Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action

Citizen and Community Measures: Discussion

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I am delighted to be in the presence of the gentlemen from Tipperary again. One of the committee's first actions was to visit Tipperary and it was a very useful tutorial for us. Speaking for myself, I was largely ignorant of the work that was being done by the Tipperary Energy Agency and we certainly learned a great deal from that visit.

I am not sure how long ago that was, but if we are to be honest it would appear that little or no progress in furthering the agenda has been made in that time. Having said that, we have an opportunity, through this interaction with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, to ensure that when it develops proposals for the next round of connection policy on its electricity connection policy, ECP-2, to quote the witness, it engages formally or informally with the Tipperary Energy Agency to benefit from the insights of the Tipperary Energy Agency and its constituent parts. One cannot design community-led energy projects without talking to the Tipperary Energy Agency. That is self-evident and quite obvious from our interaction so far.

I am very much taken with the approach of the Tipperary Energy Agency. I would describe it as democratising energy supply. It provides a mechanism by which communities, particularly rural dwellers, can feel they have a stake in providing energy. Regarding wind energy, for instance, an opaque community dividend that the big players mete out to individual communities can be intangible for many individual households. They do not necessarily see the benefit of it. Instead of that, this model means that people are part-owners of the turbines they see going up. That is something they have a stake in. Starting from that premise, we have to work back and devise a model that ensures democratisation of energy supply. That is an opening remark.

The climate action plan is now very clear on microgeneration policy. If I can walk away from today's meeting with a commitment from the stakeholders to engage with each other, the committee will have done a good day's work. Other speakers have already made that point. Our committee recommendations were very clear on the solar and photovoltaic element. If I recall correctly, we wanted to see progress on ensuring that farms or individuals could use solar power by March 2020, with the relevant statutory instrument amended to overcome that hurdle. I am surprised to hear that this process has not been expedited. That is something that we as a committee could take up directly with the Minister, perhaps through the Chair. The Chairman may already be engaging with the Minister on that issue. Achieving that could provide the Trojan horse that is necessary for farms in particular, which can accommodate bigger solar arrays because of barns, outbuildings and so forth, to realise this potential. I suggest the committee write to the relevant line Minister to see where that stands. The Chair may have a view on it.


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