Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Dáil Issues, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the wisdom of continuing with the Environmental Protection Agency study into hydraulic fracturing with terms of reference that are considerably out of date, given that 50% of research into fracking has been carried out since 2012. – Clare Daly.

 For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 15th December, 2015.

(5  Received on 7th December, 2015.)

REPLY

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Alex White)

The EPA has commissioned a research programme into the potential impacts of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction on the environment and human health.

This all-island research programme is broad in its scope, covering several environmental parameters as well as operational practice and regulatory approaches around the world.  The Terms of Reference for this research programme were agreed by a broadly based Steering Committee.  The draft Terms of Reference had earlier been published for consultation and more than 1,300 submissions were received.  The EPA and the Steering Committee reviewed the submissions and the draft Terms of Reference were amended and strengthened after this public consultation.

The research programme has been designed to produce the scientific basis, which will assist regulators, both North and South, in making an informed decision about whether it is environmentally safe to allow Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction.  As well as research in Ireland, the research will consider and collate evidence from other countries.

As I have stated on a number of occasions and I would like to once again confirm, no application to engage in Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction has been received in my Department, nor would any such application, if submitted, be considered until the research programme has concluded and there has been time to consider its findings.  Any policy decision will be taken in the context of the objective of achieving a low carbon energy system by 2050.

 To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the role that the State envisages social enterprises performing in reducing Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels, particularly with the impact that this sector can have, compared to conventional private enterprise. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 15th December, 2015.

(6  Received on 7th December, 2015.)

REPLY

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Alex White)

One of the central themes in the Green Paper on Energy Policy, published in May 2014, is citizen empowerment. Since its publication, the Department undertook a public consultation process which included analysis of over 1,200 written submissions and thirteen stakeholder seminars on the various priority areas highlighted in the Green Paper. A recurring message coming from both the written submissions and the seminars was the role that community energy and social enterprises could play in our future energy systems. The views submitted on this and other matters have been considered in the formulation of the Energy White Paper, which I am publishing tomorrow.

I believe that both social enterprise and private enterprise will have key roles to play in Ireland’s energy future as we reduce our reliance on carbon intensive fossil fuels by delivering improvements in energy efficiency and increased deployment of renewable energy. In this regard, there are a number of schemes under the Better Energy Programme, which is administered on behalf of the Department by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), available to individuals, communities and businesses for sustainable energy upgrades.

The Better Energy Communities Scheme supports sustainable energy upgrades to buildings and facilities in the community sector as well as clusters of homes likely to be at risk of energy poverty. The scheme is open to a wide variety of actors. This includes public sector organisations, community and voluntary organisations, private sector actors and energy suppliers. The key is that each application has to demonstrate a partnership approach. Community action on energy conservation is a crucial first step for people to transform their energy use and take their own action to make our energy system more sustainable.

In 2015 scheme received applications worth €45m from 74 projects. Successful projects have included upgrades to schools, community care facilities, fire stations, sports clubs, small businesses and homes throughout the country. A full list of the successful applications is available at: http://www.seai.ie/Grants/Better_Energy_Communities/Better-Energy-Community-Projects-2015.pdf.