Wednesday, 29 June 2022
EirGrid, Electricity and Turf (Amendment) Bill 2022: Committee and Remaining Stages
On expenses, what is the overall capital envelope that is being set aside by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to this? Can the Minister give us an indication of the type of cost we are looking at?
Second, has an assessment been carried out of the potential for using energy efficiency measures to reduce overall demand? What sort of an impact would that have on the overall load on the grid?
I think there has been an accounting mechanism for moving moneys from communications, as I understand it, to energy. Will the Minister outline the detail of that? How much will it be and how will it be progressed? Will it be through a Supplementary Estimate perhaps?
In addition, we hear the PSO reduction on residential bills will be in the region of €75. Has the Minister estimated the impact of the cost of the full suite of these proposals? What will be the impact of the additional generation capacity on the deficit side for residential bills?
I would also like to have that information. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, has estimated that as a result of the measure of providing 450 MW of energy, the actual cost on domestic bills will be €40 per bill. Yesterday in the Chamber I asked the Minister to indicate whether that 450 MW was the total of what will be supplied. What is the potential full cost that could be added to domestic bills? It appears that while the Government may be reducing the PSO levy and saying it is making savings - according to the statements yesterday, these savings will be applied to domestic bills – it will also be incurring this additional charge. There needs to be full transparency on exactly how much of that will land in people’s domestic bills. The fact that we are debating Committee and Remaining Stages and Deputies still do not have this information is completely unacceptable given that we are talking about public expenditure amounting to hundreds of millions of euro.
I apologise for being inadvertently late.
To answer Deputy Naughten and others, we have estimated that a €350 million charge from our Department's Vote to EirGrid this year is the likely expenditure. There may be some further cost but we will not know that until all the contractual arrangements are in place. We cannot be specific because contract negotiations are ongoing as we speak. As he is a former Minister, Deputy Naughten will know we do not want to undermine the State's ability to get the best value for money.
We also have to remember that, in many ways, these 450 MW are providing what we would have provided had our auction process in recent years delivered a very similar quantity, in a sense, and that process would have borne a similar cost. I do not believe it is providing a significant additional cost on the public because this is equipment we knew we needed. We were just unfortunate in the auction process. We wanted to deliver similar open cycle, fast reaction, derivative-type generators. These were bid for and we succeeded in the auction process, but they were subsequently not delivered for a variety of reasons, including delays in the planning system and suppliers and power generator manufacturers not being able to meet the commitments they had made - there were a number of different reasons. To a certain extent, this cost could have been borne two years earlier, preferably, and we would have much preferred had the auction process delivered what we had expected it to deliver.
With regard to the cost on the household at a particular time, that will depend on the final contract price with the operators, and a number of operators are potential providers of this equipment. As I said, we have to have a contract with the purchaser of the equipment but also with the generators and developers, so we will know the full final cost only at that stage. However, the estimate we have today is less than the one mentioned by Deputy Whitmore. It is a smaller number and is, in effect, a fraction of the €75 per household we estimate households will benefit from the PSO, which had not been expected. It is one of the few benefits or upsides from the high price of electricity we are experiencing at the present.
I want to come back to the question of which Vote the funding is coming from and under what heading. I understand the Minister will present before the Committee on Transport and Communications for this reason. Is this for the full €350 million that is estimated? What impact will that have in regard to the communications budget and from where is this money coming? Are there projects that would otherwise have been delivered that will now be underfunded? Will the Minister clarify those points?
On that point on the €40, I asked the Minister of State yesterday and it would appear the CRU has also undertaken to procure an additional 200 MW, which it has already done. Two questions arise. Will that 200 MW equate to approximately €20 on each domestic bill as well? How was that 200 MW procured in the absence of this legislation?
In response to Deputy O'Rourke, I expect it will be a single Supplementary Estimate that we will bring to the Dáil, and it will be to Vote 29 of the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications. That capital is then provided to EirGrid to be able to place the orders and, in turn, for it to enter into contracts or to sell on the equipment to developers.
The key thing is that it will be in place in October 2023 for the winter of 2023 to 2024. I apologise that I missed the debate yesterday as I was at the European Energy and Environment Council in Luxembourg but I am sure the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, made the case. This is different from the procurement of those 200 MW of other capacity. We started the process of engaging in procuring that 200 MW of generation units a year or a year and a half ago and it will take almost two years. It had been subject to legal challenge but any procurement process would have taken a similar two-year period. This approach is quicker and we would look to see the units up within a year or a year and two or three months through a purchase arrangement, rather than a procurement arrangement, as such. The main reason we decided to take this approach is that we expect our particular tight spot will be in the winter of 2023 to 2024, so to have it in place in October was the key measure.
As I said with regard to those procurement units, if we add the two together, the sum is 650 MW, which is what we need. I expect there will be further recoupment for the public and for the Exchequer in that it is a short-duration contract for three to four years, or three to four winters. After that, having been paid back through a charge, which will be the mechanism of paying for the developers, a resale value, which we have not taken into account in some of the figures that have been mentioned, will be netted back to the householders in line with any residual value. I expect there will be a residual value. From talking to my European energy colleagues yesterday, they are all in similar boats, whereby they are ramping up renewables massively and realising they will need open cycle, flexible generators to back up that. I expect there will be a very good market in this country or, if not in this country, in other markets for the equipment to be resold, and that would recoup some of the cost to the public.
I move amendment No. 1:
In page 4, line 35, after “thereto” to insert the following:
“, with priority given to renewables, zero or low carbon electricity generation options or those most easily retrofitted into zero or low-carbon alternatives in the future”.
What I want to do in this amendment is to ensure there is a commitment to consideration of the types of technologies that EirGrid is going to enter into agreement on and procure, and that there should be a prioritisation for technologies that are either renewable, zero carbon or low carbon, or can be transitioned into low carbon alternatives. The point is that they are adaptable and there is a prioritisation within the procurement process. I do not see that elsewhere in the Bill. It is very important that the decisions we make now will bake in emissions into the future. We want to have these technologies. We recognise there is a crisis and we recognise time is important in this regard, but we also need to have an eye on the technologies, so they are zero carbon, low carbon or adaptable into the future.
