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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Vol. 1013 No. 4

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Electricity Grid

Darren O'Rourke


1. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the action he is taking to prevent electricity blackouts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53880/21]

Do we have the Minister? Is the senior Minister here?

Do we have the Minister here? I beg your pardon, we will not do it that way now. I see the Minister of State, Deputy Smyth, is here. Is he taking the questions?

Yes. I am the Minister of State with responsibility for the Environment, Climate and Communications. I have delegated authority from the Minister, Deputy Ryan, to be here to answer questions. I have represented my-----

I am not questioning the Minister of State, at all. I am only checking.

We have not been informed the Minister would not be here. As a matter of courtesy, that should happen. These questions are planned well in advance. There is-----

We are here now and the Minister of State is here. We will go ahead. The Deputy has made his point.

I would appreciate that the Minister of State hear that. It is frustrating. There is-----

No, we are going to move on. The Deputy has made his point and the Minister of State takes his point.

It is a legitimate issue to raise.

And you have made your point. The first question is in your name and we will proceed.

It is reasonable to expect from the Opposition. Is it not?

Deputy, I am not arguing with you. You have made your point. I am asking you to move on in the interest of all.

I do not mind moving on. We are here, but I ask the Minister of State in his response to let us know how that will be addressed in the future. The question is to ask the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the action he is taking to prevent electricity blackouts and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, has statutory responsibility to monitor and take measures necessary to ensure the security of electricity supply in Ireland. The CRU has advised it has identified specific challenges to ensuring continued security of electricity supply. These challenges include lower than expected availability of some existing power stations, anticipated new power stations not being developed as planned, expected growth in demand for electricity, including due to the growth of data centres, and the expected closure of power stations that make up approximately 25% of conventional electricity generation capacity over the coming years.

In September, the CRU published an information note setting out the programme of actions being progressed to deliver secure supplies of electricity. The actions set out in the CRU programme include increasing the availability of existing generators, developing of new generation capacity, including temporary generation capacity in advance of winter 2022, extending the operational life of some existing generators, a new policy for the grid connection of data centres, and actions to enhance demand-side response, including large consumers reducing demand when the system margin is low. In addition, my Department is developing a new national policy statement on security of electricity supply in support of the CRU work programme.

It should be noted that, while there have been a number of system alerts on the electricity system in recent times, there has been no need to disconnect customers. It is not possible to provide an absolute guarantee this would never happen, but I can assure the Deputy the CRU is working with the support of EirGrid and my Department to minimise the chances of this happening.

The Minister of State did not respond to my request. I will look at what options are available to me. It is not disrespect to the Minister of State. It is just on a point of principle. These things are planned more or less six weeks in advance.

This morning we have news of Equinor pulling out from Moneypoint. DP Energy said in the Business Post at the weekend that if offshore regulations were not in place, it would walk away from Ireland. The Irish Wind Energy Association said the Government has a year to get things right. More recently, we have an indication it will be very tight over this winter period. The issue of the ESB was raised with the Minister of State yesterday in terms of 500 MW which were to be delivered and were not. Why were they not delivered? What was the penalty? How much did Moneypoint make in the meantime because that was not delivered? What lessons have been learned?

A number of actions were recommended by the CRU, and each of those has been accepted by the Government and addressed. Providing emergency generation is just one of them, but more important than that was getting two other gas-fired power stations back online and ensuring everything recommended by the CRU was done. I met with the CRU during the summer and its position was this was a serious situation, and if we carried out the recommended actions, the risk would be greatly mitigated. The updated review statement in September reported a reduced risk of energy disconnection, but it is a risk we take seriously.

In response to the Deputy's question about why 500 MW of power was not directly connected to EirGrid, I do not have a response, but I will get one from my office.

Some of this was raised with the Minister of State yesterday by one of his Government colleagues. I am hearing from competitors in the sector that the process was flawed and that the tender and rates that were submitted were never achievable. It was almost like a loss leader, which we are familiar with in retail. It was something in the region of €48 per MW and was not delivered on. The response from Government has been to fall back on Moneypoint and the same company, the ESB, essentially an arm of the State, is winning either way. The management of that process and the failure to deliver seems fundamentally flawed. I ask the question again: how much did Moneypoint make during the period when the ESB should have delivered alternative supply?

