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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 15 Jun 2022

Vol. 1023 No. 5

Energy Security: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Michael Collins on Wednesday, 15 June 2022:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:
- the current geopolitical situation emphasises the imperative need to establish robust policies to develop our own energy supplies, including renewable energy sources;
- Ireland, like all other member states, is bound by European Union (EU) directives on energy regulation, meaning an obligation exists to plan and develop self-sufficiency options;
- currently Ireland is in an extremely vulnerable and utterly unsustainable position in terms of security of energy supply (dependent on the United Kingdom (UK)), with Brexit adding a further layer of uncertainty and risk, as the UK is no longer legally bound by any measure, including the solidarity principle in the 2020 agreement regulation, to provide us with supplies, thus significantly increasing Ireland's gas supply vulnerabilities;
- the Economic and Social Research Institute recently ranked Ireland as the fourth most energy insecure country in Europe;
- although we are at a critical juncture in planning for Ireland's energy future, the energy security review, promised in the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future in June 2020, has yet to even be published;
- Ireland has a goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, however, the reality of the situation is that trains, tractors, trucks, trawlers, planes and the bulk of the existing car and van fleet run on oil;
- Ireland simply cannot become a green economy overnight, when 87 per cent of our energy supply still comes from fossil fuels;
- Ireland currently imports 100 per cent of our oil needs and over 70 per cent of our gas needs (interconnectors from Scotland to Ireland), with gas imports rising steadily in line with production declines at the Corrib gas field;
- dependence on gas imports has risen sharply from 33 per cent in 2017 to 72 per cent in 2021;
- currently 30 per cent of Ireland's gas needs come from the Corrib gas field, our only indigenous source, which will reach depletion by the decade's end;
- oil and gas will be required for decades to come and the Barryroe oil and gas field (in the Celtic Sea and discovered by Providence Resources) is Ireland's only indigenous oil discovery, which has the potential to be developed in the short-term;
- the large-scale offshore wind generation projects offer Ireland real potential but require proper planning and will take of euro and a medium- to long-term timeframe to develop, to ensure any actual or meaningful impact on decarbonisation;
- Ireland has the potential and options available to become almost entirely energy self-sufficient, which in the short-term means opening up the Barryroe supply and simultaneously getting serious about developing alternative renewable sources such as offshore wind;
- against this backdrop, and in light of the Government's failure, Ireland is facing an existential threat to the cost of food and energy, together with a complete lack of any energy security;
- all Irish consumers will face much higher fossil fuel prices following the EU leaders' agreement to ban most Russian oil imports;
- the Government has failed to address these seismic issues in any meaningful way that simultaneously reduces the cost burden and ensures a sustainable supply channel for both affordable food and energy into the future;
- this unprecedented energy crisis is compounded by the Government's policy position on energy, which is imprisoned by the single lane and oftentimes narrow ideological position of the Green Party;
- the Government's narrow ideological energy policy means closing down our own national resource supply of oil and gas, meaning we must import from anywhere that will supply us, at whatever price is dictated by exporters;
- in theory this policy approach may sound good or go down well at Green Party meetings, but it will send this country and our people down a dangerous energy eddy;
- the current Government policy ignores the fact that we will continue to need natural gas to anchor our entire electricity system for a long time to come;
- importing the necessary oil and gas will not only create a much larger carbon footprint, but it will also be costlier and leave us extremely vulnerable to supply and price shocks, while the monetary cost of importing oil represents a net loss to the Irish economy and the Exchequer; and
- the Government can no longer use this issue to virtue signal or purport their empty green credentials, as the consequences of doing so impacts the entire economy and especially every household, small business, farmer, and transport operator in a deeply negative and costly way;
further notes that:
- there is no justifiable case for not developing our own available oil and gas resources, and there is certainly no justifiable reason for this Government to stand over a current policy that adds to our carbon footprint, by importing gas from places like Qatar, which creates fourteen times the carbon footprint of using and developing the Corrib and Barryroe oil and gas resources;
- the hypocrisy-laden Government's energy policy, which turns a blind eye to importing from dictators on the one hand and aims to criminalise an Irish person who gives a bag of turf to a neighbour on the other, is affecting the nation's energy security and leaving Irish consumers to pay more than anyone else;
- today, despite the rhetoric, all of Ireland's oil and the vast majority of our gas is imported, and Ireland will continue to depend on oil products for the foreseeable future, or until the Government acts rather than speaks of increasing renewable supplies;
- the purely politically induced ban on Irish oil and gas represents a false narrative, as it generates a greater carbon footprint and ensures all Irish people pay more for electricity, gas, home-heating oil, petrol, and diesel and is seriously adding to our cost of living burden, while being devoid of any scientific or economic rationale;
- moving away from Russian supplies for both oil and gas at the EU level will have a detrimental impact, whether directly or indirectly, on supply to Ireland;
- the only practical solution is to reopen access to new supplies off our coast;-— the Government's decisions to close our turf-burning energy stations, further intending to close coal-burning stations too, will compound matters and result in a sole reliance on imports; and
- this current policy being pursued by this Government is leaving Ireland open to any and all international events of the future, which are well outside of our control and exposes not only households but our entire economy to price hikes that are completely outside of this country's control;
recognises:
- that energy imports have a higher carbon footprint than local production;
- that Providence Resources unreservedly supports Government and EU policies aimed at tackling climate change;
- that the Barryroe production is not incompatible with Ireland's transition to a carbon neutral economy by 2050;
- that Providence Resources is confident that there is an attractive economic and technical case for first appraising and then developing the Barryroe oil and gas field;
- that an updated Competent Person's Report (CPR), delivered by RPS Energy Consultants (RPS), was completed at the beginning of February 2022, which confirms 81.2 MMstb of Gross 2C oil resources can be accessed through an initial two-phase development project, addressing one reservoir in the central segments of the field only, those closest to the 2012 oil discovery well;
