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Energy Bill 2016 [Seanad]\Second Stage
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Snippet Contents:

I will discuss the mandate and important role of the Commission for Energy Regulation, CER, particularly in the case of a project very close to my heart in County Kerry, known as the Shannon LNG project. It was initiated in 2006 and involves an investment of €500 million to €1 billion to bring liquefied natural gas into Ireland for the first time. It was going exceedingly well until approximately 2009 when a decision by the CER to implement a new tariff structure for the gas coming through the interconnector across the Irish Sea put it in abeyance. I have already spoken to the new Minister about it and last Wednesday we had a very productive meeting with a delegation from the community, the company, local councillors and Deputies. The project has been designated as a national strategic infrastructure project and the European Commission has awarded it project of common interest, PCI, status which means that it wants it to be built for the reasons outlined in the policy statement of 2016. The project ticks all of the boxes. It would ensure security of supply in a very difficult market, particularly given that we are dependent on gas from a source 4,000 miles away in which the political situation is very volatile. It would provide for diversity in the Irish gas market, connectivity to the global LNG market and have the added benefit of low carbon emissions.
In recent times, following the European Commission's intervention in awarding the project PCI status, the support of Bord Gáis Energy and Gas Networks Ireland has been critical. We are looking not only at importing gas at Ballylongford but also at reverse flowing it through the interconnector to supply gas to the United Kingdom and northern Europe. The project has great potential. The worldwide LNG industry wants to competitively supply the Irish and north-west European gas market through the Shannon LNG terminal. In order for this to happen, the key players are the industry with an investor, Gas Networks Ireland, which owns the network and Bord Gáis Energy which controls the interconnectors. We must all act together.
Coincidentally, the project is mentioned in A Programme for a Partnership Government, which I very much welcome. It states: How does the Government intend to implement this policy statement in a manner that will result in successful investment and job creation in the Shannon region? It is in all of our interests to make the project happen. The regulator, the Minister and the industry have key roles to play and we must work together to get the project over the line. The knock-on benefits for a rural county such as Kerry would be immeasurable. There is immense potential for knock-on industries that would flow from such a development in Ballylongford. There is, therefore, an onus on us all to try to make it happen. In a spirit of co-operation, I ask the players mentioned to get together to get the project over the line.
New wind energy guidelines have been proposed for many years, but deadlines have come and gone. I ask that the new guidelines be published before the summer recess, if possible, or, at the latest, by September to give guidance to the industry. This is critical. An interest in solar energy has emerged. There are a number of projects in my county, one of which has been submitted for planning. Owing to a delay regarding the PSO charge that will be applied to solar energy projects, there is confusion in the industry and people do not know what the benefits will be and whether they should go ahead and develop solar energy farms. The issue must be resolved quickly to allow development in this area.