I propose to take Questions Nos. 553 to 556, inclusive, together.
Successive Governments have underlined the commitment to move from a fossil fuel-based electricity system to a low-carbon power system. Almost two thirds of renewable energy used in Ireland comes from renewable electricity.
The Government has published and started implementing the Climate Action Plan, which sets out the actions which must be taken in order for Ireland to meet its climate targets.
The Climate Action Plan includes a 70% target of our electricity coming from renewable sources. The majority of this target will be delivered by an increase in on-shore and off-shore wind, as well as solar. However, when Ireland meets its renewable electricity target for 2030, having fully removed coal and peat from electricity generation, there will still be a requirement for back-up when the level of wind needed or the level of sunshine is not available.
For example, in a recent 30 day period, 25% of Ireland’s electricity was provided by wind generation. However, over this same period, one day had only 4% of our electricty provided by wind and on another day it provided 62% of our electricty. To ensure that power is still available on a day or a week where there is very little wind, it will be necessary to consider the appropriate fuel mix in reaching 70% renewable electricity.
In all projected transitions to a low carbon economy by 2050, gas will continue to play a role in sustaining the transition. It plays an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the power generation, industrial and commercial, residential and transport sectors by replacing more CO2-intensive fossil fuels.
Furthermore, gas-fired electricity generation is well placed to address the intermittency of wind and solar supplies and provide back-up flexibility and reliability for our electricity supply. While batteries, greater interconnection and demand side response will play a role, gas fired power stations will provide flexible and reliable electricity, particularly when weather powered, intermittent sources of energy can be very low for prolonged periods of time, possibly lasting weeks at a time.
In relation to LNG projects, commercial developers have proposed a number of projects, including the Shannon LNG project and another project in Cork. Final investment decisions for these projects and compliance with any legal and regulatory requirements in relation to consents or permits are the responsibility of the project promoters.
The production, sourcing, buying and selling of natural gas produced outside this jurisdiction would also be an operational matter for the undertakings involved. Any undertaking would be required to comply with EU law in this area. In relation to fracked gas in Ireland, the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Act 2017 provides for the prohibition of exploration for and extraction of onshore petroleum by means of hydraulic fracturing.
All Projects of Common Interest must fulfil the conditions on environmental assessment procedures provided for in both national and European law. EU Regulation 347/2013, which provides for the designation of a project of common interest, does not override the requirement to comply with environmental law. Any legal and regulatory requirements of the permit granting process, including environmental assessment, are the responsibility of the individual project promoters. Decisions on consents for the construction of an LNG plant would be a matter for the relevant consenting authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency, where appropriate.
My Department will undertake an evaluation of security of energy supply taking into account our transition to a zero carbon world so we can make decisions based on evidence. This review will include a full consideration of international evidence.