Energy Prices

Questions (178)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

178. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which electricity prices here, in respect of both a domestic and industrial consumer, compare favourably or otherwise with those applicable in other EU member states within and outside the eurozone; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35558/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Responsibility for the regulation of the retail electricity market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. Prices in the electricity retail market are fully deregulated. Customers can therefore avail of competitive offerings from electricity suppliers. Prices are set by suppliers and are commercial and operational matters for them. I have no statutory function in the setting of electricity prices.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has a lead role in developing and maintaining comprehensive national and sectoral statistics for energy production, transformation and end use. Since 2008, comparable data on electricity and gas prices for domestic and industrial consumers in respect of six month periods (or semester) is collected and published by Eurostat using the methodology for the EU Gas and Electricity Price Transparency Directives. SEAI then analyses the data published by Eurostat for each semester and publishes reports twice a year entitled “Electricity And Gas Prices in Ireland”. These reports present detailed information on and analysis of Ireland’s comparative electricity and gas prices and trends in these prices over time, for both EU 27 and Eurozone Member States. These reports are publicly available at the following link and contain all the information the Deputy is requesting for all semesters up to the first half of 2012:

http://www.seai.ie/Publications/Statistics_Publications/EPSSU_Publications/Electricity_and_Gas_Prices/

While the Eurostat data is publicly available up to the second half of 2012 the SEAI report for that period with its analysis as described above is not yet published.

Electricity and gas costs in Ireland are influenced by various drivers, including global gas and oil prices, the cost of capital, exchange rate fluctuations, the small size of the Irish market, geographical location and low population density. Global gas and oil prices are by far the most significant factor. Prices have risen sharply since the start of 2011, driven by events in the Middle East, north Africa and Japan and the significant growth in demand from China and India.

At a national level, the competitive energy market in place helps to put downward pressure on prices. In addition, we must focus on all possible additional actions to mitigate costs for business and domestic customers, including rigorous regulatory scrutiny of the network costs component of retail prices.

I am committed to working with enterprise and with the energy sector to ensure that the costs of energy are as competitive as possible. In this context, promotion of energy efficiency measures is an area within our control where action can be taken to reduce energy costs.

Energy efficiency represents a significant opportunity for both businesses and households to reduce their energy costs. There are energy efficiency measures in place to assist both business and domestic energy consumers, with significant funding allocated to them. The Energy Efficiency Fund, which I announced in February, will commence funding specific measures in the near future. It will assist energy efficiency projects in the public and commercial sectors.

Hydraulic Fracturing Policy

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 172.

Questions (179)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

179. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he and his Department intend to monitor development and progress of mining or other exploration techniques such as hydraulic fracturing or fracking; the extent to which the procedure is practised globally and with what effect; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35559/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

There are various methodologies currently being used with respect to minerals and petroleum exploration both onshore and offshore Ireland that will continue to be used into the future.

Exploration for “unconventional gas” or “shale gas” is a live issue in a number of EU Member States. Exploration is on-going in a number of Member States while others have taken a more precautionary approach. France, for example, has banned the use of the technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, while exploration using the technique is proceeding in Poland. The UK recently allowed further exploration for unconventional gas.

There is a considerable body of recent and on-going research in this area in both the USA and Europe. The European Commission commissioned three recent reports in the matter:

1. Unconventional Gas: Potential Energy Market Impacts in the EU

2. Climate Impact of Potential Shale Gas Production in the EU

3. Report on the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from Unconventional Gas operations in Europe.

The Commission has indicated that later this year it intends to commence a study on Environmental, Climate and Energy Assessment Framework to enable safe and secure unconventional hydrocarbon extraction to be undertaken.

The global economic perspective to the unconventional oil and gas phenomenon has however, to be acknowledged, including the US boom in unconventional fossil fuels. It is recognised that the advent of unconventional oil and gas has been a ‘game-changer’ on the US energy market with global repercussions, but is also playing a significant role in economic development in the US. As the EU is likely to remain a “higher” energy cost region in the future, it is appropriate that we consider the impacts that unconventional oil and gas production will have on security of supply, energy prices and competitiveness.

Question No. 180 answered with Question No. 172.

Consultancy Contracts Expenditure

Questions (181)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

181. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the companies that received payments from his Department for consultation on natural resources; the purpose for which they received payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35692/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

My Department administers a very diverse and complex brief. This reality necessarily requires my Department to procure specialist external professional advice and it is imperative to have recourse to a certain amount of external professional services in the area of natural resources.

