Thursday, 16 November 2023
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
1. To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the date on which the energy security review and the McCarthy report will be published; if both have been presented to the Cabinet; how the environmental impact of proposed energy security options will be assessed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [50447/23]
When will the energy security review and the McCarthy report be published? Have they been presented to the Cabinet? How will the environmental impact of proposed energy security options be assessed? I ask the Minister to make a statement on the matter.
The Energy Security in Ireland to 2030 report was published earlier this week, on 14 November, following approval by the Government. The energy package outlines a new strategy to ensure energy security in Ireland for this decade while ensuring a sustainable transition to a carbon-neutral energy system by 2050.
The comprehensive report, which has 24 actions in total, is a roadmap to ensuring a sustainable, affordable and secure energy landscape that balances energy risk and resilience against our binding European and domestic energy and climate commitments. It is informed by six pillars of analysis, including the technical view of the energy security of Ireland's electricity and gas networks carried out by Cambridge Economic Policy Associates. More than 450 consultation responses to this analysis were provided and the independent review on the security of electricity review, carried out by the former Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach, Dermot McCarthy, and known as the McCarthy report, is included.
The energy package integrates energy, climate, enterprise and digitalisation policy ambitions in order that Ireland's energy future is clear and certain. Ultimately, it will ensure our energy system is secure and affordable as we transition to a carbon-neutral future. The four key areas are reducing demand, switching to renewables, creating a resilient system and good governance to oversee this transition we need to make.
It is welcome that we have this comprehensive review. Several proposals it makes are of particular note. With regard to the strategic gas emergency reserve, a report is due in the middle of next year but it seems to be indicated this will take the shape of a State-owned floating storage regasification unit, FSRU, gas reserve. In terms of the assessment of alternatives in that regard, is onshore gas storage an option? If not, why not? Similarly, is it not the case that the Kinsale gas field would serve the same purpose? In the context of this transition period and the overlap between Kinsale possibly coming into use in future for natural gas or hydrogen and this floating offshore facility, does it open the door to Shannon liquified natural gas, LNG, for example?
I appreciate the Deputy's remarks. It is a comprehensive body of work two years in the making. He is right. A significant amount of attention has been drawn to one of the 28 actions, namely, the creation of a strategic gas emergency reserve. I think we are in agreement that it should be State-led. It is strategic. We have to avoid anything that would promote the use of new additional gas that would breach our climate limits. We have to prepare for a world where our gas use is reduced. There is still this interim period where it provides balancing capability with renewables. We have to avoid the damage that would be done to the country if there was a change as a result of a low-risk but high-impact eventuality. We looked at onshore and the Kinsale gas field and took account of a variety of reasons. They would be much more expensive and would not provide the same level of security and risks. In the case of the former option in particular, it would leave a legacy stranded fossil fuel asset. The advantage of the temporary facility is that it can be withdrawn. I expect we will use the Kinsale gas field in future but probably for hydrogen. That is a more medium-term investment decision.
In terms of the timeline for this later report, will this be a floating offshore LNG facility? Does that require a change in legislation or policy? Are there inconsistencies with the approach taken to Shannon LNG? Does this comprehensive document confirm that commercial LNG is not the way forward but, rather, it should be State-led? On the McCarthy report, does the Minister accept that if we had delivered on the renewables potential and energy generation, the current situation would have been avoidable?
The Government's policy statement with regard to commercial or State-led strategic reserves or facilities stays in place pending the completion of the analysis by Gas Networks Ireland, GNI. It is not ruling out looking at onshore or other facilities but we expect the focus will be on temporary, strategic and State-led FSRU. We need to consider locations and other elements for the delivery of that, as well as the additional legislation that would be needed. It has to be done quickly. It will report by the second quarter of next year. The ordinary timetable for this sort of infrastructure might be five, six or seven years. We have to halve that because this is an interim period and a period of risk. As such, the quicker we can build it, the better.
With regard to the McCarthy report, the Deputy is right. We need to build out renewables quicker but, pending further interconnection and other storage mechanisms, there still would be elements of risk. For example, yesterday was a relatively calm day and this morning is the same. There can be several days in a row of low wind, particularly mid-winter. We need to balance the capability as we develop the storage and interconnection systems, and gas will provide that on those days. Even with those traditional renewables, we will still have to close the risk.