Priority is being given to renewables and that will make up 80% of our electricity generation capacity by the end of this decade. I am convinced of that. We have to do that to meet our climate targets but there is also the comparative competitive advantage that we have in renewables. We also know it requires backup that is open and flexible, particularly gas plant and combined cycle gas plant, in likelihood, to allow us to balance that. In periods when the wind is not blowing, we need to have backup capability. This specific legislation and these contractual arrangements are to provide exactly that. We are talking about a three-year to four-year time horizon for the use of the equipment. I do not believe that, within that timeframe, we would deliver, for example, anaerobic digestion and methane gas that could be used or, indeed, green hydrogen which would meet the criteria. Nonetheless, having talked to some of the suppliers around the world who sell this equipment, the sort of equipment we will be looking at will be hydrogen-compatible so that, in the future, as I said, particularly if there is a resale beyond a certain period, they could well switch to being zero carbon generators. Where we were able to manufacture and produce that green hydrogen, it could be used in these machines to varying degrees, depending on the particular machine.
Nothing in this impinges on, restricts or holds us back from our renewables ambitions. If anything it allows us to meet them. These machines will run very infrequently. They are only a last resort. When all units have been used and there is still insufficient capacity in the system, that is when these machines will be used. I cannot accept the amendment because, as I said, the purpose is to contract machines such as this which will, potentially, run on diesel or gas. In fact, there are ongoing discussions on possible sites. Several of them will possibly be run on distillate diesel. I do not believe we would provide zero-carbon biofuel distillate or zero-carbon hydrogen gas in the three- to four-year timeframe that is ahead of us, so I am afraid I cannot accept the amendment.
Within those considerations, and as the Minister of State, Deputy Ossian Smyth, said last night, some may be distillate and some may be gas, all things being equal, the State and EirGrid must surely go for the lower emissions alternative. I hear the Minister's point but it is important to state that the lower emissions alternative must be given priority, and if there is an option to go for hydrogen-ready or technologies that are adaptable, they need to be given priority. Otherwise the decisions the State and EirGrid are going to make will bake in significant challenges for us, regardless of who has ownership of these technologies in the years ahead. I restate that position. I will not press the amendment. I hope the Minister understands my concerns in regard to it.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 4, after line 37, to insert the following: “(c) place a moratorium on connections to the national grid by high energy users such as data centres,”.
I will start by expressing utter disgust at what we heard here yesterday from the Chairperson of the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action, Deputy Brian Leddin. He accused us, who expressed concerns about the proliferation of data centres and the impact these have on the national grid, of using sensationalist tropes, that we were being populist and did not know what we were talking about. He was disgraceful. If that is the position of the Green Party, then shame on it, because all the evidence points to us being correct about this. If he accuses us of using sensationalist tropes, will he say the same about CRU and EirGrid? A statement made by CRU says:
EirGrid has estimated that the data centre demand will be a key driver for electricity demand in Ireland for the foreseeable future.
Information provided by EirGrid shows that data centres are the largest demand driver out of all the demand by connected customer groups. The rate at which data centres seek to grow their load is unprecedented in Ireland. Over the last 4 years EirGrid have seen annual increases in demand usage of about 600 GWh from data centres alone - equivalent to the addition of 140,000 households to the power system each year. This contrasts starkly to demand growth in other sectors outside of the data centre industry.
I could go on. These are publicly available statements from EirGrid and CRU. I notice from information in The Irish Times and other publications that, since May, there is a de facto moratorium on data centres.
We have a problem, however, because there are existing agreements with data centres to connect them to the national grid:
EirGrid has outlined that Connection Agreements are already in place for over 1,800 MW ... for data centres ... Ireland has a current demand peak of around 5,500 MW.
We are seeing the unprecedented growth in the demand from data centres. To demand a moratorium on this be built in to the legislation is nothing but pure sense. What was said to us here last night was absolute nonsense by the Minister of State. I hope the Minister does not repeat it today. In fact he lied - I should say he misled the public - because he said no permissions have been given in the past two years. That is not the point. The point is there are connection agreements committing us to the level of power usage I have quoted that have to go on the national grid because the agreements have been made.
Is the Minister trying to tell us that data centres are not going to soak up the majority of this extra power being bought in? If that is not the case, will the Minister show us what is going to soak it up? No excuse about the war in Ukraine or the energy crisis or anything else will wash away what is actually happening here. I want to push this amendment very strongly so that we place a moratorium on connections to the national grid by high energy users such as data centres and start looking after people and their needs. If there is a threat to the power in the winter of 2023-24 it is not because of householders, schools or hospitals, or even other aspects of industry. It is purely down to this crazy, insane proliferation of these high guzzling energy consumers. The Minister has done nothing about it and it really needs to be addressed in this Bill.
I echo many of those comments and sentiments from Deputy Smith. We have an amendment grouped with this. I entirely agree that the suggestion that data centres are not a significant part of the issue is complete spin and nonsense. It is disingenuous for anyone to make that statement. In fairness to the Minister of State who was here last night, he pointed to three main reasons we are where we are. One was the non-delivery of previously contracted capacity. We have heard from CRU. CRU had lessons to learn. There should be some investigation into CRU and how it has failed to deliver that capacity and has underestimated demand by almost a factor of four. There are questions to be answered in that regard. Again, this is an issue within the control of Government.
The second point was increasing electricity demand. From where is a significant amount of that increase in electricity demand coming other than data centres? We know that data centres increased their demand by 144% between 2015 and 2020. That figure is from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, not made up by the Opposition for some political reasons. In 2021 alone, data centre demand increased by a further 32%, which puts their usage at about 14% higher than the entire demand from residences in rural Ireland and a significant percentage of all residences in Ireland, including in urban spaces. Data centres are a central part of the consideration.
How we have ended up in this position is a complete misalignment, a failure of policy to match demand with supply. We have runaway demand championed by Governments. Whatever hope we had for a Green Party in government calling a halt and trying to introduce some sense on the issue, we can put paid to after what we heard last night. Going by the Dáil record, the greatest cheerleaders for this data centre policy are among high levels within the Green Party. That tells us everything we need to know about that party.
The amendment we have submitted calls for a pause until such time as the State makes its mind up about what role data centres are going to play, where they should be, what is a reasonable demand to put on our State relative to others, and what role if any they can play in balancing the energy grid. This is about ensuring we have a supply that can match the demand and that does not run the risk of bringing us to a cliff edge or crisis, because this is emergency legislation. Some people tried to deny that last night but it is. It is being rushed through because there is an impending crisis, one successive Governments have managed us towards, and now the Government is seeking the support of the Opposition to bail them out and to look the other way. That is what we are being asked to do.