In procuring these specialised services, my Department always seeks to ensure value for money and that these professional services contribute to informed, robust and evidence based policy making. Furthermore, in relation to the competitive tendering for contracts my Department adheres to the relevant EU Regulations and Department of Finance Guidelines on the procurement of goods and services

The majority of natural resources consultancies in 2012 related to the Corrib gas project. In looking at the expenditure incurred, I would like to remind the Deputy that costs relating to the oversight of compliance with the Corrib gas consent conditions are recouped from the developer. My Department’s 2012 Appropriation Account shows that, by end 2012, €255,000 was recouped as appropriation-in-aid.

Details of companies involved in providing consultancy services to my Department are set out in tabular form below. As requested by the Deputy’s office, the information relates to 2012.

Natural Resources Consultancies - 2012

Company

Service Description

Amount (€)

Indecon

Consultancy on Economic Value of Exploration and Mining to the Economy

35,793

David Fox Associates

Petroleum Engineering Support

178,186

Morgan Geophysics

Geophysicist Consultancy

86,706

Keane Offshore Integrity Ltd

Corrib Verification Process

83,746

Environ uk ltd

Monitoring of Corrib Gas Consent Conditions

201,992

Eamonn O' Duibhir

Consent Conditions Monitoring Committee

1,253

Patrick Barrett

Consent Conditions Monitoring Committee

544

Monica Muller

Consent Conditions Monitoring Committee

721

Mr Michael O'hEalaithe

Consent Conditions Monitoring Committee

758

Mr Kieran Moran

Consent Conditions Monitoring Committee

1,013

Patrick Connell

Consent Conditions Monitoring Committee

627

Total

591,339

Semi-State Bodies Dividends

Questions (182, 183)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

182. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that members of the ESB group of unions have initiated a legal challenge against the ESB and Government regarding the €78.4 million dividend the company is due to pay to the State, which the union members allege is unlawful as the payment is based on wrongly prepared accounts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35833/13]

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Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

183. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the ESB 2012 annual accounts state the company's defined benefit pension scheme is to be a defined contribution scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35834/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 182 and 183 together.

My attention has been drawn to the legal challenge regarding ESB’s payment of dividend. A representative from my Department attended the AGM of the company, on my behalf. At the AGM the Board Chairman advised the meeting that the accounts were compliant with all statutory and accounting rules. The dividend payment, €74.5m of which was due to the Exchequer, was received on the 27th June 2013.

Departmental Staff Rehiring

Questions (184)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

184. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of retired civil or public servants who have been retained by his Department, since January 2013, on a short-term contract or consultancy basis where normal abatement rules do not apply. [35840/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Retired public sector workers are engaged from time to time by my Department in areas where specific expertise is required for a short fixed period, and these persons provide a level of knowledge, experience and background compatible with such requirements. In general the abatement principle, which ensures that the fee paid plus pension does not exceed the rate of pay the pensioner would receive if he/she had continued service in their former post, applies to payments as appropriate.

I can also confirm that there were two retired public servants who were engaged in specific projects during the period since January 2013, under the aegis of my Department; one as Chairman of a VFM Review Group at a cost of €1,200 and the other as a Process Auditor for the procurement of a National Postcode System at a cost of €9,840.

In addition to the above, one retired public servant sits on the Audit Committee for the Department on a pro bono basis.

Haddington Road Agreement Savings

Questions (185)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

185. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a yearly detailed breakdown of the sectoral measures, and accompanying savings, for the duration of the Haddington Road agreement applicable in his Department and-or non-commercial State sponsored bodies under the aegis of his Department. [35857/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The measures applying to my Department and agencies under the aegis of my Department, are set out in the relevant sectoral elements under the Haddington Road agreement, in this case the civil service and NCSSBs element.

As stated by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the Haddington Road Agreement will facilitate a reduction of €1bn in the public service pay and pensions bill by 2016. In relation to my Department, the savings arising under agreement have been incorporated in the Department's and Agencies' revised estimates for 2013 and further details for 2014 and 2015 will be incorporated in the vote allocation in the context of the overall estimates process.

More generally, the Department and its Agencies will proactively implement the measures set out in the agreement.

RTE Expenditure

Questions (186)

Niall Collins

Question:

186. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the Government's support through RTE of two national public orchestras, the RTE Symphony and RTE Concert orchestras, is an essential element of the country's national arts and cultural infrastructure that should be protected in any review of RTE expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35901/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

As the Deputy is aware, RTÉ is an independent national public service broadcaster whose remit and obligations are set out in Section 114 of the Broadcasting Act 2009. The company's mandate in regard to the area referred to by the Deputy is set out in subsection (1)(c) of that section and states that one of the principle objects of Raidió Teilifís Éireann is “to establish and maintain orchestras, choirs and other cultural performing groups in connection with the services of Raidió Teilifís Éireann."

It is clear to me that any review of expenditure in RTÉ would have to take cognisance of the statutory obligations of RTÉ in terms of the services that it is required to provide, including its obligations in relation to orchestral music, choirs and performing groups.