If Deputy O'Rourke has specific allegations or information given to him which he believes shows some kind of wrongdoing on the part of the ESB or EirGrid, I am happy to investigate that. However, if it just a vague feeling, suggestion or rumour that something untoward happened, there is not much I can do to advance that. Yesterday, Deputy Cowen presented and said he felt something that was not correct had been done and the energy supply crisis had somehow been orchestrated by the ESB. I have invited him to come back to me and provide me with more information on that.

If the Deputy has more information to back that up, I can help. However, if it is just an unsubstantiated rumour, a feeling, or a sense, there is not much I can do to address it.

What I can say is that there is an energy security review in progress. It will directly look at and find the practical things we have to do to make sure our energy supply is reliable and dependable as we shift away from fossil fuels towards renewables, which is the right thing to do. We are going to find every way we can ensure our security of energy.

Climate Action Plan

Ivana Bacik


2. Deputy Ivana Bacik asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will provide an urgent timeline, broken down by sectors, for the implementation of the commitments in the national carbon budgets and climate action plan. [53837/21]

I find it very disappointing the Minister, Deputy Ryan, is not here to take the questions. That is not in any way to question the Minister of State, but we would expect that when environment questions are tabled, and they do not come around too often, and it is a momentous day today as we await the publication, finally, of the climate action plan, which will finally be published this afternoon, that the Minister would be here. It is disappointing and frustrating for Opposition spokespersons on climate, like me, not to have the Minister, Deputy Ryan, here to answer the questions. I just want to put that on the record.

It is indeed a momentous day and I very much welcome the opportunity the Minister, Deputy Ryan's office has given us to engage with him, but I do want to ask the Minister of State to provide an urgent timeline, broken down by sectors, for the implementation of the commitments in the national carbon budgets and climate action plan. As I say, I welcome the opportunity to engage constructively in a briefing with Minister and his officials today.

I thank the Deputy. We are way over time and she will get a chance to come back in.

Deputy Bacik will know better than anybody, because she would have studied the legislation going through, that there is a statutory process whereby the sectoral emissions ceilings are set. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, which was passed in July 2021, requires the Government to adopt a series of economy-wide five-year carbon budgets, including sectoral targets for each relevant sector, on a rolling 15-year basis, starting with this year.

The Climate Change Advisory Council, CCAC, last week presented the first three successive five-year carbon budgets. These carbon budgets will be presented to the Oireachtas and then they will be considered and approved by the Government. Once approved, the carbon budget will then have effect from the date on which a motion approving the carbon budget has been passed by the Oireachtas. The Government will then set sectoral emission ceilings, determining how each sector of the economy will contribute to the achievement of the budgets.

The climate action plan 2021 is currently being finalised and will be published imminently. The plan establishes indicative sectoral emissions arrangements for 2030 across the different sectors of the economy. It also includes a suite of policies and measures to achieve our climate ambition. As with the previous climate action plan, it will have a strong focus on implementation, including actions with specific timelines and steps needed to achieve them, together with the assignment of clear lines of responsibility for delivery.

The carbon budgets, therefore, have been advised by the CCAC. They have to be brought before the Dáil. There are four months provided for in the Act to do that. After that, the final sectoral emission ceilings are set. The climate action plan will be coming out very soon now, and it will set a range of sectoral emissions ceilings, but not the final emissions ceilings. They will have to be done after the carbon budgets have been laid down and approved by the Dáil.

I am well aware of the provisions of the legislation. The problem is the Government keeps missing deadlines on climate action. We have seen long delays in the publication of the climate action plan, although it is welcome we are going to see it today. However, it was promised last month. It was promised initially that it would be aligned with the fiscal budget. It is unfortunate it was not. There have been long delays. We are already well into the key decade in which we are to reduce our emissions by 51% by 2030. We are now nearly at the end of 2021. I know the Minister of State is more aware of this than any of us.

