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Energy Policy

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 14 December 2021

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Questions (33)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

33. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he considers non-fracked liquified natural gas to be a transition fuel to guarantee energy security during the transition to a decarbonised future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61549/21]

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Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Environment)

This question follows on from the previous question. It is on the role that liquefied natural gas, LNG, can play in energy security for this country. Will the Minister of State outline the approach he intends to take on the role of LNG.

The Government's policy statement on the importation of fracked gas was published in May of this year, fulfilling a commitment set out in the programme for Government. As set out in the policy statement, the placing of a legal prohibition on the importation of fracked gas in national legislation was being considered. However, in the context of European Union treaties and the laws governing the internal energy market, it is considered that a legal ban on the importation of fracked gas could not be put in place at this time. The policy statement identifies the highest risk of fracked gas being imported into Ireland on a large scale would be via liquefied natural gas terminals, if any were to be constructed.

The policy statement provides that, pending the outcome of a review of the security of energy supply of Ireland's electricity and natural gas systems, it would not be appropriate for the development of any liquefied natural gas terminals in Ireland to be permitted or proceeded with. I am aware of one application for a liquefied natural gas project that has been made. In relation to that project, I have written to An Bord Pleanála setting out Government policy on such projects, to which An Bord Pleanála is statutorily obliged to have regard.

The security of energy supply of Ireland's electricity and natural gas systems, which is under way, is focusing on the period to 2030 in the context of ensuring a sustainable pathway to net zero emissions by 2050. The review will consider what role, if any, LNG should have in Ireland in future. I expect the review to complete in mid-2022 following which it will be submitted to the Government.

I thank the Minister of State. The review is very important and it is also important that it is completed on time. Time is of the essence with regard to the concerns and fears of householders and industry about energy security. We know that with what is quite a volatile geopolitical situation in eastern Europe we cannot just rely on Russia and pipelines for our natural gas. There is an alternative here. There is an option for us to avail of LNG. I emphasised in the question that it is non-fracked LNG and this is very important. If we accept the principle that a transitional phase up to 2030 and perhaps beyond will be required, we have to be realistic. If natural gas is acceptable, LNG should also be acceptable provided it is non-fracked gas. It is like saying we are in favour of steam but not water. We need to be more open-minded and realistic on this. I very much look forward to the findings of the review.

I thank the Deputy for his comments. As he understands, the problem with fracked gas is the fugitive emissions. Scientists discovered that in the process of fracking gas a lot of methane escapes into the atmosphere. This has a strongly detrimental effect which is so bad that using fracked gas turned out to be as bad as burning coal. I understand that for a long time in north Kerry there was a promise that this much-needed infrastructural investment and jobs were coming to the area. It is very difficult to have this taken away or ended. I understand that creates considerable disappointment. What north Kerry needs is more investment in sustainable and long-term infrastructure that will withstand this type of international policy. It will not be Irish policy that will stop this from happening in the end. It will be European policy and what was agreed at COP26. Kerry is a beautiful county with an amazing tourism product. It can develop and produce far more jobs than would have ever come from the LNG terminal.

I thank the Minister of State. I emphasise again that we are not talking about fracked gas. The question clearly and specifically refers to non-fracked LNG. I emphasise that point. Sometimes we feel as though we are not being listened to. Fracking keeps coming into the discussion. We are speaking about non-fracked gas. We have to be realistic because 2030 is a long time from now. I have a vision for north Kerry. It has a massive future in hydrogen and many other renewable sources of energy. In the meantime, something has to keep the lights on. If the lights go off, no one should go blaming the people of north Kerry. We certainly do not want to end up saying we told you so.

There is a commitment with regard to non-fracked LNG. The Government needs to take this realistic proposal on board. It cannot continue to bury its head in the sand. None of us likes fossil fuels. During the transitional phase something will be needed to keep the country and industry running. We have to be realistic, which is why we have to look again at non-fracked LNG. That is a solution. While it is not a long-term solution, it is certainly an intermediate solution.

I point out to the Minister of State that in my original question on the extra gas being allowed to fuel the data centres I stated the Minister was opening the door for a proliferation of fossil fuel infrastructure in gas and LNG use, and here we have it. The Deputy from Kerry is advocating for the first application for an LNG terminal. This is exactly what I was talking about. The Government's action of introducing the new gas infrastructure to facilitate data centres is exactly what is leading to the justification for the proliferation of LNG. That is not sustainable. The Government will tie us into a future where we cannot meet our targets. This is what its actions will do. It is exactly what I was getting at in my first question.

The plan is to reduce gas consumption. Between now and 2030, the quantity of gas being used will be reduced. We will have a reducing need for imports of gas rather than an increasing need. This is one of the reasons LNG is not a good answer. LNG is a large, very heavy, long-term investment. For this reason, the Government policy statement does not use the word "fracked". The policy statement notes that pending the outcome of a review of the security of energy supply of Ireland's electricity and natural gas systems, it would not be appropriate for the development of any liquid natural gas terminals in Ireland to be permitted or proceeded with. It is a general prohibition. The Deputy is probably aware of this. It does not just refer to fracked gas. The gas power stations to be built will be contracted on a capacity basis for ten years. That is the term of the contract. I was asked what the term was. It is a ten-year term for capacity.

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