Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Shannon LNG Project
Pat Rabbitte (Minister, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Dublin South West, Labour)
I thank the Deputies and I share their concern to grow employment in Kerry. However, Deputy Griffin is essentially asking me to ignore the statute, and the other Deputies seem to concur. Perhaps the House should take greater care when passing a law like this, but the House passed the law and Deputy Griffin is asking me to break the law. I cannot do that, but within the constraints imposed on me by the law, I have done everything that is humanly possible to mediate the earliest possible outcome to this issue. We would have had an outcome, as promised by the regulator, last autumn. However, for reasons that it explained at our meeting on 21 December, the company decided to appeal to Europe against a decision that was not yet made and as a result, disabled the issuing of a decision last autumn.
At our meeting on 21 December, the Taoiseach, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Deputy Spring met with the promoters and the American representative. They asked for a forum and they are getting a forum. It is normal practice for the regulator to publish this kind of paper in advance. Let the stakeholders go along to that forum for however long it lasts and let them effect the changes that are deemed sensible.
Under the regulatory regime, once utilisation of the interconnector decreases due to new sources of supply, the price per unit of gas transported through the interconnector will increase. Therefore, in addition to its consumer protection remit, the regulator also has a competitiveness and a security of supply remit. Whatever regime is put in place for the interconnectors, it is important for all stakeholders that it should be fit for purpose. In other words, there was a huge investment by the State in the interconnectors between here and the neighbouring island. We cannot strand those assets. They have to be remunerated. The final sentence of the executive summary to the paper published by the regulator reads:
The CER has concluded that the current regulatory treatment of the BGE gas interconnectors with GB will no longer be fit for purpose when new sources of gas come on stream. [It is referring to the Corrib and to the LNG project in this regard] If the system is unchanged, it will result in significantly higher gas tariffs to all gas customers, and will distort efficient economic signals for the future use of the transmission system.
It is the job of the CER to address such issues. It is the task of LNG and other interested parties to attend the forum and influence the ultimate decision. The CER has produced a draft decision, that is all.
I understand the concern that exists in Kerry with regard to jobs. Interest in this issue is whipped up every so often. I assure the Deputies that there is no lack of engagement in respect of this matter. I have pushed the law to the boundaries. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Deputy Deenihan, and Deputies Spring, Griffin, Martin Ferris and Tom Fleming are all interested in this matter. I understand that but I am constrained with regard to how far I can go. I hope that on this occasion the regulator will be permitted to do its job and bring the issue to finality.