International Renewable Energy Agency: Motion

This meeting has been convened to consider the motion: "That Dáil Éireann approves the terms of the Statute of the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, done at Bonn, Germany, on 26 January 2009, a copy of which was laid before the Dáil on 6 May 2015", which was referred to the select sub-committee by Dáil Éireann in accordance with Standing Order 82A(3)(b) and (6)(a) on 14 May 2015. Members have received briefing material prepared by the Department. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Joe McHugh, and his officials.

Tá mé an-sásta a bheith anseo inniu ag an bhfochoiste. The purpose of the proposed motion is to seek the approval of Dáil Éireann of the terms of the Statute of the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA. The proposed motion follows recent Government approval for Ireland to complete the steps required to ratify the IRENA statute. As the committee is aware, IRENA is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future. IRENA's aim is to promote the widespread and increased adoption of renewable energy with a view to sustainable development.

Ratifying the IRENA statute will allow for full membership and provide improved access for Ireland to data and expertise that will complement the high-quality EU and International Energy Agency research, analysis and support with regard to renewable energy technology and policy developments. This is particularly important given Ireland's abundant diverse and indigenous renewable energy sources, such as wind and ocean power. It is also particularly timely, given our objective of transitioning to a low-carbon future and in the context of our involvement in setting EU and global targets for climate and energy matters for the period 2020 to 2030.

The agency, which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, currently has 140 members, including major economies such as the United States, India, Japan, Australia and China. More than 32 states have started the formal process of becoming members. The European Union and all its member states are members, apart from Austria and Ireland, both of which are in the process of becoming members.

IRENA is financed in the main by mandatory contributions from members. Those contributions are determined by the IRENA assembly, which convenes annually to discuss and decide upon issues such as the agency's work programme and budget. Based on the budget agreed in January 2014, Ireland's contribution for 2015 would amount to approximately €70,000. We will be invited to contribute a pro rata share of that sum, depending on the date membership commences. It is because the IRENA statute involves a charge upon public funds within the meaning of Article 29.5.2° of Bunreacht na hÉireann that the terms of the statute require prior Dáil approval. IRENA's role in attracting a greater profile for renewable energy as a long-term solution to climate change and sustainability aligns with the Government's energy policy objectives of security, sustainability and competitiveness. I recommend the motion to the select sub-committee.

I thank the Minister of State. What is proposed seems quite straightforward. Almost all our fellow EU member states are members of IRENA. Do members have any questions?

We support the proposal put forward by the Minister of State. It makes sense that we should seek to learn from the experience and research of other nations as they develop renewable energy systems. We must keep a careful watch, however, to ensure IRENA does not change from an information-sharing body into one which would seek to be a decision-making entity in terms of determining which nations must undertake which aspect of renewable energy. Autonomy in that regard must be left to individual nations. It is a pity the headquarters of the agency are not in Ireland, given the potential we have for a rich mix of renewable energy projects.

I presume we would have to become a member before we could swing it for the headquarters to be located here.

I join Deputy Colreavy in supporting the proposal.

Some years ago, as I recall, Ireland was criticised for not being a member of IRENA. That is about to be put right.

I thank members for their support. Joining IRENA is the right thing to do. I agree with Deputy Colreavy that its purpose is primarily as an information-sharing mechanism. There are jurisdictional provisions in place to ensure that remains the case. As Minister of State with responsibility for maritime matters, I am aware that, in the context of its seabed, Ireland is the fourth largest country in Europe, after Spain, Portugal and France. We have a vast wealth and expanse of ocean which offers huge renewable potential. We have as much to bring to the table as any other member state but, as with everything else in life, we also are open to learning new practices.

I thank the Minister of State and his officials for attending and members for their attention to this matter.