That Dáil Éireann:
— 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.
Energy is vital and integral to our democracy and way of life in Ireland. We have taken it for granted for many years but without sustainable and competitively priced energy, we face grave danger as a society. This Government asks us to put on the green jersey yet again and tells us to turn off the heating in the west or east wings of the estate that its Members seem to think we all live on. It is not put on the jersey anymore; this time it is put on the green fleece and long johns. I have been warning about the potential for this energy crisis for years. I worried about our security of supply for gas but nothing was done apart from the Government kicking the can down the road in the hope none of its bad policies would catch up with its members before they leave office. However, they have.
Why is the Government only focusing on the period to March 2023 for mitigation measures? Will Government members think beyond their noses and advise what they plan to do beyond March? Will we continue to wing it as we have done for a number of years? A few years ago, I brought a proposal from an Irish-owned and controlled company, which pointed out the exact failures in our energy system that have led to this crisis. The company still wants to help bring a world-class liquified natural gas, LNG, storage solution to Ireland in a cost-efficient manager under Irish control. Needless to say, it has been ignored at the expense of party policies and we are now paying a high price for this. Gas Networks Ireland may well need expertise and assistance, along with implementation of LNG infrastructure, but we have people in our country who can do this and are willing to pull on the green jersey and help out in the interests of keeping Ireland a safe and prosperous place to live. I acknowledge the current crisis is affecting all of Europe; however, we have had plenty of time to act. Lack of action has put us in this mess. Let us put it right now, but in the best interests of the country.
The Greens offer simple solutions to complex issues and there is no basis to other solutions. On 10 July, wind generated 1.5% of our total electricity, while gas generated 80%. When the wind does not blow, renewables do not work. The Greens and the Ministers constantly talk about blue hydrogen as a solution. The Irish Academy of Engineering and other world-leading experts say it might be commercially viable in 25 years. The programme for Government has a target of 850,000 electric cars by 2030; today, we have 50,000. No one across the transport and energy sectors believes this to be remotely possible.
No one in government discusses that it would require an additional 10% electricity generation capacity to fuel these cars. Gas provides 52% of our annual electricity and 70% of this gas is imported through two pipelines, which start from the same interconnector in Moffat, Scotland. If anything happens to that interconnector, our country stops. A cyberattack, terrorist attack, explosion or major technical problem would shut the country down immediately. This vulnerability has been known within the industry for more than a decade but nothing has been done about it. While Britain was a member of the EU, there was an EU energy security protocol whereby Britain had to treat Ireland equally in the event of a gas shortage. That protocol no longer exists and our only fallback is the word of the British Government of the day. In the next three to four years, the Corrib gas field will be exhausted and Ireland will be 100% dependent on Britain for gas, which originates from Norway. This means we are handing over our energy sovereignty to Britain.
Sinn Féin, whose Members are not present for the debate, is against exploration for our own fossil fuels. How can it reconcile this position when we will be handing our energy sovereignty to Britain? We all want the transition to a zero-carbon world to happen as soon as possible. However, it will take time and will not happen overnight. This transition needs a long-term plan. We must recognise that we cannot build a long-term plan unless we have a short- and medium-term plan. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, issued a report recently on what is required to keep increases in global temperatures to less than 1.50C by 2050. Among its findings was that in 2050 global consumption of gas will still be at 55% of today's consumption and, in the case of oil, 40%.
In an interview in the Irish Independent on 5 September 2022, the Minister acknowledged that we need co-ordinated energy systems based on our aim to have zero carbon within 30 years, a far more realistic possibility. Not only is our dependency on imported fossil fuels a huge and reckless national risk, it is also the largest transfer of our national wealth on a daily basis. In 2019, the cost to the State was €4 billion; this year it will be €12 billion. The annual cost per citizen is €2,300. On 7 October 2002, in the Irish Examiner, the Minister, who was then Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said:
Profitable oil and gas fields could reap huge sums for the Exchequer. Profitable fields will pay up to 40% in taxation to the Exchequer. That's a top rate increase of 15% for the oil and gas companies involved. Ireland's oil and gas is a resource of the people. I want to ensure that our waters are fully explored and also that we get a proper return to the State.
What happened there? The Minister forgot all about this, did he not? He warned at the time that Ireland's dependence on imported oil and gas had grown to more than 85%, stating: "This reliance on imported fuels from areas of the world that are geopolitically volatile, contributes to price instability and vulnerability in Ireland."
The Irish Times on 9 October, 2007 reported:
Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan, in setting out terms for a new oil and gas exploration licensing round in the Porcupine Basin, drew attention to that instability factor and he [you] pointed to Ireland's vulnerability as an energy importer. Ireland now imports some 85 per cent of its gas supplies and natural gas is currently used to generate almost half of the country's electricity needs.
All of us rural Deputies have met with businesspeople from all walks of life in recent weeks. They all tell the same stories. Loans to help with costs of energy will not help. How will having an energy loan help any business? These businesses have survived Covid, are now on their knees again and are being offered loans by the Government. Kicking the can down the road is the problem here. Some of these businesses have received grants and will not qualify for further grants. The devil is always in the detail. These businesses do not have the funds to invest in solar energy. Many tell me they will not apply for the grants because they are too complicated.
I met with hoteliers recently. They told me unless drastic measures are put in place, their doors will close for the final time. It is not just the loss of a hotel in an area but the loss of jobs, a loss to the tourist economy and a loss to Ireland.
Let us get to the person who is trying to heat their home and turn on the lights on a dark winter night. We are told to put appliances on at night but apparently that is the most dangerous time to put them on. We are told to turn off lights. If you are 80 years of age living in Ireland on your own, you are told to turn off your lights and become even more lonely and depressed, or maybe fall over and end up in hospital, costing the State even more. How is the regular person supposed to pay these massive energy costs?
The Government needs to step up and cap energy costs. It needs to consider the LNG storage proposal. It is a serious proposal that was given to the Minister and which he is leaving unheeded. He needs to give the licence for Barryroe. He talks about helping the people of Ireland but he and his Government have done nothing but torture the people of this country. They have destroyed the island of Ireland. This will go down in history as the worst Government that ever sat in Dáil Éireann. That is some legacy to leave behind just so the Minister's colleagues can stay in power - pardon the pun.