." and substitute "electricity; and".

I accepted amendment No. 27 in the name of Deputy Sargent and two other Opposition amendments which the Bills Office advises would upset the punctuation of the Bill. The matter can be corrected by acceptance of this technical amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

The Minister will recall I expressed concern about changes to permits. I was out of the country attending a meeting of the Council of Europe last week. What is the position?

I will contact the Deputy tomorrow.

Perhaps the Minister will address the matter tomorrow in the debate on Second Stage in the Seanad.

I thank the Minister for her co-operation and the assistance of her Department during the passage of the Bill. I certainly got well acquainted with it while discussing and refining it. It was remiss of me not to refer earlier to the officials who accompanied the Minister today. Not only were they present to advise and assist her but we met them between Committee and Report Stages and that facilitated both the acceptance of amendments and the easy passage of the legislation. It was improved by the process.

Beyond all bounds.

If such a process could be bottled and sold, we would have a good method for dealing with legislation. There was no animosity or personal sniping during the debate, which was also welcome.

I concur with Deputy Stagg's remarks. It has been a privilege to work on the Bill with colleagues, the Minister and her staff. She displayed extremely mature flexibility and her ability to accept amendments reflected her mastery of her brief. It is to her credit because many of the amendments which were accepted will be extremely welcome. Many people pioneering in the area of renewable energy will breathe a sigh of relief that a number of amendments were made which will hopefully be implemented following the Bill's acceptance by the Seanad and the President.

However, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government has a job to do in terms of the waste hierarchy so that we can be genuinely proud of the renewable energy which will be developed and it will not be a source of damage or embarrassment internationally. To that extent, I thank the Minister and her officials for their work, particularly in making time available to meet Opposition spokespersons. It was much appreciated.

I concur with Deputies Stagg and Sargent regarding the Minister's officials, to whom I referred earlier. I put on record my appreciation of the Minister's approach to the Bill. Throughout its passage, she has been patient, flexible and pursued an agenda of consensus and common sense. I appreciate that because it is much more rewarding for Opposition Members. Having been a Minister, I am aware that in all briefs one is advised to say "no". Essentially, it is a frustrating and arduous exercise to pursue amendment in Opposition without massive resources and back up. It is much more satisfying to feel one is making progress in the passage of a Bill.

At the outset, my objective was to tip toe through the minefield of vested interests, ensure the customer got a better deal and that there would be orderly competition. We do not know what the outcome of the legislation will be or whether there will be 15 licensed operators or one additional operator. I hope there will be orderly development and that the ESB will continue to prosper but that there will also be some level of competition both in terms of renewables and elsewhere in the industry. I also hope a market in deregulated electricity will be developed which will be a model for the rest of Europe.

I join colleagues in thanking the Minister for her courtesy and co-operation during all Stages. She listened attentively and generously accepted meritorious points, which was important. Her officials were absolutely splendid and most co-operative. All my colleagues have put a great deal of effort into this debate and a considerable number of people have helped in a voluntary capacity. I also thank Deputy Yates, although on occasion we might not have seen eye to eye, but we reached agreement.

The Bill is important for the midlands and the Minister addressed many of the concerns of people living there. The competition era approaches and, while it will be new for the ESB, I am certain it will have the ability to cope and develop in the future. We are looking after the consumer and not just those employed in the industry. The Bill will ensure consumers receive a much more competitive price and it will be of great benefit to them. It is splendid and I hope it works out as such.

I thank all speakers, not just for this evening's debate, which was very productive, but for the debate during all the previous Stages of the Bill. Like many of them, I learned as the Bill was going through the House. One should be able to stand up and say one understood the Bill from its inception; I did not. It was an educational exercise for me in that it was a matter of doing one's homework and mastering the amendments and the brief as one went through it. The Bill was so complex that it could not be absorbed. Clearly, if one were to deal with it in that fashion, one's mindset would be to say "no" to every amendment. If one understood everything, one would not agree with any proposal put forward by others. I have always believed, since the day I first entered the House, that ministerial offices do not possess all the knowledge. How could they, given that all of us are human? Therefore, if proper, interesting and suitable points are made during debates, despite the sound advice one receives, one should not always accept it. In general terms, however, I take it.

It has been established that the Minister does not always believe what she is told. We suspected that for a long time.

The Deputy did not participate in the debate. Most Opposition amendments were entirely worthy of consideration and the debate came alive as a result. It was a most enjoyable experience because each meeting on Committee Stage was better than the previous one. Each of us gained more knowledge about the Bill between meetings. Deputy Coveney was extremely interesting and interested in the debate at two such meetings and it was a learning experience for him.

A number of interesting issues and people were unearthed during the debate, which demonstrated how other sectors of society operate and which will have repercussions for future Bills. I was not aware that people were foolish enough to write letters, such as those which appeared in the newspaper, and call people collective names which I shall not repeat.

Corporate thugs.

The debate on the Bill was conducted in a spirit of co-operation and learning, not quite amicability. I found that to be the case, especially in regard to the various amendments which were tabled. I thank Seán Griffin and Micheál Ó Méalóid, who had to put up with my grumpiness in the mornings when we discussed amendments. It was not always done with the greatest of tact but it was certainly done in the full tradition of the public service and I owe them a great deal. I will introduce the Bill in the Seanad tomorrow.

Question put and agreed to.