I welcome, as does the Labour Party, the ambition of the targets that we are setting, but we are concerned about inconsistencies and apparent problems with meeting those targets. We see today problems with how we will reach the targets on offshore wind. That is a serious concern, given how much we will be depending on offshore wind to generate a sufficient quantity of renewable energy. We are seeing inconsistency with methane target reductions. We are seeing the Taoiseach committing to 30%, which is welcome, yet only 10% being signed up to in the action plan. We are seeing concerns about a just transition, as houses are struggling to meet energy costs.

Deputy Bacik says we are late doing this, and we are. We are a decade late. We had ten years of twiddling our thumbs. We finally have an ambitious programme. It will be much harder to achieve because of a lost ten years. We are setting carbon budgets that go for 15 years: ten years and then five years in draft, so we have to get it right. We have been doing nothing for ten years, so it is essential we do not finalise or set something in stone for 2030 that will not work. Deputy Bacik says she is worried about us missing targets, and it is my concern too. Now that we have set the laws and put the plans in place and so on, delivery is the next stage.

The news that Equinor is pulling out is disappointing, and yet it is one of dozens of companies are involved in offshore wind. I will certainly see what its concerns were. However, one of the most important pieces of legislation coming to the Dáil is Maritime Area Planning Bill. We have done the other two major pieces of legislation: the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act and the Land Development Agency Act-----

I thank the Minister of State. He will get a chance to come back in.

I am glad the Minister of State accepts that there have been delays. There have been unconscionable delays. I agree, of course, that the world is coming to this too late. However, in our own recent past, we have missed so many deadlines. To coin a phrase, climate action delayed is climate action denied. We now know, with the increasingly urgent warnings about the scale and the speed at which biodiversity is being destroyed and at which the earth is heating up. Therefore, there is no time to waste. We will work constructively with the Minister of State from the Opposition to ensure we meet the targets. However, it is valid to raise concerns about inconsistencies, missed deadlines and how we will achieve that just transition that is so crucial to bring people with us, who will be adversely affected in many cases in terms of jobs and their sectors. We need to ensure people see the opportunities presented by the roll-out of renewables, with the increased biodiversity, and with things like re-forestation, which very much provide such opportunities. It is important to emphasise the positive and the hope here as well as the seriousness and the challenges.

Huge progress has been made in the year this Government has been in place, compared with previous years. I really need all Opposition Deputies to go beyond encouraging the Government to set great strategies and targets and to support direct climate actions that are happening in their constituencies and areas. Therefore, if in your area you are opposing a local wind farm or a local cycle lane, then you are not helping. If you are organising people, stoking their fears and anxieties and saying, "This is something we do not want to do; I want to go back to business as usual; why do I have to change?", if you are encouraging people to take that mindset, it is really not helping at all, and neither is coming into the Dáil afterwards and saying you want greater ambition and greater cuts in theory, but in practice you do not feel those things should apply to the people you directly represent. I appeal to everybody in the Dáil to work and to live the values they are espousing in the Dáil when they go back to their constituency on a Monday and Friday and to put their money where their mouth is.

I hope the Minister of State is not casting any aspersions on me personally with that.

No, definitely not.

There are timelines here. I ask all Deputies to comply with them, because otherwise it eats into the time of the other Deputies.

Climate Action Plan

Darren O'Rourke


3. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his views on the climate action plan and sectoral emissions ceilings needed to achieve a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53881/21]

The Minister of State would do well to look at his own Government colleagues in relation to what he just said. I know local authorities throughout the country, such as the planning regulator in Kildare, Westmeath, and other places – places where my party do not have any representatives, are saying one thing but doing another.

I have a question again about the climate action plan and the sectoral emissions ceilings needed. I would like the Minister of State's views on those needed to achieve a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 was signed into law in July of this year. It commits Ireland to reach a legally binding target of net zero emissions, not later than 2050, and a cut of 51% by 2030 compared with 2018 levels. Further to the enactment of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, the Climate Change Advisory Council has recently advised proposed economy-wide carbon budgets for the periods 2021 to 2025 and 2026 to 2030, and a provisional budget for 2031 to 2035. This is the first step in developing carbon budgets which will in the coming months be allocated across sectors by way of sectoral emissions ceilings. Sectoral emissions ceilings are the maximum amount of greenhouse gas emissions permitted in a sector of the economy during each five-year carbon budget. The Oireachtas will be tasked with considering the budgets in accordance with section 9 of the Act. Once the economy-wide carbon budgets have been approved, the Government will agree specific sectoral emissions ceilings.

