Seanad debates

Thursday, 24 January 2019

10:30 am

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

It does not matter.

The idea of schools is good. There is an issue with low occupancy, which the Senator acknowledged by saying schools would need the capacity to sell solar power back to the grid. It is similar to the issue of the role of microgeneration that arose time and again. A microgeneration pilot is in place and there has been considerable uptake, but we need to develop a permanent, clear pathway to microgeneration, which is not in place. To be fair, many renewables are on the grid. Although 30% of electricity is generated by renewables, my ambition is to double that, and the most efficient way is by using large producers. If we want to rapidly transfer our grid to renewables, it should not be a case of one or the other, that is, it is not about microgeneration displacing major generation but rather we must use both.

The grid must also be fortified to enable it to take on board that level of renewables. There is a peak limit of 65% on renewables and at present we cannot go beyond that. In order to double the level of renewables on the grid, we need to push the limit to 85% or 90%, which will require the grid to be fortified. When renewables go down, there will also need to be sources that can be powered up quickly, and it must be done cost effectively. It is not, therefore, just a question of piling in the renewables; we must ensure we can use them. Much work is ongoing with EirGrid in this regard.

I fully agree with Senator Marshall that it requires working across silos, which we have not always been good at. It will depend on the oversight model. From my experience, if we did not have the Taoiseach's engaged interest, which I do, it would not work. No Minister with a Ministry of jobs or climate action can deliver changes across the Government without the support of the Taoiseach of the day. The process will hinge on quarterly reports, a demand that actions be delivered on time and accountability to the Taoiseach. That model worked well on An Action Plan for Jobs and I will replicate it with whatever changes are necessary.

I also agree that we need a clear mandate for public bodies; it should not be an also-ran or a second thought. Again, it will be a matter of seeking agreement and we will need support to achieve it, both in the Oireachtas and the Executive.

I fully recognise the work that the Joint Committee on Climate Action is doing, as raised by Senator Lombard. We must design those nudges, carrots and sticks to help people engage with the sort of change that is needed. I also recognise that there is a danger that people in agricultural and rural areas will see it as anti-rural, and we must ensure we bring those people with us and convince them that if they do not develop a decarbonised approach to their sectors and way of life, they will handicap the capacity of Irish agriculture to be competitive in the years ahead. It is not a case of us telling them to do something for the good of Merrion Street but rather is part of a pathway for our community. It will be a challenge and it will require microgeneration, aerobic digesters and other changes that people can buy into. When people motivate themselves to become engaged, there needs to be a pathway to allow them get stuck in. We need to design those measures even though we cannot fund them all, which is a balance that Senators must recognise. I cannot go to the Minister for Finance with a bill for all of this. Senators have said they want action now, and I agree there should be action now, but it is not a matter of finding a large bill in order that the Government can fund all the changes we need people to make. It cannot work that way. We must use nudges, carrots and sticks, engagement, clusters and all the other methods.Interestingly where SEAI has driven clusters, it has had far greater leverage with carbon reduction per euro spent than with an individual grant to an enterprise. Getting that sense of meithil behind this is really important.

Senator Devine said there is no deadline for decommissioning Moneypoint. There is a deadline of 2020-25.


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