I ask the Minister to support the Sinn Féin amendment and the others in a similar vein because they make sense. In fact, it is the prudent and sensible thing to do. Our amendment provides for an opportunity to reflect on the current state of affairs and where our energy system might go. We have projections from the Department itself. In March, the Renewable Electricity Corporate Power Purchase Agreements Roadmap was published and it projects the estimated electricity demand in Ireland out to 2030. Residential, commercial and industrial demand stay pretty static between here and 2030 but data centres increase year on year. That is from the Minister's Department, so to suggest this crisis has not been significantly contributed to, if not precipitated, by data centres is a deliberate manoeuvre on behalf of senior figures in Government who should and, I believe, do know better.
I, too, speak in support of this amendment. The Social Democrats had an amendment on data centres as well but, unfortunately, it was ruled out of order. The key thing, however, is the principle of the amendment and I hope the Minister will take on board these discussions.
I was disappointed in the Chairman of the committee and his comments yesterday because a brief Google search or a review of the CRU or EirGrid website indicate very clearly where the blame lies when it comes to this increased demand. It has been stated repeatedly and publicly that the largest demand on our electricity system at the moment is large energy users such as data centres. For the Chairman essentially to deny that was not appropriate and undermines many of the arguments put forward today.
I ask the Minister to ensure his policies and his legislation is evidence-based. The fact he is ignoring the amount of data and the pressures the data centres are putting on our grid is worrying and has led to a situation where he is rushing through significant legislation over the course of a week. The Minister mentioned the reason he was bringing this legislation forward is the existing process was too slow. This issue has been highlighted for quite a while. The Social Democrats had a motion in September of last year highlighting the risk of blackouts and brownouts, and at that stage we put forward a proposal for a moratorium on data centres. We were not saying to ban them. We were saying we should be strategic about where they go, how many we have and how many we approve to operate in the country. We were saying we should be strategic about what commitments and inputs data centres have and how they participate in the grid to ensure they are part of the solution and part of the system and not the problem. Unfortunately, the Government did not take those comments on board last year when it was probably in a better position to deal with this. Now we have a situation where we are rushing through legislation at breakneck speed and leaving many of us in the Opposition with more questions than comments about this issue, which is not acceptable governance.
The Government seems to be taking a "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" approach to data centres. I just do not understand why there is such an emphasis on rolling out the red carpet for them when they are creating such difficulties with our electricity supply, energy security and the cost of grid infrastructure. It is unfortunate the data centre policy promised for quarter 1 this year and again for quarter 2 has not yet been developed, particularly prior to these discussions going through. Why has the policy not been developed? I ask the Minister, in his role, to seek to expedite that policy because it is important the Government develops it.
When I was first elected to the Dáil, one of the problems I saw in how we deal with environmental issues is we tend to compartmentalise. We stick the environment into one Department and that operates pretty much independently of all the other Departments. Unfortunately, that has not been rectified and at this moment there seems to a compartmentalisation even within the Minister's own role. He will put on his environmental, emissions and climate hat and bring forward the legislation and talk about how we need to reduce our emissions. Indeed, yesterday at the committee members, had to discuss and debate the sectoral ceilings, which will be problematic and challenging for every sector. When the Minister has his climate hat on, he is putting forward these suggestions, and then when he puts his energy hat on, he completely wipes out any gains that could potentially be made by proposing a Bill like this. It is like the two do not meet, that there is no connection between the two and the Minister is operating as two separate people. It is a poor way to operate. It will undermine our ability to meet our climate targets.
Will the Minister consider the evidence on data centres and ensure the emergency measure of a moratorium on data centres, for that is exactly what it is, is ingrained in this emergency legislation? When this legislation is complete and there is no need for it as we have the renewable energy, let us then have a debate about data centres, but at this time they are placing far too high a burden on our electricity demand and on our grid for them to be allowed operate carte blancheand get planning in a similar way. Will the Minister consider that?
I will speak to my amendment No. 22. I have heard the comments from colleagues about data centres. As the Minister will know from the records in his own Department, this is something I had been highlighting during my term there back in 2017 and 2018. On foot of that, the then Government published a statement on the role of data centres in Ireland. It had a substantial section in it on the issue and challenges regarding energy infrastructure. The difficulty today is 1 MW out of every 7 MW generated on this island is being consumed by data centres and I think that is set to double if not treble between now and 2030. The fact is the vast majority of the growth in electricity consumption we are going to see over this decade is going to be as a result of data centres. The policy statement adopted by the Government in June 2018 clearly set out a prioritisation that data centres should only go on the grid where the electricity supply is available for them.
It states the connection of data centres that have an employment dividend associated with them should be prioritised, rather than facilitating speculative data centres that, sadly, have been connected to the grid. The difficulty with all of this is the cost of this 650 MW, which is roughly the amount of electricity that is going into the data centres, in the PSO levy will be €40 for every household in the country. That is what they will have to pay to subsidise the generation of electricity going into these data centres. On top of that, they will have to pay the transmission and distribution costs of bringing that electricity into the data centres.
Amendment No. 22 in my name proposes that the Government pass on the cost of supplying electricity to data centres to the operators of those data centres rather than asking families who are currently struggling to pay their electricity bills to pay another €40 to cover the cost of this electricity going into the data centres. In the middle of an energy emergency where families are faced with astronomical costs, it is immoral that they are being asked to put their hands in their pocket to subsidise the electricity going into data centres. I am asking that within 180 days of the passage of the Bill, the Minister bring forward proposals to ensure data centres pay for the cost of their own electricity rather than families being expected to do so.
I was interested in the point made earlier by the Minister in respect of meeting our 80% renewable electricity target by 2030. As he knows, however, EirGrid has set itself a target of managing renewable electricity on the grid of 70% by 2030. It has not budged from that. It only has a plan up to 70%. It is publicly stating that it is working towards a plan of delivering 70% renewable electricity onto the grid by 2030, rather than the 80% which is the Government target. If we are not planning today, in 2022, to manage 80% electricity on the grid by 2030, we will have to come back with further emergency legislation to deal with further crises resulting from the lack of planning. We can see it in the context of the Bill before us. Part of it results from numerous data centres being allowed to connect to the grid. Another part relates to old plants being closed down without backup plants being in place. Part of it is an underestimation of where we were going to be and another part of it is because of the abandonment of contracts by semi-State companies. In spite of all those mistakes and all the people who are being paid significant, through the service fees that are paid through electricity bills, to plan our electricity grid, the Government is now asking every home in the country to pay another €40 each year for the next three years to compensate for the failures that were made in projecting out in respect of electricity demand. Sadly, it is the people who are struggling to pay their electricity bills who will have to do this.