In parallel, my Department is currently finalising the climate action plan 2021, which will be published shortly. This plan will set out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for all sectors. It will also set out the practical measures we need to take to meet our climate targets for 2030 and to set us on a pathway to climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. My Department has engaged proactively with public stakeholders and other Departments to deliver an ambitious, fair and achievable climate action plan.

There will be different ambition levels for every sector, based on their respective starting points and the relative difficulty, cost, speed and benefits of reducing emissions.

Today is a significant day but we have been here before. A couple of years ago, the Government set out a climate action plan. Much in today's climate action plan is similar. We are a couple of years on and limited progress has been made on the targets. We had 183 actions and we will have 200 today. How does the Government bring the public with it on this journey and how is it funded? My first supplementary question is about the funding. It will cost €125 billion. The Government plans to raise €9.5 billion in a carbon tax over the next decade. I have a question about the Government's calculations of income from the carbon tax. Has it factored in Fit for 55 and the loss of 70% or 80% to Europe with regard to roads, transport and buildings? If it has, how will this be funded?

The €9.5 billion was decided in summer 2020 as part of the programme for Government negotiations. The Fit for 55 target was not in place until after that point. These are valid questions about how we will get there, how we will pay for that, how we will bring people with us and the fact that climate action plans in the past did not amount to much. The difference now is political will. I have spent most of my life trying to achieve these things. I am now in a position to help. It is the same for many of my colleagues. The Deputy will have noticed that everybody is up to speed on climate at this stage, including politicians of all parties, including the Opposition, and that there is a genuine sense that we want to achieve these things. The money can be provided. We saw during the pandemic that we can achieve what we want when that is our priority. Things will change in the environment. We set a target in 2020. By 2025, the environment and the world will have changed and we will need to revise that. We will get through through force of will.

To continue on the issue of finance, it is more than disappointing that we missed targets. Some of it is because the focus is not there and some is because the finance is not there. A different approach was applied during the pandemic. There was substantial state borrowing at a national and international level and states led on it. An entirely different approach seems to be proposed here. It is taxes and nudges and signals to the market. It is fundamentally a dud. Does the Minister of State think that we will soon move to national and international borrowing to fund this? The second point is on participation and community engagement. Will there be a commitment to establish a just transition commission in the climate action plan?

I will have to come back to the Deputy about the commitment to establish a just transition commission. I do not know when that will be. It is not all about money. Having a lot of money to spend does not solve all your problems. Sometimes the staff cannot be found or there are not the skills within the economy, or else you have the money to spend but people do not want the money to be spent or people with vested interests in an area do not want that change. Not everything is about cash. Money is essential and things cannot be done without it. Green bonds will be issued at European level. There is a debate over what is green and what the bonds can be issued for. There has been a change of mindset at European level about economic realities, how much money should be borrowed, how the economy should run and how careful we should be with our expenditure. There is a renewed perspective on the fiscal compact. That will affect how money is spent and raised to deal with the green transition.

National Broadband Plan

Denis Naughten


4. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the plans he has to address delays in the delivery of the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53973/21]

By the end of 2022, 75,000 fewer homes will have access to high-speed broadband than was planned two years ago under the national broadband plan. The build of the national broadband plan will be behind by a full 12 months after the first two years of the project. This will have a significant impact on the uptake of remote working across the country and an overall impact on climate emissions, especially in rural areas.

In addition to the challenges to the delivery of the national broadband plan, NBP, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, National Broadband Ireland, NBI, has faced a range of other challenges due to the sheer scale and complexity of rolling out fibre to the home in a rural environment. These include significant tree trimming to ensure cable can be placed on overhead poles, remediation of ducting that has been in place for many decades, the co-ordination of hundreds of contracting crews and addressing the many issues arising weekly which could not have been foreseen until the building crews commenced work on the ground. My Department has worked closely with NBI to put in place a remedial plan under the contract. The plan addresses delays experienced by NBI, primarily arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and set new baselines for milestones for 2021. Work is underway to set new baselines for milestones for 2022 and beyond.

