I support the Minister. We should defer consideration of all matters relating to CHP for whatever time is required. I am aware of the time limit on the Minister to get the Bill through. I agree that its primary purpose is to open 28 per cent of the electricity market and the CHP issue has complicated that immensely. I wish to outline to the committee a sequence of events that I find disturbing. On 10 February 1999 a letter was sent to the leader of the Labour Party, Deputy Quinn,from Treasury Holdings Limited, which was signed by Richard Barrett. It states:
re: Electricity Bill, 1998.
Further to our telephone conversation yesterday, I enclose an outline of our problem and the one line amendment which is the solution.
This is a case of ESB trying to preserve their monopoly, even where they cannot supply themselves. The mention of endangering the National Conference Centre has elicited only shrugs of shoulders from the ESB.
The progressive thinking of enlightened forces (such as yourself) is being continually counter balanced by the antediluvian approach of State Monopolies in their last dinosaur acts of self-preservation, before annihilation by the forces of Free Enterprise. How the ESB can be still early 1920's when the Electricity Supply Act was only created in 1927 beats me. A more clubby band of corporate thugs cannot be imagined - they'd leave Guinness, CRH and Smurfits in the shade. If they spent as much energy trying to adjust themselves to Open Competition as they are trying to illegally restrict it, Ireland would be a lot better off.
I might sound hyper but this lot do not do justice to the trenchant defence your colleagues [namely myself] make in respect of State Companies.
The ESB are opposing the amendment. So far, Ivan Yates (FG) and John Gormley (Greens) are supporting it and Fianna Fáil are awaiting Mary O'Rourke's discussion with the (vested interest and compromised) ESB. I am to discuss the matter also with Dessie O'Malley in Mary Harney's absence.
Sorry to bother you with this but the ESB will only end up giving you a bad name defending their excesses.
The whole sorry saga is even more of a disgrace considering the ESB cannot hope to supply the projected demand for 2003 (between increased demand and ESB existing capacity being taken out of commission because of age).
I regret going onad nauseam about this, but this behaviour is 1950’s backwoodsmanship and the pits.
Could you support the amendment?
A one line amendment was included. Subsequently, this letter was referred to me and I telephoned Richard Barrett. I receive the following fax on 17 May:
I now have a comprehensive view of what happened at Committee Stage on 12/05/99. The Minister appears to consider amendments 59 and 103 have the same effect as your proposed amendment.
In my view the position is as follows:
(1) The Minister is falling over herself to agree how great HP is, but is clearly influenced in how much she is prepared to allow this happen by the ESB and their lobbyists. You have done a very good of sticking up for CHP which, as you know, is the next best thing after Renewables.
(2) Amendment 59
Is acceptable to us, but the words in amendment S.1(c) delete from the original draft after "Final Customers" the words which recite the entitlement of Final Customers to purchase electricity produced from a Renewable or Alternative form of energy.
Had your amendment been accepted, we would have had a recitation of the right, as per the EU directive, of final customers to purchase from renewables alternatives CHP. This is an important provision protecting consumers' rights and accords with the objectives of the wind hydro and CHP interest. I enclose a draft for you to consider of the amendment required to the Minister's amendment 59 to bring the matter to an acceptable conclusion.
Our interest in CHP derives from the fact that we are building the national conference centre and the ESB cannot power it conventionally until one year after the proposed opening date because of their workload scheduling. All efforts, including political, to date have failed to shift them. If the national conference is not operating before the ESB's date, the £26 million EU grant will be lost and the NCC will never be built.
Amendment 103 - the Minister rightly in my view has succumbed to pressure from the wind lobby and has amended the old section 2 appropriately.
I contacted the ESB regarding the issue of it being unable to supply and I received the following letter from the secretary of the ESB, Mr. Larry Donald, on 8 June:
Dear Deputy Stagg,
During the debate on the Electricity Regulation Bill at the Oireachtas committee on Tuesday, 25th May, as reported in the media, statements were made when dealing with the subject of combined heat and power in relation to the ability of the ESB to provide electricity supply to the proposed national conference centre.
I wish to advise you that the content of these statements as reported and the basis on which they were made are false. I will be very concerned if any allegations were to be made by an outside party which were motivated by a desire to damage the credibility of ESB and to seek advantage in the legislation before the Oireachtas committee. You will be interested in the attached copy of part of a briefing note emanating from the offices of one of the proponents of CHP.
The following statement:
"ESB cannot power it conventionally until one year after the proposed opening date because of their workload scheduling. All efforts, including political, to date have failed to shift them:"
is palpably false, misleading and is clearly designed to promote another agenda. I have examined ESB's complete file on the provision of supply to the national conference centre and I am satisfied that the company has dealt efficiently with this matter and with the utmost integrity and professionalism. No complaints have been made by the developers or their consultants in relation to ESB's handling of this matter and no political representations were made at any stage in relation to it. Furthermore, I have had discussions with the relevant ESB engineers and can confirm to you that ESB can and could at all times power the national conference centre in advance of its proposed opening date.
In view of the importance of this matter, may I please invite you to examine ESB's work on the project so that you may satisfy yourself on the position. Please contact me at your convenience.
I received a further letter from Treasury Holdings which states:
I have been further considering my last request to you (copy enclosed) and have become aware of an unfortunate side effect my suggested amendment would have and which I do not think desirable, that is, that such a right by the public may give rise to the ESB seeking a public service obligation charge for having to accommodate this. Were they to succeed, that would certainly not be in the general interest of consumers.
On balance, and considering European law can be invoked by reference to the Electricity Directive if renewables do not get enough priority, I would now favour the amendment I previously suggested not being moved. I would be grateful if you could remove it from your proposed amendments list.
Many thanks for all your help and I hope you are successful in the local elections. If there is anything I can do at any time to assist you (as these things should be a two way process) please do not think twice about contacting either me or John Ronan.
It is very disturbing that on the basis of false information, which I felt was presented in good faith to me, about CHP and the national conference centre, I tabled amendments to a Bill seeking to redress what I was told was a wrong. I now know that I was told direct, deliberate lies. As a result, I wish to withdraw amendments which would have had the effect desired by Treasury Holdings. I am glad the Minister has put back the matter.
As a consequence of this, we need to urgently consider the imposition of penalties on people who give false information in the form of lobbying to members of committees of the House. A most serious situation has arisen and we now know that we are facing a position where a possible 45 per cent rather than 28 per cent of the market will be opened on the word of people who presented us with false information. I ask the Minister to respond in some way. As she has access to all the files, has she clarified that the ESB is in a position to supply conventional power to the national conference centre well in advance of its opening?