Dáil debates

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

6:00 pm

Photo of Deirdre CluneDeirdre Clune (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)

I am glad to have an opportunity to speak for even four minutes on this debate, which has a particular emphasis on energy security and security of supply. The past week has brought home to us all how vulnerable we are as an island nation. We need to focus on the fact that we must develop our self-sufficiency. The water shortage before Christmas highlighted a lack of storage and interconnectivity and poor planning for a crisis.

In this debate on energy, we are focusing on how vulnerable we are. We do not want to be exposed to energy shortages. Since we are a nation that is almost entirely dependent on fossil fuels, we need to change our strategy and focus on how to meet our European and international commitments to climate change. Many debates in the House have highlighted the cost of electricity vis-À-vis our competitors and the absolute need to keep those costs down to ensure that, as an exporting nation, we return to being competitive. It is essential that in all our decision making and policy formation in respect of the energy sector, particularly electricity, a price impact analysis is also considered. This consideration must always be with us, as must our consideration of how to reduce our dependence on carbon-emitting fuels.

We produce the most expensive electricity in Europe. The Celtic tiger years saw a clear divergence between Irish and European industrial electricity prices. The same is true in terms of domestic energy. We need to diversify, change and plan for our future. In the long term, we must plan on how to use our primary fuels. We are one of the greatest users of natural gas for electricity generation in the EU. The strategy to generate 40% of our electricity through renewables by 2020 must be supported. Wind probably comprises the largest target in this regard and must be supported in the form of appropriate storage facilities. Given the intermittent nature of wind, there is not necessarily a high wind factor at times of high demand. The options, be they pump storage or compressed air storage, must form part of an economic and technical feasibility study of our wind generation concepts.

If 40% of energy is to be generated via renewables by 2020, what of the balance? Will the mix include coal or gas? Will we reduce our dependence on oil? If we are to continue as we have been, we will most likely become dependent on gas. Given geopolitical considerations, we could be exposed to a major energy security risk. By 2030, the North Sea fields will be depleted, after which we will depend on gas from politically unstable regions such as the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and north Africa. Natural gas accounts for 20% of our energy demand, oil 56%, coal 9%, renewables 3% and peat 4%. Some 65% of our energy comes from natural gas. It is used by 700,000 homes for heating and cooking. Some 90% of this gas is imported through the UK. While my party welcomes that the Corrib field will come on stream, the latter will only supply approximately 50% of our needs initially, a figure that will quickly reduce to 20% after three or four years, which will increase our dependence on imports.


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