I propose to take Questions Nos. 236 and 237 together.
I have overall responsibility for national policy in the energy sector. This includes policy in relation to energy security, which is fully aligned with EU law and EU policy objectives. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) has statutory functions relating to energy security, for both gas and electricity, and is independent in the exercise of its functions. These include functions in the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999, as amended, to promote the continuity, security and quality of supplies of electricity. CRU also is required by S.I. 60/2005 to monitor, and take such measures as it considers necessary to protect, the security of supply of electricity. In relation to gas, the CRU also has a statutory function to secure the continuity, security and quality of supplies of natural gas. The CRU is also the designated competent authority for Ireland, for EU Regulation 2017/1938 concerning measures to safeguard the security of supply of gas.
The National Oil Reserves Agency has statutory responsibility in relation to the storage of oil stocks for use in an emergency, at a level sufficient to comply with the State’s stockholding obligations.
The transmission system operators for gas and electricity, Gas Networks Ireland and EirGrid, have legal responsibilities in relation to gas and electricity security. The electricity transmission system operators are responsible for, inter alia, ensuring the long-term ability of the system to meet reasonable demands for the transmission of electricity, and contributing to security of supply through adequate transmission capacity and system reliability. The gas transmission system operators are required, inter alia, to operate, maintain and develop under economic conditions secure, reliable and efficient transmission facilities to secure an open market, with due regard to the environment.
My Department regularly engages with State Agencies and other stakeholders, including Gas Networks Ireland and the ESB, as part of the normal process of feeding into policy development and formulation.
In relation to energy sustainability and security, I am initiating a major review into Ireland's energy sustainability and security which will:
- Consider the optimal actions that need to be taken, in reaching 70% renewable electricity, to ensure Ireland's electricity system is backed up in a secure, safe and sustainable way.
- Assess the role of gas during the transition, as the lowest CO2 emitting fossil fuel, and consider how and from where it is sourced.
- Review the role that other technologies can play in the transition, including battery storage, pumped storage, the role of interconnection (both gas and electricity) and the possibilities for hydrogen and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).
- Consider what the roadmap for renewable electricity looks like in the period from 2030 to achieving carbon neutrality in 2050
The review that I have initiated into Ireland's energy security and sustainability will be carried out by an independent body following a public procurement exercise. In advance of commissioning the review,
I have written to the Chairperson of EirGrid, ESB, Bord na Móna, Ervia and CRU to seek their views on the challenges involved in making the transition to a carbon neutral economy.