My simple request of the Minister is to let the data centres pay for their own electricity. Any of them that are creating jobs are very wealthy multinational companies that are quite willing to pay the cost of their electricity. We need to put that mechanism in place. Any of them that are here on a speculative basis should cough up as well because they are just out to make a buck for themselves and that should not be done on the back of hard-pressed families across the country. In June 2018, the Cabinet stated in black and white that it would have to consider mechanisms to ensure the PSO levies for consumers were not being burdened with the cost of the additional charges resulting from data centres being connected to the grid. Since June 2018, successive Ministers have failed abysmally to address that issue. That is why families are now being asked to pay an extra €40 to cover the cost of this electricity.
I wish to respond on amendments Nos. 2, 7 and 22 together. Amendment No. 2 proposes the insertion of a paragraph (c) in section 3(1). As regards amendment No. 7, subsection (1) thereof suggests that a moratorium or pause be placed on data centres, while subsections (2), (3) and (4), along with amendment No. 22, relate to the implementation of risk analysis measures and reporting criteria. The management of connections to the electricity grid is a matter for the system operators, namely, EirGrid and ESB Networks, under the rules determined by the CRU, which is an independent statutory body solely accountable to the Oireachtas committee for the performance of its functions. It is important to note that restrictions on the connections of data centres have been introduced by the CRU based on whether a data centre occupant is in a constrained - that is, where energy demand is high - or unconstrained region of the electricity grid. The CRU will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these restrictions to protect security of supply in the coming years.
In addition, under the climate action plan, the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment has committed to reviewing the 2018 Government statement on the role of data centres in Ireland's enterprise strategy to ensure alignment with Ireland's renewable energy targets, sectoral emissions ceilings and climate priorities. My Department is working with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure there is a plan-led and regionally balanced approach to large developments such as data centres, taking into account congestion, existing grid availability and the opportunity to co-locate significant renewable energy opportunities. As transmission system operator, EirGrid is one of the stakeholders inputting to this review. The statement is due for publication in the coming months.
I will respond directly to some of the comments of Deputies, which are welcome. First, Deputy O'Rourke is correct in summarising the reasons we are purchasing this equipment in the way we are. As he stated, the capacity auctions did not deliver. Our system, including some of the regulators and grid operators I mentioned, did not correctly forecast and estimate the scale of power capacity needs we would have. There is also the increase in demand. Those are all components or reasons in the context of the tight electricity market. There are further reasons in terms of low system availability of some of the existing generation units, but those are the three underlying reasons that we have a tight market in electricity and are purchasing this equipment. The Deputy stated there is a need for a review of those various factors. That is exactly the reason I have asked Dermot McCarthy, a former Secretary General at the Department of the Taoiseach and one of the most eminent civil servants in the history of the State, with significant experience, to review and consider what lessons can be learned in the lead-up to us having to make purchases or engage in these contracts.
With regard to the issue of contracting data centres, a new data centre has not been approved since September 2020. That is because, coming into Government, we recognised there was a problem and that there cannot be an open door. As I have stated on numerous occasions in the House, every sector has to play its role in meeting our climate targets. If we had an unabated, unconstrained and no-holds-barred open door policy, that would be reckless and inappropriate. That is not what we are dong, however. There is a different thing in this State. I have seen it on several occasions in my lifetime in the House where the State has breached its contract or word. In the context of the data centres that have been approved within the system, we, as a State, cannot go back on our word. If we were to do so, it would probably increase the cost of electricity for all consumers because people would say the State cannot be trusted in its dealings as it agrees to something one moment but then changes its mind the next.
That is not how we operate.
I absolutely accept the comments from Deputies opposite that the expansion of data centres cannot be allowed to continue in a way that does not allow us to meet our climate targets. I know the data centre companies realise the situation will have to evolve. Critically, in my mind, that needs to be done by way of the provision of planning conditions that would see the use of district heating and the development by centres of their own renewable capacity, as Deputy Naughten suggested, which could, in the way it operates, help to stabilise, enhance and balance our system, as I stated earlier. That is the key thing we need to get right and it often needs to be done quite locally. The biggest constraint on our system is on the grid. If we can have data centres that support the grid in local areas, by varying their demand and using district heating and local renewable supplies, we then start to have a system that helps us to meet our climate targets and provide energy security, rather than counter to that.
Regarding the move to 70% or 80% renewables, Deputy Naughten is correct regarding EirGrid's analysis in its Shaping our Electricity Future roadmap. That was done, as I recall, on the basis of a commitment made by the Government on renewables. It was on that basis that it started on the timeline towards 70%. I have had detailed discussions with EirGrid on this and it is absolutely clear that by being able to achieve 70% renewables on our system, the physics and engineering capability in doing that will allow us to go to a higher target of 80%. It is doing further work on that. EirGrid is world-leading in running an isolated synchronised grid with very high levels of instantaneous renewable generation of up to 75%, which is unprecedented. No other country or grid operator is testing that. We are at the very edge of making it happen. Achieving it is often down to very technical and complex physics issues around how much inertia is in the system and the voltage and frequency stability. Everything EirGrid representatives say to me gives me confidence that in the timeline to 2030, it will be possible to go to the higher 80% target. It is continuing to learn, evolve and develop to make sure we achieve that.
Deputies opposite are correct that demand is just as important a part of the equation as supply. Yes, we need to move away from an unquestioning welcoming of demand. We must make sure demand gives us the capability we need and a balanced system. I do not believe that requires a moratorium on data centres. It requires working with the CRU and EirGrid to support what they are already doing in putting in place the sorts of standards that would require that industry to fit into our electricity plans rather than vice versa. That is what Government policy is and it is what is in place. On that basis, I am afraid I cannot accept these amendments.