- that a 2019 Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) report (when oil was $64 a barrel, it is $122 this week) estimated that one oil find off our coast would involve total expenditure of €16.25 billion, provide up to 1,200 jobs and €8.5 billion in production and corporation taxes;
- that the same PwC report estimated that over the project lifecycle of one gas field the expenditure would reach about €2.3 billion, provide 380 jobs and €2.42 billion in production and corporation taxes per annum;
- the enormous potential of Ireland becoming energy self-sufficient with the full optimisation of Barryroe, the largest undeveloped hydrocarbon field in Europe;
- that successful exploitation of the Barryroe oil and gas field would provide significant strategic and fiscal value to the Irish economy, at no cost to the Irish taxpayer;
- that indigenous energy sources create less environmental impact, compared to imports;
- that, all in all, developing our own energy resources is not only responsible but is also critical, bringing a raft of environmental, economic and security of supply benefits, while not doing so means we are in breach of EU energy directives and the prospect of exposure to heavy fines;
- that, following Brexit, Ireland is no longer compliant with the EU's requirements for energy security, according to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, as our gas import infrastructure currently runs through a "third country", and there is no legal obligation on the UK to consider Ireland's energy needs in the event of significant disruption; and
- that the current policies being adopted by this Government are taking the country and citizens down a dark tunnel, endangering our energy security; and
calls on the Government to:
- recognise that an urgent change in the trajectory of its energy policy is now desperately needed, as emissions associated with indigenous production can be up to 30 per cent lower than sources from outside Europe due to enhanced production technologies and shorter transport distances;
- explain the effect of current Irish Government policy which purports to protect the environment, when in fact it only increases our emissions by forcing Ireland to rely on the importation of all our gas and oil needs, at a time when EU gas and oil production is rapidly declining;
- ensure that Ireland is equipped with the policy options of developing, as transition energy supplies, its own oil and gas sources in the Celtic Sea at the Barryroe oil and gas field, where the accepted industry reserve projections indicate 365 million barrels of equivalent oil and gas resources;
- fully acknowledge that the Lease Undertaking is urgently required to allow Providence Resources to move forward with plans to drill an appraisal well at the Barryroe oil and gas field;
- sanction the natural follow-on from the Barryroe SEL 1/11 exploration licence, by providing Ministerial consent for the Lease Undertaking, since the Barryroe technical strategy is ready to be implemented within a short timeframe;
- ensure that the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, who has twice refused to engage with either Providence Resources or the Irish Offshore Operators Association, holds an urgent meeting with both organisations;
- explain why it has, to date, failed to provide the necessary Lease Undertaking to Providence Resources, which is required to realise the Barryroe oil and gas field's potential and the energy resource opportunity for Ireland, which will be lost if the Government continues on the current path;
- be honest and accept that continuing on the current energy path means the cost of living crisis in Ireland will only worsen, and when energy supplies are low admit that we are at the end of the pipeline and will likely be reduced to a trickle; and
- fully accept that the only logical route available is to detangle the current Government's mistaken energy policies and ensure the development of the Barryroe oil and gas, which after all is environmentally superior to what is being imported today and would harness the required energy security while reducing the costs for all Irish consumers.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
notes that:
- the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future sets out a clear pathway towards less reliance on fossil fuels across every sector of our society, and it specifically contains a commitment to end the issuing of new licences for the exploration and extraction of gas on the same basis as the decision taken in 2019 by the previous Government in relation to oil exploration and extraction;
- this commitment was made effective immediately, and since June 2020 the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications no longer accepts new applications for new petroleum authorisations and, in addition, there will be no future licencing rounds;
- holders of existing authorisations, including Exola DAC, a subsidiary of Providence Resources Plc are not affected by these changes and may apply to progress their authorisations through the licencing stages towards a natural conclusion – which may include expiry, relinquishment or production;
- the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 gives statutory underpinning to this position and a new policy statement for petroleum exploration is currently being prepared to reflect the current policy and legislative position and to provide clarity to stakeholders in relation to future authorisations which may be granted under legislation;
- an application for a Lease Undertaking made by Providence Resources in respect of the Barryroe oil and gas field is under consideration by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications;
- broader energy policy or energy security considerations have no bearing on the regulatory process: applications for petroleum authorisations are assessed against a number of criteria in accordance with Section 9A of the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act, 1960 and Section 3 of the Licensing Terms for Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Development and Production, which includes the technical competence of the applicant and the financial resources available to it in order to undertake the work programme and any other commitments pursuant to the relevant petroleum authorisation; and
- the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications does not publish information on individual applications whilst they are under consideration."
- (Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion regarding energy security. On Wednesday, 15 June 2022, on the question, "That the amendment to the motion 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, 64; Níl, 50; Staon, 1.

  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Gorman, Roderic.
  • O'Sullivan, Christopher.
  • O'Sullivan, Pádraig.
  • Ó Cathasaigh, Marc.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Richmond, Neale.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Kerrane, Claire.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Mythen, Johnny.
  • Nash, Ged.
  • 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.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.

Staon

  • Smith, Bríd.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Cuireadh an Dáil ar athló ar 9.07 p.m. go dtí 9 a.m., Déardaoin, an 16 Meitheamh 2022.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.07 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Thursday, 16 June 2022.
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