NBI has implemented a number of measures to help lessen the impact that these challenges have had on the roll-out including increasing the rate of pole replacement and duct remediation per month, bringing in additional NBI resources, earlier procurement of material used in the build stages and bringing in additional subcontractors. Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, National Broadband Ireland has made steady progress on delivery of the new high-speed fibre broadband network under the National Broadband Plan with over 30,000 premises available to order and pre-order across 11 counties. It remains the ambition of the Government to roll out the National Broadband Plan as quickly as possible. My Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of the NBP roll-out to establish the possibility of bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled in years six and seven of the current plan to an earlier date. However, the primary focus must be on addressing the delays which have arisen and ensuring that the National Broadband Ireland building programme gets back on track and is building momentum month on month.

It is good that NBI is coming to Oireachtas committees and being directly cross-examined so that its testimony can line up with what we are saying. It is essential that we make progress on the national broadband plan. I work on it every day.

There is a contradiction in what we are being told. We are told that the primary reason for delays in the roll-out is Covid-19. That just does not stack up. There have been ongoing delays in engagement with local authorities, with CIÉ and with Transport Infrastructure Ireland with regard to getting access to infrastructure. That does not seem to be acknowledged by everyone. Why is there a cover-up and failure to acknowledge that?

Will the Minister of State answer a simple question? The single biggest subcontractor that National Broadband Ireland has is Eir. Eir has achieved its timelines last year, in 2021 and is expected to overachieve in 2022. It had to deal with Covid. How could Eir deliver when National Broadband Ireland cannot?

All of the major fibre installers have had delays and have been affected by Covid. I have spoken with them directly about that. NBI is a brand new company which is not directly comparable with Eir. It is reliant on contractors with which it has shorter relationships. Regarding TII, CIÉ, and any difficulties, I have heard the Deputy's comments. I am willing to investigate those and see what can be done to improve that situation. Deputy Naughten knows that Covid caused real problems for installation in remote rural areas which would not have been the case if installing fibre in a city or town. If all of the bed and breakfast accommodation is closed in a remote part of Cork or Donegal and contractors cannot be housed overnight, or if contractors from another country are being relied on who cannot travel because of international travel restrictions, problems arise, which are due to Covid. It is not all due to Covid. Some of the issues that I outlined are not covered by force majeure and will be subject to penalty clauses.

Any Deputy or Senator from rural Ireland was able to get accommodation throughout the lockdown. There are hotels, restaurants and guest houses across the country that would have thrown open their doors if they were approached about it.

Some of them did, in relation to contractors. Local authorities can find emergency accommodation and they have a relationship with many bed and breakfasts throughout the country, so that just does not wash.

I will give the Minister of State a piece of advice. Two years ago last month, a month before the contract for the national broadband plan was signed, the mobile phone and broadband task force was the agency that brought the local authorities and State and semi-State agencies around the table at which I sat as a Cabinet Minister and drove forward the bottlenecks in terms of access issues. That needs to be re-established immediately.

I will re-establish the task force and I agree with the Deputy. In the meantime, I meet regularly with National Broadband Ireland, NBI. I attended its last board meeting and I spent a couple of hours with its chief executive on Tuesday in Limerick when installations were being done there. I see the fibre being installed at the data centre end and at the home end. I met with the chief executive of Eir earlier this week and I am offering to facilitate and make sure all stakeholders can work together and that there is a role for Government being between a number of parties who are competing or contracting with each other. It is to ensure hurdles are overcome, regulatory changes can be made where needed and to act as an honest broker and as the major customer for making sure the project is delivered. It is one of the most important projects in the history of Ireland. It is essential people in rural Ireland have high-speed broadband so they can live their lives, and I will do everything I can to ensure the project is delivered correctly and on time.

Renewable Energy Generation

Darren O'Rourke


5. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to expand the solar PV output throughout the State; the way he plans to make solar PV more accessible to schools, GAA clubs, local authorities and farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53882/21]

My question is similar to others that have been asked and concerns a failure of Government to deliver on a potential positive in climate action. In offshore wind, we have a lack of a framework and regulation. In onshore wind, we have a lack of guidelines. We have similar issues with microgeneration. I ask the Minister of State his plans to expand the solar photovoltaics, PV, output throughout the State and the way he plans to make solar PV more accessible to schools, GAA clubs, local authorities and farms.