It seems there has, in effect, been a moratorium on data centres since June 2020. I understand EirGrid approved 1,800 MW of electricity for future data centres but had applications for 2,000 MW and cancelled all that capacity. That may be a fact but we also know restrictions on data centres are applied only to new applicants. This was confirmed to us by officials from the Minister's Department at the most recent meeting of the climate committee. We have had very little time to deal with this very complex issue. He will be aware that his pals in Friends of the Earth have sent in a series of very sensible questions on everything from how these provisions will operate, the cost to the State, the environmental impact and the risk of lock-in and demand reduction. There is a plethora of questions we have not been able to address because of the rushed nature of the legislative process.
As I said, it has been confirmed by departmental officials that only new applicants will be refused access to the grid. However, there are open, approved and promised connections to the grid in place. Is the Minister trying to tell us that in the case of Grange Castle in Clondalkin, for example, TikTok will not be connected even while it busily beavers away building a massive data centre in the area? I do not believe that for one minute. It will be connected and the extra power provided for in this legislation will be needed to facilitate it.
It is important to note that not everyone in the data centre industry and the global multinationals likes or agrees with what is happening. In response to the de facto moratorium, IDA Ireland has warned that cancelling data centre projects will hold back the country's efforts to become a global business and technology hub. Google has pleaded with the CRU that the moratorium will send the wrong signal about Ireland's ambitions as a digital economy. I am not bringing forward this amendment for the craic or because I do not believe the CRU is, in effect, implementing a moratorium. I believe we need this provision in legislation because the types of Governments that run this country consistently come under huge pressure from global corporations to subscribe to the idea that we must facilitate ever expanding growth in the technology industry. That pressure means more to the Government than the pressure that comes from below, that is, from Deputies in this House and from the needs of ordinary people. That is why I want to push this and see it enshrined in legislation rather than leaving it up to the good sense of the Minister, his Department, the CRU and EirGrid. It needs to be legislated for in order to ensure the pressure from global corporations does not come down on the Government much more weightily than the pressure coming on it from below from ordinary people and their elected representatives.
I am disappointed that the Minister ignored amendment No. 22 and did not address the point I raised. The amendment provides that:
The Minister shall, within 180 days of the passage of this Act, publish a report on the mitigation measures to be taken to minimise the additional impact of intensified data centre activity on the Public Service Obligation levy and network charges for all other electricity customers.
This legislation is taking €40 out of the pockets of every family in this country to pay for the additional electricity required because of the number of data centres connected to our electricity grid. That is on top of the cost that is already there for electricity customers, including families across this country, in subsidising the electricity that is going into data centres.
The Minister is not prepared to address in this House any attempt to alleviate that cost, even though the previous Government took a decision on 7 June 2018 to ensure that would happen. The only answer he can give us here today is, "Well, we are going to carry out a review on that and it is going to be led by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment." I know what the outcome of that review will be. Families will have to dig deeper into their pockets to subsidise the electricity going into major multinational data centres in this country; companies that are quite willing to pay, and capable of paying, for the cost of that electricity. Oh, no, the Government could not ask them to pay for it. Instead, it is saying to families across this country who cannot afford to put food on the table that they should pay an extra €40 for the cost of the electricity going into data centres.
This is immoral and it is a national scandal. I have brought forward two amendments to address it. Amendment No. 22 seeks to deal with the historic electricity that is going into the data centres and which we are subsidising. Amendment No. 9 proposes, as the very least that should be done, that the data centres pay the €350 million-plus it is going to cost, because that is where this electricity is going. It is not going to be used by families across the country. They have not increased their demand for electricity over the past four or five years but they are the ones now being asked to foot the bill for this. It is immoral, it is wrong and it has to be addressed.
I want to put on the record, as I have done before, an issue that is a cause of frustration.
When I raise issues with the Minister or the Department, I am often pointed towards a body at arm's length, whether that is the CRU, EirGrid or some other organisation with responsibility. Especially in the context of the CRU, there is always a line in the response that the body is not responsible to the Minister or the Department, but to the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action. I am a member of that joint committee and I am not satisfied with the CRU's level of accountability in that regard. The other members of the joint committee present can have their say on this subject. For me, that response is a cop-out and I call it out as that.
My amendment provides for an economic, environmental and energy security impact risk analysis, an impact assessment, of current and planned data centres. The Minister is playing with words regarding what has been granted on what dates. Several applications are working their way through the planning process regarding a site in Huntstown in my county. We need to have a real conversation about what is current, what is planned and what will be delivered in economic, environmental and energy security terms. I am not satisfied that the Government is across this issue or that EirGrid, the CRU or any other agency will do it. If past performance is any indicator of future performance, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment will continue to plough ahead with these projects, and other Departments and other Ministers will look around the place. It is completely unacceptable. At the very least, we need a commitment to an impact assessment.
It is true, I am told, but I also hear this when I talk to people in industry, that there is a significant level of connection for the large companies Deputies have mentioned. They provide a great deal of employment, accounting for approximately 50,000 jobs. Much of our tax base is also based on the operations of those companies. That revenue is significant in paying for our social welfare, health, education and other needs. If one talks to representatives of those companies, they will say they see a real connection between the location of data centres and the location of staff. They see it as integral to and a core part of their businesses. Those companies do make that association. That is true.
It is also true that we have passed a climate law and the Government will shortly agree the sectoral emissions targets. This will mean that every sector will have to live within its climate targets. I am certain that will be the determining factor in what we can do. As much as we might like and want further employment or other measures, we will not, as I keep reiterating, have a free pass for any one industry that means other industries will have to do more. I say that because we have such a difficult challenge to face and such a huge leap to make. Therefore, as much as IDA Ireland wishes to encourage further development, and I can fully understand its imperative to provide investment opportunities and further encourage such development, it must be undertaken within a low-carbon calculation.
To mention another point in passing, I am all the more convinced of that point now and not just because of our climate law but also because the general approach and understanding agreed at the European Energy Council on Monday and the Environmental Council at 2.30 a.m. this morning doubles down on that. There is the European Green Deal, the energy efficiency directive, if it is agreed with the European Parliament, which will enter into trilogue discussions in the next six months, the renewables directive and the other Fit for 55 measures. What was agreed in a historic manner at the European Council over the last few days will mean that, similar to the domestic context, climate limits will be the real limits every industry will have to operate within and under. To my mind, that is absolute, cast in iron and clear.
