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Kenny, Gino

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Snippet Contents:

Positive. The food is very good.
I have a few issues with this Energy Bill. First, regarding the duration of membership of the board of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, it must be kept in mind that the mission of the authority is to play a leading role in transforming Ireland into a society based on sustainable energy. Given this, I would have hoped the board would comprise a mix of people from different backgrounds, including communities and environmentalists involved in the sustainable energy sector. In fact, the Minister will find it is made up overwhelmingly of people with a background in government, consultancy and law firms and especially from the world of business, including, for example, consultancy firms working for gas and oil exploration companies such as Veolia in the energy sector of Ireland. A board member of Veolia stated in the past: Why does this board have no environmental campaigners or persons outside academic circles with expertise in the area of promoting sustainability?
I am also concerned about the proposed name change for the CER to reflect the economical management of water. The CER facilitates competition in the energy industry; I argue that it seeks to limit the role of State companies and help the private sector in the interests of competition. Would its role in the water sector be similar in theory? Is this to facilitate its role in encouraging future charges and private companies to enter the water industry?
Considering the very strong opposition in this country to any attempt to introduce water charges or the prospect of water services privatisation and the attempts to make a commodity of a precious resource like water, can the Minister understand these small, slight changes ring alarm bells for people that the SEAI is full of businesspeople who in past lives were concerned with making money from water services or oil exploration? Also of concern is the idea that an energy regulator that in the past facilitated private interests in making money from energy generation will now be tasked with encouraging the same competition and profit-making in water services.
I also want to comment on the biofuels obligation levy and what seems to be, again, a minor accountancy change in how the National Oil Reserves Agency, NORA, deals with the companies under the scheme. It is worth pointing to how the scheme, despite its supposed green credentials, actually wiped out many of the small indigenous firms involved in the biofuels sector in Ireland. It was introduced in 2011 by my colleague, Deputy Eamon Ryan, who claimed it would allow "the market ... to find the most efficient way of delivering the volumes of bio-fuel to the market, minimising the effect on consumers and the Exchequer." The market found the most efficient way to deliver profits for some firms, but it did little to put it on the road towards the sustainable and indigenous use of biofuels. The scheme favoured big industry and the importation of biofuels by larger companies and firms. Some 78% of liquid biofuels were imported in 2013. Nothing in the Bill will help to change this or see us invest in a serious manner to produce biofuels locally. Despite some guarantees, the switch to biofuels internationally is having a huge impact on the developing world's poorest, resulting in land grabs and rising food prices in commodities on which poor people depend. Even with a large proportion of transport fuels now comprising biofuels, it has not seen any decline in the overall volume of oil, etc., used; therefore, there has been no reduction in CO2 levels in Ireland. Ireland is still not on target to decarbonise or reduce CO2 emissions. We are already woefully behind in meeting the targets we need to reach to decarbonise the economy in terms of the investment in renewable energy sources and power generation and to hit our commitments under the Paris Declaration.
Is the Minister not concerned about the lack of ambition or vision in the Bill which proposes changes to the energy sector in this country? It is amazing that an energy Bill is brought to the Dáil that does not hint at the serious, catastrophic consequences of climate change and shows no real innovation in how we should tackle this issue, other than making slight changes to the board of the SEAI and the manner in which we audit biofuel use.
On the public service obligation, an issue on which Deputy Thomas P. Broughan touched, it is quite extraordinary that in 2011 the levy was €19.33, excluding VAT. It currently stands at €60 which the commission wants to hike to €90, including VAT.