Tuesday, 20 April 2010
Energy Security: Motion.
Andrew Doyle (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
I thank Deputy Coveney for tabling this motion. The need for it is borne out of both frustration and necessity. We have a major dependence on imported fossil fuels, which constitute a finite resource. Ireland is at the end of the supply chain, regardless of whether it is importing such fuels from the east or the west.
The original programme for Government that was published in 2007 included provision for the establishment of a Cabinet sub-committee on climate change and energy security and of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security, of which Deputies Coveney and McManus and I are members. The joint committee has made progress in respect of various initiatives, particularly those relating to electric vehicles, the heads of a Bill on climate change and a foreshore licensing Bill, which was presented to the Government approximately one year ago. The latter Bill, which appears to have become lost between two or three Departments, puts forward a proper plan for offshore alternative energy projects to be licensed and allowed to proceed without environmental impact statements being obtained for each one. The legislation in question is progressive and enjoys the support of all parties. Since it was sent to Government it has been left to languish in one of the Departments but I am not sure which one.
I wish to concentrate on microgeneration, particularly the area of biogas. In March 2008 the European Parliament adopted a resolution - in the form of an opinion, rather than a proposal for legislation - on sustainable agriculture and biogas and the need for a review of the relevant EU legislation. It was stressed at the time that, in the long term, renewable energy sources such as biogas and biofuels, together with solar and wind energy, offer the possibility of enjoying a higher degree of independence from the fossil fuel industry.
One of our main issues with the Minister and his colleagues in the Green Party is that they are focusing on the area of agricultural emissions as a high percentage of our total emissions. By adopting anaerobic digestion, for example, it is possible to mitigate huge amounts of the methane emissions from the agricultural sector by harvesting and harnessing the energy produced from said methane. The joint committee received a presentation on this matter and recommended to the Minister that the renewable energy feed-in tariff be brought into line with that of Europe and that it be index linked. As far as I am aware, the joint committee has not yet received a response to its correspondence on this matter.
We set aside €50 million in 2009 in respect of the provision of carbon emission fines. That is a complete waste of money. We could have invested the money in developing a smart metering system or facilitating a review of the planning regulations in order to support the development of microgeneration. We could have used those funds in a much better way. The policy that is currently in place is moving us towards a 20% renewable energy resource but we are not planning for this.
I wish to provide a simple example in this regard. Some 40% of the expenses incurred by those involved in horticulture who use glasshouses arise as a result of energy requirements. These people have a huge biodegradable waste facility at their disposal but there is no capital investment on offer to them in order that they might develop microgeneration and anaerobic digestion projects. The latter could meet most of their heating costs and thereby reduce the overall cost of producing fruit and vegetables. This would allow us to compete, to retain jobs and to supply Irish-produced fruit and vegetables to supermarkets rather than importing them from Spain and elsewhere.