I cannot accept Deputy Naughten's amendment. In respect of the additional reasons the Deputy referred to, one suggested was the impact of the data centres on the PSO levy. As I said, I do not see this as having an impact. Our PSO levy has now, effectively, turned negative. The levy was always a kind of insurance policy to provide certainty for renewable power to be generated. In instances where the cost of electricity, driven by the cost of gas, is above that level the PSO rate falls. I do not see a direct connection between this policy and the PSO levy policy. I do not see that that connection or cost to the householders is in any way affected one way or the other.
Deputy O'Rourke made a valid point. The legislation for the Commission for Regulation of Utilities was written to give direct accounting and responsibility not to the Minister or the Department, but to the relevant Oireachtas joint committee. That is the law that was written down and decided by this House some 20 years ago now in the early 2000s, although I am guessing. Sometimes when we are reading out answers, the Department has to state this fact in any policy debate or discussion because it is a fact. We have to continue to review all these structures and systems but, to my mind, the CRU has served this country well and the independent regulatory system also has real benefits. Real costs can sometimes start to apply when decision-making and regulatory oversight, foresight and control are not independent.
That is for a wider policy debate, not one on this immediate emergency legislation. The CRU is centrally involved. It wrote to me, as the Minister, with its assessment that this power gap exists. The auctions the CRU had organised had not delivered because of the capacity shortfall the commission and EirGrid had not identified and because demand had increased. The CRU is centrally involved in reviewing, assessing and applying to me, as Minister, to start this process. I was happy to respond to that request. We work collectively. This is a small State. Whatever about the debate on the structures, in my experience of twice being a Minister - I am sure it is also the experience of Deputy Naughten, who is a former Minister - Ministers work well with their public servants. These are trusted, skilled and well-qualified public servants. Ministers trust their advice. In this instance, it was the CRU that initiated this process, in conjunction with our Department, in respect of advising and discussing, and EirGrid. All the parties involved worked together as a team of public servants for the State. That is what the legislation provides for, not a wider outcome on what our broader energy policy might be.
To explain to the Minister how the PSO operates, the legislation before us, along with the 200 MW the CRU had already planned to acquire, is going to cost families approximately €40 annually. That is how the cost will be applied through the PSO. It could be in transmission charges, or whatever.
The cost associated with the 450 MW is €27, while the cost of the 200 MW already under way is €12, giving us a total of €39. I apologise, I was €1 out, but that is roughly the cost we are talking about. If that is applied and the PSO is negative, that is €40 less those families will get back. We have stipulated in this legislation that if there is a saving to be made, it would be passed back to families. Ultimately, this money is being taken out of the pockets of families to subsidise electricity going into data centres. That is it in black and white and the Minister should not try to misrepresent it here in the House.
I cannot find the detail now but the CRU has stated that the 400 MW will result in a €40 domestic charge. I will find that specific reference and relay it to the Minister.
The Minister stated it is true that large companies will wish to have their data centres close to where they have a density of staff located. It is also true that data centres see us as a soft touch and have done so for years. This Government has rolled out the red carpet. Essentially, it has told the companies to come in and they will get their planning and electricity connections here, while we will not ask them to do anything or charge them any additional money for their power.
We will not even ask them to put in any energy efficiency measures. All of this is voluntary and, therefore, this country is seen as a soft touch. What I find most frustrating about this whole debate is that for some reason when we enter negotiations with large corporations, we do not stand up for ourselves or our country. We do not make them pay their full share or carry the load they should carry. It is absolutely the case with data centres.
The Minister referred to district heating. I am not sure if he has had a conversation with a data centre operators about district heating but I have and they told me that it is highly unlikely that any data centres will enter district heating schemes because it is very expensive, particularly when the surrounding homes have to be retrofitted. It is not as simple as connecting to a pipe system that will ensure all the neighbouring houses can participate and benefit from the heat generated. Data centres will not do it and they certainly will not if we do not condition them from the very start and we were to put them on a greenfield site and develop them as part of a larger development that included housing, but I do not see that happening. Perhaps the Minister should take a look at the opportunities, or lack thereof, presented by district heating because I would hate for that to form a large part of his thoughts when it comes to data centres playing their part.
The Minister also spoke about how climate targets are set and how we will all have to operate around them. That is true, but when it comes to the burden of meeting climate targets, it is placed on individuals and not on large corporations. We are in a situation where we expect 1 million new electric vehicles to be bought to ease the burden of fossil fuel usage. Electric vehicles are very expensive and will be out of reach for the majority of people in this country, yet they will play a huge part in how we meet out targets.
I am aware the Minister has included retrofitting measures for people on social welfare, but if a person is on social welfare, and not on the lower income bands, it will nearly be impossible for ordinary people to afford to retrofit their home even with the proposed low-interest loan. People are struggling to put food on the table for their children. They cannot afford to take out a loan for €15,000 or €20,000. Yet again, that is a huge part of how this country will meet its targets. We are going to put the burden on individual homeowners to play their part. At the same time, we are asking individual homeowners to do their bit and play their part, and telling them that it will cost them money to do so, we are saying to data centres that they can use as much energy as they want. They can use as much energy as every home in rural Ireland and we will not even charge them for it. In fact, we are not charging them; we are charging those individual homeowners. That is where the difficulty is. The Minister is focusing his demands on individuals and homeowners and he is not asking the large corporations to play their part. I understand that some of the data centres made a proposal that they would be charged extra for their energy demand and they were not taken up on it.
It is costing families. The €40 charge is for the 450 MW. This is not the cost that will go on to people's bills because of the €7 or €8 billion that will be required in grid infrastructure so that data centres can access electricity. We are relying on the fact that we will have all this renewable energy, therefore, it does not matter where that energy is used. However, it will be difficult to meet those renewable energy targets. Once wind farms start going up off the coast, the Minister will find that people will not be as amenable to having the seas completely full of wind farms to facilitate data centre growth on land. I ask that the Minister focuses on where the actual demand is as well as where the biggest changes can be made. It is not through individual homeowners that he will do that. The Minister said that the PSO levy is separate to this charge. Individuals do not care whether the money they are being charged on their bill is as a result of the PSO or an additional charge to pay for this emergency generation. They do not care. All they see is an extra €40 that they have to find somewhere. I ask the Minister to take that into consideration.
Does the Minister deny that this State is an outlier in respect of the percentage of generated power used by data centres compared to other states? The average across the globe is 2% to 4% of the national grid. We are looking at a situation in which 30% of the national grid could be used to feed data centres.
