Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Dáil Issues, Oral Questions

Minister again fails to rule out fracking despite enormous environmental concerns & understates important role of the state on developing wave energy…

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the Shale Gas Rec report published in early March by the European Commission, which revealed an alarming lack of consistency in regulation; and his further views to lobby within the EU for a European wide fracking ban. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 12th March, 2015.

(2 Received on 4th March, 2015.)

REPLY

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Joe McHugh)
In January 2014, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation inviting Member States to follow minimum principles when applying or adapting their legislation applicable to hydrocarbons exploration or production using high volume hydraulic fracturing. At that time the Commission also issued a Communication outlining the potential new opportunities and challenges stemming from shale gas extraction in Europe, as well as an Impact Assessment that examined the socio-economic and environmental impacts of various policy options. Member States were invited to inform the Commission by the end of 2014 on measures that they had put in place in response to the Recommendation and the Commission has recently published the information provided by Member States. As expected, the information provided illustrates differing circumstances between Member States in terms of both the existence of unconventional hydrocarbon resources and where such resources exist, whether or not exploration is taking place.
While the Commission has not proposed a uniform approach to regulation in this area, it has has confirmed that assessment of projects proposing the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration for and production of shale gas, is subject to a number of EU Directives, including the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Habitats Directive. In addition to the Recommendation and Communication mentioned already, the Commission has published a number of research documents into the potential impacts of unconventional exploration and extraction of gas including:

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; and
4. Mitigation of Climate Impacts of Possible Future Shale Gas Extraction in the EU, Available Technologies best practices and options for policy makers.

Within the context of existing EU legislation and guidance provided, it is a matter for each Member State to determine its own approach to the exploitation of its hydrocarbon natural resources. As the Deputy will be aware, decision making in Ireland will be informed by the findings of a major programme of research that was commissioned last year by the EPA, with a report expected in 2016. I can once again confirm that no decision will be made on any proposal for the use of hydraulic fracturing, as part of any unconventional gas exploration and extraction programme in Ireland, until there has been time to consider the outcome of this EPA research.
Ref No.: 10230/15]

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources noting the lack of progress during 2014 reported by Smartwave to the Marine Renewable Energy Industry conference in which he participated, his views that the Smartwave strategy of dependence on multinational and Irish private developers – with claimed technical readiness level of 7-9 to deploy devices at the site off the County Clare coast has not worked; and if he will now review the potential of Irish wave energy developers who have received Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grant funding, have demonstrated proof of concept, are at TRL level 2-3 and consider whether the Government should buy the useful IP of these devices and direct the ESB to develop the most promising TRL level suitable for deployment at Smartwave site. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 12th March, 2015.

(3 Received on 4th March, 2015.)

REPLY

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Joe McHugh)
Wave and tidal energy is still at the research, development and demonstration stage globally, and while promising experimental devices have been developed, much research, development and demonstration is required to bring wave energy technology to commercial viability.

Policy action across a range of areas is required to support developers in bringing ocean energy devices from prototype to full scale commerciality. This action is being taken in the context of the implementation of the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) 2014, which sets out Government policy in relation to the sustainable development of Ireland’s abundant offshore renewable energy resource.

Exchequer support for ocean research, development and demonstration has been provided to the sector in recent years and is being increased under the OREDP. In total, the Department has allocated ■26.3 million for ocean energy for the period 2013 to 2016. This funding supports, inter alia, the Prototype Development Fund operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. This fund provides grant aid for the development of prototype ocean energy devices and in line with the approach taken internationally, the emphasis is on industry led projects as the best way of supporting innovation.

Options for an additional ■30 million capital funding in the years 2016 to 2018 are being discussed cross-departmentally. This funding is expected to facilitate innovative projects, including an ESB led project called Westwave, that can meet certain compliance criteria.

The Westwave project, which is located off the County Clare coast and was discssed at the MRIA conference on 6 February, aims to make a significant contribution to the international development of wave energy technology. The Department understands from the ESB that, despite some delays in 2014, the project is progressing well, with a consenting application due for submission in mid-2015. While some technology companies have experienced difficulties in recent times, others are progressing and ESB is maintaining an active dialogue with the industry with a view to Westwave deployment