Thursday, 3 October 2019
Development of a Liquefied Natural Gas Facility in Ireland: Statements
I thank Deputies for participating in this debate. This is a very important issue in that we now need to embark on an accelerated programme of removing fossil fuel from our energy mix. Unfortunately, we are starting from a position, as Deputy Lawless said, where we are north of 90% dependent on fossil fuels. This journey is going to require us to use natural gas. That is the reason behind the advice from the Climate Change Advisory Council that we should continue to explore for natural gas. That is the reason the liquefied natural gas, LNG, projects have been on the European projects of common interest for six years and continue to be a concern. Security of supply of natural gas continues to be a very important European concern.
In the context of the projects of common interest, as I said in my opening comments, I have instructed my officials to ask the European Commission whether the implications of importing LNG, both conventionally and unconventionally extracted, into the European Union have been examined as to the sustainable, secure and competitive energy policy. If not, we have asked that such an examination should be undertaken.
I can also give an assurance to the House that being on the list of projects of common interest confers two benefits. One is the potential for a quicker planning process. As the House knows, this Shannon LNG project is already in its planning process and this benefit does not confer anything fresh on this project. The second potential benefit that this would confer is that this project could apply for funding under the common European funding mechanism. As I indicated in my opening comments, this will come back to the Government for consideration, if such an application is made. I will consider such an application against the backdrop of a review of energy security and sustainability, which I am undertaking. Only if I am satisfied, in the context of that review of energy security and sustainability, would I consider supporting funding for this private sector project.
While this is a European process, which has been under way and on the list for a very considerable period, I would only consider supporting an application for funding if I am satisfied that it represents a correct approach, both in the context of our ambition to move away from fossil fuels and of energy security, both of which are important.
It is important for Deputies to be aware that no country can decide the energy mix of another state. We cannot decide what China's or the US's energy mix is. It is also important to realise that when the UN examines the energy mix of different states, from the point of view of climate, it includes fully within its evaluation any greenhouse gases created by fugitive gases. That must be accounted for within the system.
We cannot, as a country, pick and choose which products we take based on their environmental profile.