I thank the Deputy. The programme for Government commits to expanding and incentivising microgeneration and to developing a solar strategy to ensure a greater share of our electricity is generated through solar PV. The pending introduction of a clean export guarantee tariff will represent the first phase of a comprehensive enabling framework for micro and small generators in Ireland, including schools, farms, sports clubs and community buildings. This will allow them to receive remuneration from their electricity supplier for all excess renewable electricity exported to the grid, reflective of the market value of that electricity.

The Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, published a consultation on a draft enabling framework on 1 October which outlined the details for the introduction of the clean export guarantee payment. I understand a decision is expected to be published this month and a compensation regime expected to follow shortly afterwards. My Department is also developing a microgeneration support scheme. I expect a proposal on the supports to be offered for new installations under the scheme will be submitted to Government for approval later this year.

Regarding accessibility, my Department has engaged extensively with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on the proposed revisions to the exemptions for solar installations under the planning regulations, to reduce barriers to micro and small-scale rooftop solar PV and open up exemptions to new building types, including educational, community and apartment buildings. It is expected the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage will bring forward revised regulations early next year.

Finally, I understand that ESB Networks will shortly begin a trial of an updated and simplified grid connection process for microgenerators in the 12-50 kW range.

I thank the Minister of State. It is a missed opportunity to date. We see, and it was reported in the media during the week, the level of openness and the opportunities that exist to cover roof space with solar panels. The benefit of that in offsetting the cost of electricity, heating water and running businesses is there for everybody to see. It is a perfect example of where there is a willingness on behalf of communities.

I would like to hear from the Minister of State what the hold-up is in this. Is it intransigence at departmental level? Is it lack of political will from the Minister of State's party or his colleagues in government? What is the delay in realising this and when will the schemes be in place? I hear lots of commitment around plans, assessments and consultations but when will it be delivered?

In the Citizens' Assembly on climate, it came up that there should be a microgeneration scheme and there should be a tariff. It was said that people should get money back if they generate excess renewable energy in their homes. They should be paid by the electricity company. It was said this was the case in other countries so why not in this country? I wish this had gone live earlier. We are waiting for the CRU to approve a scheme later this month and, after that approval is obtained, we will put in place a compensation scheme setting the amount of money a person will get per unit of power.

The Deputy knows the will is there to do it. He will have seen there are solar panels on half the buildings in the North. They are further north and have less solar that we have. At the same latitiude, in Hamburg, for example, there are solar panels on every building. There is no reason we should not have that in Ireland, other than the regulatory regime in place. I am delighted it is changing and expect that, from the end of this year or the start of next, people will be compensated or paid for the solar they generate in their homes.

The Minister of State will have full support from the Opposition to move this on as quickly as possible. We need to see the detail of the proposals. My colleague, Deputy Stanley, published legislation some years ago on this and we still have not seen the type of action we need. Will the Minister of State confirm we will not be presented with a load of ridiculous exemptions that rule out buildings such as farm sheds, schools, public authority buildings or community centres on spurious criteria?

There are criteria concerning farm lands to the effect that if over 50% of the farm is used for solar, they lose the definition as agricultural land. The incentive is a perverse one and has a direct impact on the uptake. Will those anomalies be addressed in the proposals coming forward?

At the moment, there are planning exemptions that limit how many solar panels can be put on without having to apply for planning permission. We are working with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to change those exemptions so they are taken away and you can put as much solar on your roof as you want.

Will it be available to farms and schools? Absolutely. It is critical that people generate their own power because then they have a sense of ownership and of taking part in the green transition so it is not just that a foreign company comes in, invests money, generates electricity, takes it out of the area and the locals do not benefit. To achieve buy-in for a green transition and to get a just transition, we need people directly involved.

On the question of agricultural land being lost as a result of renewable energy generation, the idea of the transition for farming is to give farmers new sources of income and not to disadvantage them. It is critical they are not found through some technicality to be down in money. I will speak to the Minister of State, Senator Hackett, about that.