To echo what Deputy Whitmore said, a recent report by the Irish Academy of Engineering stated that estimated data expansion will require almost €9 billion in new energy infrastructure and add at least 1.5% million tonnes to Ireland's CO2 emissions by 2030. The question is who will pay for all of this. First, it will be the environment and, most importantly, the people who are already struggling with cost-of-living difficulties. None of this makes sense. We have not had a chance to examine or drill down on the Bill. The best we can do is make amendments to the legislation that will absolutely guarantee restrictions such as ceilings or date limits. Amendment No. 2 would ensure that the legislation contains a moratorium on any more data centres.
We have an added problem. I wrote to the Department asking how many data centres that already have agreements are due to be connected. The Minister has said that it is not his business; it is for the CRU. I wrote to the CRU and I still have to get an answer. I am not saying that we do not have faith in our public servants, but it is an inefficient way of dealing with democracy. We who have to be accountable for this have to protect the people and exploit the interests of the people we represent. The added cost to people, as well as the damage to the environment that this is doing, is just insane. It is unbelievable that it is being proceeded with.
Perhaps the Minister will address my question on whether Ireland is an outlier in terms of the percentage of power that goes to data centres compared to other countries. Why are we allowing that? Why are we not standing up for what is the right thing to do and insisting that a ceiling is put on it and no more?
Will the Minister come back to the point about the prospect of an economic, environmental and energy security impact risk analysis for current and planned data centres? All the issues that have been raised need to be addressed and such an analysis would be a suitable vehicle to address them.
I will go back to the various points made. In response to Deputy Whitmore, as I said earlier, we are in the middle of contracting and purchasing machines. The public would not welcome if the House were to set a price in the middle of negotiations and, therefore, we do not know what the final cost will be. The assessment from the CRU and others is lower than that quoted by the Deputy. I do not want to be specific or categoric because it will depend on the price of machines acquired. If it were the case that we had an open-door attitude that did not consider the climate or, indeed, the cost to the consumer or network charges and so on, then the Deputy would have a fair point. However, that is not the case in this Government and, in my role as Minister, that is not how I see it.
I do believe, however, that there is real potential for the likes of data centres, if in the future we will be able to contract within our climate-constrained conditions. I believe there is a possibility and will be an essential requirement to move towards district heating and to see the waste heat from data centres as one of the ways in which we could have a heat load source that would provide for future data centres.
As for meeting our climate targets, it is not just about the individual. That is just not true. Our sectoral emissions targets take into account industry, the public service, agriculture, domestic use and transport in every guise. Every single sector will have to play its part and, yes, it has to be a just transition. We have to make sure we protect the people on the lowest incomes as we do this. It is just not true that it is the individual who will have to do everything. Everyone will have to do something.
District heating has a very strong potential role to play. The Tallaght district heating scheme must be almost close to switching on. I was out there recently and it was very far advanced. It has huge potential efficiencies and benefits to local communities, with reductions in carbon emissions. Similar things can, will and should be done into the future. I do not accept this is not possible or that we will not do it. We will do it, and at scale. It will take ten to 20 years, but that is where we need to go.
Deputy Bríd Smith asked, if I recall correctly, if we an outlier as to whether we have a large number of data centres. Yes, we do, and that is a factor of a variety of issues. First, we have a cold climate, and data centres tend to locate in cold climates. It is not just us but more northern regions generally. Management of heat is one of the biggest issues. There is a certain gain in this country because we do not have the high temperatures other parts of Europe have. Also, on the back of State investment and strategic decision-making, we went early in providing very good fibre-optic connectivity, particularly transatlantic and to the UK. That fibre infrastructure and our security infrastructure were critical. A third factor in data centres locating here is the fact that, historically, we have had one of the most stable, most reliable and most secure grids, which is what is needed for any kind of process such as this. I think modern data centres need almost three grid connections into them in order that there is an absolute fail-safe. They cannot be allowed to stop. Looking at the statistics, and this is to the credit of the ESB, EirGrid and others, we have had one of the highest reliability rates in recent years, so we have relatively expensive electricity. That was not necessarily the reason the companies came here instead of other locations, but the security, the fibre connectivity and the fact their businesses had other operations here are some of the reasons we have a very high number of data centres.
Deputy Smith referred to the statistic of 30% in 2030. I do not think that will be the figure but there is no doubt those we have already contracted will see a further expansion in demand for data centres. As I said, we do not, as a State, go back on our word because that would actually cost the Irish consumer more in the end because people would not trust our word in planning or other processes. Then we would be shot and we would be gone as a reliable partner to work with. Therefore, we do not do that. We will not, however, just open the door, have a free-for-all and ignore the need to meet our climate and other targets.
Finally, Deputy O'Rourke's assessment is exactly the sort of assessment the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment will have to do, but it is not just that Department. As I said, climate law here has a real effect and sectoral emissions targets have real impact. We are working with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, not on agreeing moratoriums and saying never again here, but rather, coming back to what I said earlier, on assessing whether we could do this now in a clever way, where we are at the very forefront of managing flexible demand, being really efficient, using district heating, using backup generation in a way that helps the grid and using all these kinds of new developments. My sense is that the companies we are working with now realise that is the way all countries will have to go and that they will deal with a country which is good at that, is upfront and honest about that and puts demands on companies. Going back to what Deputy Whitmore said, we do say to companies they will have to shape up with us as we both learn how to be good in this low-carbon way together. I see that as the best way forward for our State. A review in our climate action plan with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is the right thing to do.
The best way to reduce our emissions is not to allow them to grow in the first place. There should have been some demand management when it came to this growth. The CRU published its security of supply information note on 29 September last year. It states that "450MW of emergency generation would represent an increase in the Transmission System Operator tariffs and electricity transmission tariffs and could translate into a ca €40 overall increase in an average domestic bill for the forthcoming tariff year".
No. That was for 200 MW. This one states that 400 MW in additional temporary emergency generation should be sought to address the remainder of this gap. This was last September. It states that the 200 MW had already been procured, that an additional 450 MW would need to be procured and that the cost of that would be €40.
