The Deputy cited Littleton. The issue of the harvest not proceeding this year relates purely to environmental issues and the environmental impact assessment and it requires the company, as it moves from brown to green, to ensure it does not leave an environmental hazard where the peat would run off into the water. I will pursue that directly with the company to ensure that is what takes place.
There are real employment opportunities for this company across a whole variety of different areas, not just in the rehabilitation of bogs but in new energy projects. The company’s strategic plan last year is going in the right direction and that it should be going further and should be looking at additional and other ventures. Some of the projects it was looking at were too narrow but it is absolutely what we should strive to achieve.
To answer Deputy Michael Collins's question, at the end of last year, the National Oil Reserves Agency, NORA, had a fund, which has been built up over recent years, of €230 million. That provides an ongoing fund and capability for the company for the next number of years to be able to continue what it does, which is to maintain 90 days storage of oil reserves on storage facilities like Whiddy Island, which the Deputy would be very familiar with, and the Poolbeg peninsula. Under an international agreement, it will have to be able to fund, manage and provide such secure energy stores. This climate fund is not designed to remove that but to continue it. The reality is that we can use revenues to do both.
The interim funding of Irish Water by the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, in short-term loans was a purely technical issue because NORA and Irish Water are both advised by the NTMA. Long-term funding for Irish Water will not be coming from this fund and there is no connection between Irish Water and NORA which are separate entities. The only connection being the services provided to both by the NTMA. Both are fully independent.
As to the development of a floating LNG import terminal in Cork Harbour, I read a detailed summation from an Irish company recently with interest. That technology has taken off in different places around the world, largely through the development of large quantities of offshore fracked gas from the US market looking for a home. In the programme for Government this Government has committed that that is not a development we want to see in our country. We will be issuing a policy statement to say that is not the direction that we are going in.
There is, however, huge potential for the development of alternative energy systems and secure energy supplies. As has been said, the potential for offshore wind is something with which we have a great opportunity. It will take time. Increasingly, within the European Commission and other agencies, there is a recognition that the conversion of offshore electricity supply into green hydrogen supplies through electrolysis is something in which we may have a real competitive comparative advantage. This is particularly the case where we have infrastructure in places like Cork Harbour, which is a deep safe harbour with deep berths. That may be the future for energy security and energy storage systems. The expertise that exists in those companies would be just as easily developed in that area, where there is growing interest and growing investment. It is an area that could provide significant jobs and economic opportunities, particularly for Cork because of the harbour resources it has.
Deputy O'Rourke asked about the financial state of NORA. As I said, this agency has a fund in the region of €230 million at its disposal, so there are no immediate financial implications for the company.
I was not able to accept the amendments on the day, partly because we wanted to immediately start drawing down the €10 million in funding provided for in this Bill. I indicated that I would look to implement some of the amendments tabled by the Opposition during the drafting of the climate action Bill, which is due in the autumn, especially those that would facilitate or support the use of this fund for community projects, which this amendment also supports.
I give Deputy Cowen a commitment that the just transition approach will be developed for the entire midlands region, which is affected by the move away from the use of peat in both power stations and large, industrial-scale horticultural extraction that is occurring at present. The funding of the bog rehabilitation through the application of public service obligation, PSO, fell foul of advice from the Attorney General that it would not be possible under European law. In no way will that restrict us or stop us from making the necessary investments.
I commit to Deputies that the climate action fund, which will provide funding for the projects that we need, will not just be for a one-off or an annual project. We need the four year programme that was originally meant to be funded. I recall that it was a €20 million PSO per annum. I hope that we will see something in a Government announcement tomorrow which will help us in that regard. It is not just a case of waiting for an application to the climate action fund for us to be able to take action.
Looking at the task we face in the context of making a 50% reduction in emissions over the next ten years and being a net zero emissions country by 2050, as we have committed to along with most European Union countries, the challenge is beyond compare. One of the areas where I believe there is real potential for us to meet the targets is in storing carbon in our bogs and rewetting. The estimates that I have heard from experts are that, if that is a 60 million tonne challenge, which it is at least, we could see something like 10 million tonnes delivered through the management of our peatlands in a different way. We will have to make a significant investment. We are only at the tip of the iceberg of what will have to be done. I commit to doing everything I can to make sure that funding is available.
We will try to draw down some of the funding that was agreed by the European Council. That was a broad framework. It did not cite specific projects. I believe this type of work and the investment in Bord na Móna and other bog management companies is exactly the sort of project that would fit best with the European funding criteria. I agree with Deputy Cowen that the just transition report that was delivered by Mr. Mulvey a couple of months ago has to be delivered. The targeting of both European and national funding in this just transition has to be towards those communities most directly affected, including Deputy Cowen's constituency.
With regard to the power plants, I said at some length at the end of the debate in the Seanad that alternative proposals for the deployment of those stations would be just such a project that might prove suitable in the context of the climate action fund. Many of the projects we are looking at may be small, community projects, but that does not preclude big ideas and an alternative vision for what those plants could be used for. I would also say in that regard that the asset in this area is not just the power station itself but also the grid connection. As anybody involved in the renewable energy industry knows, getting grid access and connection is probably one of the most significant challenges to being able to finance and develop a project. As well as a future for Bord na Móna in bog rehabilitation, energy retrofitting and alternative uses for the bogs in growing various products or being involved in aquaculture, I believe there is significant potential for the company in the development of renewable energy. As well as its power station assets, it should look at leveraging its grid connection assets to make sure it has a bigger, brighter, more secure long-term future. That is the purpose of this amendment and I believe it will have the backing of all Members of this House.