Rising Costs and Supply Security for Fuel and Energy: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Michael Collins on 10 November 2021:
"That Dáil Éireann:
recognises:
— that as the second winter of the pandemic approaches, we are now contending with a cost-of-living crisis on multiple fronts;
— that the Government’s climate action policies are having a profound socio-economic impact on everyone;
— the key EirGrid report (operator of the national grid) warning that Ireland could face electricity deficits for the next five winters;
— the EirGrid prediction that low availability of power plants in Ireland was likely to contribute to the energy issues faced by the country this winter;
— that there have been at least 31 energy price hikes by suppliers this year, meaning bills skyrocketing by as much as €805 for some customers, leaving the country in the grips of an energy crisis;
— that electricity prices in Ireland are the highest in the European Union (EU), according to Eurostat;
— the warning from the Irish Road Haulage Association that the all-time high record increases in petrol and diesel are ‘crippling the sector’ and increasing all consumer goods, as a consequence of increased transport costs;
— that soaring petrol and diesel prices will continue to rise unless the Government stops heaping taxes on consumers;
— that soaring petrol and diesel prices are disproportionately affecting people in rural Ireland, who have very limited access to public transport and alternative fuel sources;
— that currently the motorist is paying approximately €1.70 for a litre of petrol, of which €1 (around 60 per cent) goes directly to the Government, mainly via excise duty, carbon taxes and VAT;
— that the Government will increase the price of petrol and diesel even further from 1st January next, when the increases from Minister Eamon Ryan’s ‘Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme’ and ‘Biofuels Obligation Scheme’ kick in, with consumers facing a hike of a further three cents per litre;
— that the Government-imposed carbon tax (now at €41 per tonne of carbon) is having a bruising impact on the cost of home heating oil, electricity, petrol and diesel;
— that the Government’s skimpy fuel allowance increase announced in Budget 2022 is grossly insufficient;
— that research by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVP), earlier this year (and before recent price hikes), reported that many people had already been cutting back on heating or electricity due to cost, including 42 per cent of people unable to work due to illness or disability; that’s almost one in three renters and 36 per cent of one-parent families;
— that Government-imposed taxes on fuel and energy are having a profound impact on all rural residents, who have no alternative but to use oil to heat their homes and to use their cars to commute to work and bring their children to school;
— that the European Commission developed a ‘toolbox’ of measures to mitigate the short-term surge, encourages member states to cut taxes and levies that typically account for around a third of energy bills;
— that the Irish Government blatantly objected to a fundamental change to the EU’s energy market, proposed by Spain and France, which would have brought about reduced energy costs and greater security of supply, through a new joint energy procurement initiative;
— that Irish produced gas has four to thirteen times less carbon intensity than the natural gas we import from the United Kingdom (UK);
— that despite the benefits of Irish produced gas for the planet over imported gas, the Government made the illogical decision to ban future gas exploration in Ireland, through the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, which completely undermines our uncontested need for more gas-fired power generation to ensure continued security of electricity supply;
— that Ireland’s energy security is now at risk, due to frenzied Government bans on new gas explorations, by relying solely on the UK (who can control supply and price) for this country’s gas supply to heat homes and provide electricity;
— that in Spain, where energy prices increased by 35 per cent in the twelve months to August (less than in Ireland’s case), the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, has dialled back prices to what Spaniards paid in 2018, by cutting taxes and capping costs; and
calls on the Government to:
— immediately act on the European Commission DIY toolbox aimed at mitigating the impact of higher energy prices, by slashing taxes and offering help to impacted households, motorists and sectors such as agriculture and road transport;
— immediately reverse the decision to increase the carbon tax in Budget 2022 and beyond, until the full impact of the energy crisis is fully understood and a cost-benefit analysis undertaken, by whatever parliamentary means necessary, including new legislation, if required;
— reduce the excise duty on all motor fuel by 50 per cent until the energy crisis abates and a proper and common-sense plan for rural public transport alternatives is put in place in every rural community, and the purchase price of electric cars is affordable to the ordinary motorist;
— reduce the excise duty on petrol (currently 62.77 cent per litre) and diesel (currently 51.9 cent per litre) by 50 per cent from now until at least the end of 2022, which alone would save up to €18 on a €100 fill up of petrol/diesel, for the regular motorist;
— reduce VAT on all motor fuels, electricity, and home heating oil to below 5 per cent until the end of 2022;
— establish a multi-million-euro discretionary fund to support energy costs for all low-income households and introduce a voucher (to be paid before Christmas) of at least €250 for every low-income household in the State;
— implement measures to ensure suppliers must commit to keeping the lights on for vulnerable and financially insecure customers and make sure that there are flexible options available for people to address energy debts;
— fully recognise that for people in energy poverty assistance is needed in the present; while retrofitting offers a long-term answer to the high bills caused by inefficient and substandard housing; it is this winter that those people need the urgent support, not in some Governmental plan in six or seven-years’ time, as well as contributing to climate action targets;
— allocate funding and implement an action plan to clear the piling backlog for applications under the home retrofitting schemes with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland; and
