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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 21 Sep 2022

Vol. 1026 No. 4

Energy Security: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Michael Collins on Wednesday, 21 September 2022:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:
— as a direct consequence of haywire Government-induced energy policies, Ireland is the worst-prepared country in Europe for an energy crisis, and the possibility of rolling blackouts this winter would not only be catastrophic but is a very real prospect;
— the lack of a coherent Government energy policy to provide energy self-sufficiency means the real threat of a cold, dark winter is now becoming a reality, resulting in a full-blown political and economic crisis;
— the Government's energy policy position also means Ireland is one of the most energy import-dependent countries in Europe, with zero storage capabilities and almost complete reliance on one United Kingdom (UK) pipeline for our gas;
— the European Union (EU) concluded that Ireland having gas interconnection with Scotland did not provide the level of energy security required;
— the Government's energy policy position puts Ireland in an extremely vulnerable and utterly unsustainable position, undermining our national and energy security;
— Brexit adds to the 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;
— despite this perilous position, the Government's lack of any strategic plan means that the cost of energy here is much higher than it should be, with no guarantee that the lights will stay on this winter or in subsequent winters;
— the Government's lack of action means Ireland is drifting towards a permanent and extremely severe energy crisis and insecurity, which could have catastrophic economic outcomes for the country;
— the failure to have published the promised energy security review contained in the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future in June 2020 highlights a complete lack of urgency by the Government to the ongoing and evolving energy crisis;
— Ireland simply cannot become a green economy overnight, when 87 per cent of our total energy supply still comes from fossil fuels and oil and gas will be required for decades to come;
— 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;
— Ireland's dependence on gas imports has risen sharply from 33 per cent in 2017 to 72 per cent in 2021;
— the lack of energy security is resulting in the cost of Ireland's annual net fuel imports (oil and gas) surging towards €10 billion (it was just over €3 billion a year ago), which represents a significant reduction in our national welfare, which can only be eliminated if prices fall or the Government changes policy and allows for domestic energy production, which includes fossil fuel sources;
— 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;
further notes that:
— Ireland has no gas storage capacity, as a consequence of Government policy;
— the Southwest Kinsale gas field is now depleted, with the Government not pursuing the option to utilise it as a strategic gas store facility;
— while the German, Austrian and other EU governments are busily filling their gas storage capacity Ireland, at the very end of the gas grid, is hamstrung by a Government with no plan;
— Germany is now re-opening coal-burning power stations to provide a practical buffer to the energy crisis;
— Ireland is the only country in Europe with a coastline that does not have a liquid natural gas import facility, meaning no alternative to the pipelines through the UK, as the Government chose not to have liquefied natural gas (LNG);
— 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 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;
— the Government failed to apply for a European Commission funding initiative to source temporary floating LNG terminals as part of an effort to diversify fuel supplies amid the ongoing energy crisis, while nineteen other EU governments, including Germany and the Netherlands, availed of this funding source;
— the Government's abject failure to apply for this key European Commission REPowerEU funding programme, before the April deadline (phase one), aimed at ensuring continuity of energy supply and providing states with an insurance policy in case of supply disruptions from the UK, borders on reckless and dysfunctional;
— countries that have already applied for the European Commission's REPowerEU funding programme will be better positioned than Ireland to produce energy at lower prices, resulting in cheaper energy for manufacturing industries, small businesses, farmers and households;
— there is no justifiable case for not developing our 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 energy policy, which turns a blind eye to importing from polluting dictators, is affecting the nation's energy security and leaving Irish consumers to pay more than anyone else;
— 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;
— the only practical solution is to re-open access to new supplies off our coast; and
— the 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; and
calls on the Government to:
— immediately prioritise safeguarding our economy and society from the unfolding catastrophic energy crisis rather than blindly adhering to climate change goals that were set in a very different political and economic era;
— suspend the unachievable fixed carbon budgeting legislation to prevent Ireland from entering a looming economic catastrophe;
— be honest, coherent and take urgent action that is based on the realities we face, which means everything must be on the table, including more gas infrastructure, such as storage terminals and exploration of domestic oil and gas;
— end the constant pathetic lecturing of the public to end turf-cutting, putting lettuce in window boxes, car sharing or shortening our morning showers and do something tangible to provide energy security for Ireland;
— ensure Ireland is equipped with the policy options of developing, as transition energy supplies, its oil and gas sources in the Celtic Sea at Barryroe, 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 plans to drill an appraisal well at Barryroe to move forward;
— 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;
— mandate the Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, who has twice refused to engage with either Providence Resources or the Irish Offshore Operators' Association, to meet with both organisations immediately;
— urgently put in place, without undue delay, LNG storage infrastructure to ensure energy security for the State;
— implement windfall tax levies on all energy production operations in Ireland and use the proceeds to offer households relief from crippling energy bills;
— take immediate action so that the price of electricity is decoupled from gas to ease the burden on households and businesses;
— urgently re-open to full capacity all peat-fired power stations, including the Lough Ree power plant in Lanesboro and the West Offaly Power Station in Shannonbridge which were senselessly shut down, as Ireland requires this power back-up over the next four to five years;
— implement a policy platform aimed at reducing energy bills and corporate profits, and establish a new retrofitting funding programme across the entire country, together with funding schemes for community, family, farm and small businesses to develop their own renewable energy sources;
— develop a strategic domestic energy production model, by learning from what has been achieved in, for example, Nova Scotia's tidal energy along the Atlantic, offshore wind as done in Scotland or Costa Rica's publicly-owned energy system providing almost 100 per cent renewable, low-cost energy to 99.9 per cent of its population;
— be honest and accept that continuing on the current energy path means the cost-of-living crisis in Ireland will only worsen and that 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 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 costs for all Irish consumers.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"notes that:
— the Government is acutely aware of concerns around security of energy supply, particularly gas and electricity;
— the Government has put a €2.4 billion package of policies and support measures in place since October 2021;
— 99 per cent of domestic electricity accounts have now been credited with the Electricity Costs Emergency Benefit Scheme payment of €172.66 excluding Value Added Tax, and the total cost of this scheme is €377 million;
— the National Energy Security Framework (NESF), published by the Government in April, sets out Ireland's response to our energy security needs in the context of the Russian war in Ukraine, and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) has set up an Energy Security Emergency Group which is overseeing the implementation of the NESF;
— the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has statutory responsibility to ensure security of electricity supply, and currently has a programme of actions underway (launched in September 2021) to ensure the security of our electricity supply over the coming winters, with these actions containing demand-side and supply-side measures to address any potential shortfall, including procuring new capacity through capacity auctions, procuring additional temporary generation, extending the availability of existing power stations, and improved demand-side measures;
— the DECC is carrying out a review of the energy security of Ireland's gas and electricity systems, which is focused on the period to 2030, but in the context of a sustainable transition to net zero emissions by 2050 and, as part of this review, the DECC launched a consultation on 19th September, 2022, to seek views from interested parties;
— this security of energy supply review considers potential risks to both our natural gas and electricity supplies and examines a range of measures to mitigate these risks, including the need for additional capacity to import energy, to reduce energy use, energy storage, fuel diversification and renewable gases (such as biomethane and hydrogen);
— the Government is engaging extensively with the European Commission to develop measures to address the energy crisis on a European level, and on the 14th September the European Commission published a proposed regulation which includes measures aimed at addressing windfall gains in the electricity sector and in fossil fuel production; these proposals are expected to raise additional revenues which will be used to reduce the cost of energy for households and businesses;
— cutting our dependence on fossil fuels and generating power from our own renewable sources, both offshore and onshore, will ensure a cleaner, cheaper, secure energy future; this remains a priority focus of the Government with commitment to deliver 7 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 and a doubling of onshore wind generation by that date;
— the Government's policy on oil and gas exploration has been clearly articulated through the Programme for Government: Our Shared Future, underpinned by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, and the policy and legislative framework provides that, while existing licence holders may seek to apply to progress through the various stages in the petroleum exploration process, no new applications for oil or gas can be considered;
— a revised Policy Statement on Petroleum Exploration and Production in Ireland was published on 12th August, 2022, which replaces the 2019 Policy Statement, in order to reflect the current policy and legislative position of the Government and to provide clarity to stakeholders in relation to future authorisations which may be granted under legislation;
— in relation to the specific application for a Lease Undertaking made by Providence Resources in respect of the Barryroe oil and gas field, the application is under consideration by the DECC and that it, like all other such applications, is assessed against a number of criteria which are environmental, technical and financial in nature;
— 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 DECC does not publish information on individual applications whilst they are under consideration."
-(Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications)

