Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his Department’s role in awarding a contract to a company (details supplied) to carry out a two year investigation into the safety of fracking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 28th April, 2015.

REPLY

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Joe McHugh)
As part of its statutory remit, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides, when requested by a Minister of the Government, information or advice or makes recommendations for the purposes of environmental protection to any Minister on any matter relating to his functions or responsibilities. The former Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Mr. Pat Rabbitte, requested such advice from the EPA with respect to the potential environmental impacts from unconventional gas exploration and exploitation.
Pursuant to this request the EPA established a Steering Group to determine the scope of the research to be undertaken. Membership of this Committee includes representatives from amongst others, the EPA, my Department, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Commission for Energy Regulation, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. The draft terms of reference drawn up by this Committee for the research programme were subsequently the subject of a public consultation process. Key among the responses received was a request that human health be included in the scope of the research project. This request was been accepted and a member from the Health Services Executive has joined the Steering Group.
The contract was awarded following a robust evaluation process in full compliance with procurement guidelines. The contract award procedure chosen for this competition was by open procedure. Six tenders were received. The Evaluation panel was constituted to include personnel with the capacity to make informed decisions on the tenders received. The constitution of the evaluation panel was approved by the project Steering Committee.
This research programme is a multi-agency transboundary programme of research on the potential impacts on the environment and human health from Unconventional Gas Exploration & Extraction projects/operations. It is co-funded by the EPA, my Department and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. My Department is represented on the Steering Group which was responsible for the award of the contract and which is overseeing the project and my officials are engaged in the review of the work being produced by the consortium of consultants engaged to carry out the research programme.

[Ref No.: 16287/15]

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the wave energy developers who had been accepted to participate in the west wave project in 2013 and in each case the type of wave energy converter and its technical readiness level; if he will report on their progress in 2015; the current participants; the type of Wave Energy Convertor and Technical Readiness Level; and if he will report targets to 2020. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 28th April, 2015.

(24 Received on 20th April, 2015.)

REPLY

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Alex White)
The WestWave project is a collaborative ocean energy project led by the ESB with the objective of accelerating the development of the ocean energy sector in Ireland. ESB is working with a number of wave energy project developers to realise this 5MW project off the coast of Clare, and the details in regard to the developers, the procurement process and specific technologies involved are matters for ESB.
I am advised that the ESB objective is that the WestWave project would be operational by 2020. This is a highly innovative project and it is imperative that the technical solution chosen would be appropriate for the energetic wave conditions on the west coast of Ireland.
Wave and tidal energy is still at the research, development and demonstration stage globally, and while promising experimental devices have been developed, much more 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 published last year, which sets out Government policy in relation to the sustainable development of Ireland’s abundant offshore renewable energy resources.
Exchequer support for ocean research, development and demonstration has been provided to the sector in recent years and is being increased under the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan. In total, my Department has allocated €26.3 million for ocean energy for the period 2013 to 2016. This supports, inter alia, the Prototype Development Fund operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland which provides grant aid for the development of prototype ocean energy devices.