Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Dáil Issues, Oral Questions

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide assurances to Dáil Éireann that due to the serious risk associated with fracking that because of our dependence on tourism and agriculture and also the health implications for the population, that a company (details supplied) will not be granted an exploration licence; and that this matter of fracking will end – Clare Daly.

REPLY

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Joe McHugh)
I, Ministers and my predecessor as Minister of State at the Department of Communications Energy and Natural resources have outlined on a number of occasions that no decision will be made on any proposal for the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling as part of an unconventional gas exploration programme, until there has been time to complete and consider the outcome of a major research programme, directed at examining the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, which has been commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the supports provided through REFIT or otherwise by his Department, the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland and ESB to small scale hydro-microgeneration; and the supports provided through REFIT or otherwise to persons who install small scale wind turbines including those turbines not requiring planning permission; and if the ESB will enable a grid connection and purchase the surplus electricity generated. – Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 11th December, 2014.

(12 Received on 3rd December, 2014.)

REPLY

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Joe McHugh)
The overarching objective of the Government’s energy policy is to ensure secure, sustainable supplies of competitively priced energy to all consumers. As a State we have ambitious targets for 16% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020 through meeting 40% of electricity demand from renewable sources, with 10% renewables in transport and 12% in heat. In 2013, 7.8% of Ireland’s overall energy requirement was met by renewable energy, equating to 20.9% of electricity demand. To date wind energy has been the largest driver of growth in renewable electricity. The total amount of wind generation connected to the grid is approximately 2,200 MW. It is estimated that a total of between 3,500 and 4,000 MW of onshore renewable generation capacity will be required to allow Ireland to meet its 40% renewable electricity target.

Currently the REFIT schemes are the primary means through which renewable electricity is supported in Ireland. These schemes support electricity generated from a range of renewable sources, including small scale hydro and wind. These REFIT schemes are designed to provide renewable electricity generators with the certainty required to finance their projects. Based around Power Purchase Agreements between generators and electricity suppliers, REFIT schemes assure a minimum price for each unit of electricity exported to the grid over a defined period.

Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity market and the grid connection process is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation’s (CER), which is an independent statutory body. It is necessary to notify ESB Networks in order to connect small scale hydro or wind electricity generation equipment to the distribution grid and a power purchase agreement with a supplier is required if surplus electricity is being sold.

On a day to day basis, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) provides a range of business supports to both industry and SME’s, covering energy management, training and advice. Companies and groups wishing to develop renewable energy projects, and improve their energy efficiency, can avail of grant support for investment in renewable energy installations as a component of coordinated energy efficiency programmes under the Better Energy Communities schemes.

I am aware that Electric Ireland made a decision to close their scheme which had offered a microgeneration feed in tariff since February 2009. No other electricity supplier has chosen to provide such a tariff, to either domestic or commercial customers, though they have been invited to do so by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER).

The Minister is aware of the need to give further policy consideration to the place of microgeneration in our energy mix. Analysis of the potential of micro-generation technologies such as small scale wind, solar and small scale hydro, has been carried out for the Department by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. It shows that while microgeneration has the technical potential to make a significant contribution to Irish electricity consumption, careful consideration would have to be given to the design of any potential future support scheme to ensure it is cost-effective. The SEAI’s findings, along with responses to the recent consultation on the Green Paper on Energy Policy in Ireland, will inform future policy on the provision of any market support for micro-generation.