I must now deal with a deferred to division relating to amendment No. 1 in the name of the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications to the Rural Independent Group's motion on energy security this morning.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 65; Staon, 0.

  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Browne, James.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Butler, Mary.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Carroll MacNeill, Jennifer.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Costello, Patrick.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Crowe, Cathal.
  • Devlin, Cormac.
  • Dillon, Alan.
  • Donnelly, Stephen.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Duffy, Francis Noel.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frankie.
  • Flaherty, Joe.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Foley, Norma.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Higgins, Emer.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • Leddin, Brian.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Matthews, Steven.
  • McAuliffe, Paul.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Murnane O'Connor, Jennifer.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noonan, Malcolm.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Brien, Joe.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • 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.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Smyth, Ossian.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Varadkar, Leo.

Níl

  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Berry, Cathal.
  • Brady, John.
  • Browne, Martin.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Cairns, Holly.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carthy, Matt.
  • Clarke, Sorca.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Conway-Walsh, Rose.
  • Cronin, Réada.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Pa.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Donnelly, Paul.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Farrell, Mairéad.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Gannon, Gary.
  • Gould, Thomas.
  • Guirke, Johnny.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Murphy, Verona.
  • 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.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Patricia.
  • Shanahan, Matt.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Smith, Duncan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tully, Pauline.
  • Ward, Mark.
  • Whitmore, Jennifer.
  • Wynne, Violet-Anne.

Staon

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jack Chambers and Brendan Griffin; Níl, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Michael Collins.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.
Cuireadh an Dáil ar athló ar 8.42 p.m. go dtí 9 a.m., Déardaoin, an 22 Meán Fómhair 2022.
The Dáil adjourned at 8.42 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Thursday, 22 September 2022.
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