Will the Minister clarify that? He did say it was around last September that he began negotiations with the CRU on the shortfall. Coincidentally, the shortfall specified in this document is 450 MW, so it seems coincidental that we are discussing a shortfall of 450 MW for this Bill and that the CRU had mentioned a shortfall of 450 MW. If that 450 MW resulted in a €40 increase, one would imagine that any 450 MW would result in same. There will not be a different amount placed on a bill depending on the-----
It is true we have been working with the CRU and EirGrid for some time now, going back to last September or beyond, recognising that we had a power shortage and had to close the gap. However, as for the cost to which the Deputy refers, the approach of using the purchase of open-cycle aeroderivative generation in the way we propose here was not considered until earlier this year, certainly nowhere near last September. I will come back and check that. If Deputy Whitmore shares the correspondence with me, I will check it. To come back to the key point for the household, the figure the Deputy quotes is higher than what we expect the CRU says is the estimated cost. That does not include the potential resale value of the machines, which to my mind will have the potential of clawing back a lot of that cost. Every other European, especially northern European, country is in a similar position for a variety of reasons. They are short on power, and if they switch to renewables they will be using and looking to this sort of open-cycle aeroderivative capacity. I believe that value will go back to the Irish public in the end.
I ask that the Minister seek clarity on this because it does say here it was to deal with the generation gap for winter 2023-24, which is what we are discussing at the moment. The one question, therefore, is whether the 450 MW and the €40 relates to this Bill. If not, then there was another 450 MW procured that resulted in a €40 that is additional to this. These questions are a direct result of the fact the Bill has been rushed through this House and the Oireachtas committee did not have an opportunity to do any pre-legislative scrutiny on it. There are a lot of questions, and I did say that at the start. I ask the Minister to get clarity for me on this because one of the important things we should know and members of Government should know is the additional cost the Bill will mean for members of the public.
Ivana Bacik, Cathal Berry, John Brady, Martin Browne, Pat Buckley, Holly Cairns, Seán Canney, Matt Carthy, Sorca Clarke, Joan Collins, Michael Collins, Rose Conway-Walsh, Réada Cronin, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Pa Daly, Pearse Doherty, Paul Donnelly, Dessie Ellis, Mairead Farrell, Peter Fitzpatrick, Kathleen Funchion, Gary Gannon, Johnny Guirke, Danny Healy-Rae, Brendan Howlin, Gino Kenny, Martin Kenny, Claire Kerrane, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Mary Lou McDonald, Michael McNamara, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Paul Murphy, Johnny Mythen, Denis Naughten, Cian O'Callaghan, Richard O'Donoghue, Darren O'Rourke, Eoin Ó Broin, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Ruairi Ó Murchú, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Thomas Pringle, Maurice Quinlivan, Patricia Ryan, Róisín Shortall, Bríd Smith, Duncan Smith, Brian Stanley, Pauline Tully, Mark Ward, Jennifer Whitmore.
Colm Brophy, James Browne, Richard Bruton, Colm Burke, Jackie Cahill, Dara Calleary, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Jack Chambers, Patrick Costello, Simon Coveney, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, Cathal Crowe, Cormac Devlin, Alan Dillon, Stephen Donnelly, Paschal Donohoe, Francis Noel Duffy, Bernard Durkan, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Joe Flaherty, Charles Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Norma Foley, Brendan Griffin, Simon Harris, Seán Haughey, Martin Heydon, Emer Higgins, Paul Kehoe, John Lahart, James Lawless, Brian Leddin, Josepha Madigan, Catherine Martin, Steven Matthews, Paul McAuliffe, Charlie McConalogue, Helen McEntee, Michael McGrath, Joe McHugh, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Hildegarde Naughton, Malcolm Noonan, Darragh O'Brien, Jim O'Callaghan, James O'Connor, Kieran O'Donnell, Fergus O'Dowd, Roderic O'Gorman, Christopher O'Sullivan, Pádraig O'Sullivan, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Éamon Ó Cuív, John Paul Phelan, Anne Rabbitte, Neale Richmond, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Brendan Smith, Niamh Smyth, Ossian Smyth, David Stanton, Robert Troy, Leo Varadkar.
The time permitted for this debate having expired, I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of 28 June 2022: "That in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, the section is hereby agreed to in committee, the Title is hereby agreed to in committee, the Bill is accordingly reported to the House without amendment, Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."
Ivana Bacik, Cathal Berry, John Brady, Colm Brophy, James Browne, Martin Browne, Richard Bruton, Pat Buckley, Colm Burke, Jackie Cahill, Holly Cairns, Dara Calleary, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Matt Carthy, Jack Chambers, Sorca Clarke, Michael Collins, Rose Conway-Walsh, Patrick Costello, Simon Coveney, Barry Cowen, Michael Creed, Réada Cronin, Cathal Crowe, Seán Crowe, David Cullinane, Pa Daly, Cormac Devlin, Alan Dillon, Pearse Doherty, Paul Donnelly, Stephen Donnelly, Paschal Donohoe, Francis Noel Duffy, Bernard Durkan, Dessie Ellis, Alan Farrell, Mairead Farrell, Frank Feighan, Peter Fitzpatrick, Joe Flaherty, Charles Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Norma Foley, Kathleen Funchion, Gary Gannon, Brendan Griffin, Johnny Guirke, Simon Harris, Seán Haughey, Danny Healy-Rae, Martin Heydon, Emer Higgins, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Martin Kenny, Claire Kerrane, John Lahart, James Lawless, Brian Leddin, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Josepha Madigan, Catherine Martin, Steven Matthews, Paul McAuliffe, Charlie McConalogue, Mary Lou McDonald, Helen McEntee, Michael McGrath, Joe McHugh, Aindrias Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Imelda Munster, Catherine Murphy, Johnny Mythen, Hildegarde Naughton, Carol Nolan, Malcolm Noonan, Darragh O'Brien, Cian O'Callaghan, Jim O'Callaghan, James O'Connor, Kieran O'Donnell, Richard O'Donoghue, Fergus O'Dowd, Roderic O'Gorman, Darren O'Rourke, Christopher O'Sullivan, Pádraig O'Sullivan, Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Éamon Ó Cuív, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, Ruairi Ó Murchú, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, John Paul Phelan, Maurice Quinlivan, Anne Rabbitte, Neale Richmond, Michael Ring, Eamon Ryan, Patricia Ryan, Róisín Shortall, Brendan Smith, Duncan Smith, Niamh Smyth, Ossian Smyth, Brian Stanley, David Stanton, Robert Troy, Pauline Tully, Leo Varadkar, Mark Ward, Jennifer Whitmore.