— direct the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities into meaningful discussions with industry actors over how gas and coal-fuelled electricity plants, set to close their doors in the coming years, should instead be kept open to stave off a potential longer-term energy crisis."
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
“notes:
— the increase in energy costs and their impact on households and businesses;
— that the increases in wholesale and retail energy prices in Ireland and across Europe are predominantly related to international wholesale gas prices;
— that Ireland faces particular challenges in this regard as we are a price taker on international markets and that Irish electricity and gas prices have historically been higher than other European Union (EU) countries due to long standing drivers such as geographical isolation, dispersed population, fossil fuel dependency and small market scale;
— that the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which has statutory responsibility for security of electricity supply, published an information note on 29th September setting out the programme of actions being progressed to deliver secure supplies of electricity;
— that the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications is carrying out a review of the security of energy supply of Ireland’s electricity and natural gas systems which is focussing on the period to 2030 in the context of ensuring a sustainable pathway to net zero emissions by 2050;
— that, while national average diesel prices have increased significantly since the start of the year, there are schemes in place, such as the Diesel Rebate Scheme, to partially insulate licenced haulage and bus sectors from such increases;
— that businesses that are registered for VAT may deduct the VAT charged to them on the purchase of business inputs such as road diesel and other motoring costs; and
— that carbon pricing is an essential element of any credible plan to decarbonise the economy;
and affirms:
— that the best long-term approach for Ireland to insulate consumers from volatility on international wholesale energy markets is to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and expand interconnection with European and neighbouring markets to deepen the internal market and competition;
— that the Government is committed to supporting households with their energy costs through energy efficiency measures, with a total budget of approximately €300 million in 2022;
— that of this amount, €194 million is targeted at either local authority housing or low income private households through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland’s energy poverty retrofit schemes;
— that the recently published National Retrofit Plan provides for an unprecedented level of State investment in retrofit of €8 billion between now and 2030;
— that Ireland has already put in place several of the measures proposed by the European Commission toolbox, including investment in energy efficiency measures and renewable energy measures;
— the targeted welfare supports in Budget 2022, including increases in the Fuel Allowance, Qualified Child payment, Living Alone Allowance and Working Family Payment, amounting to €146 million on a full year basis with a substantial proportion of this funded through the carbon tax; these measures are in addition to adjustments to basic welfare and pension rates; adjustments to income tax bands have also been introduced primarily to cater for the cost of living increases driven, in part, by energy prices;
— a suite of customer protection measures overseen by the regulator, the CRU;
— that further analyses and assessments of the current energy prices spike are underway by the European Commission, in particular studies on the functioning of the gas and electricity markets and the EU Emissions Trading System market;
— that Ireland will engage further on these matters with our European partners at the Energy Council and the European Council in December on the basis of the assessments currently being carried out under the auspices of the European Commission;
— that Ireland continues to support the current electricity market design and views the European Green Deal and the Fit for 55 package as the long-term solution to energy price rises;
— that additionally the Government is committed to ringfencing all additional carbon tax revenue, estimated at €9.5 billion, as follows:
— approximately one third will be spent on targeted social welfare and other initiatives to prevent fuel poverty and to ensure a just transition;
— just over half will be spent on a socially progressive residential retrofitting programme; and
— the remainder will be spent on incentives for farmers to farm in a greener and more sustainable way;
— the Government’s commitment to review the implementation of the Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty (2016) by early next year;
— that the Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme proved to be hugely successful between 2014 and 2020 and supported energy efficiency actions in more than 300,000 homes and 3,000 businesses; the new scheme to operate from January 2022 will more closely align with policy objectives, particularly in the residential sector including energy poverty; and
— that continuing gas exploration would be inconsistent with the Government’s ambition to decarbonise the economy by 2050.”
(Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (Deputy Ossian Smyth)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion regarding rising costs and supply security for fuel and energy. On Wednesday, 10 November 2021, on the question, "That the amendment be agreed to", a division was claimed and in accordance with Standing Order 80(2), that division must be taken now.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 55; Staon, 0.

  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin; Níl, Deputies Michael Healy-Rae and Richard O'Donoghue.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”
Question put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 72; Níl, 54; Staon, 2.

  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Hourigan, Neasa.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Connor, James.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Harkin, Marian.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • O'Callaghan, Cian.
  • O'Donoghue, Richard.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Rourke, Darren.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Murchú, Ruairí.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Staon

  • Collins, Joan.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin; Níl, Deputies Michael Healy-Rae and Richard O'Donoghue.
Question declared carried.