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 Header Item Energy Security (Continued)
 Header Item Renewable Energy Generation Issues

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 812 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte]  I agree with the Deputy that our people generally take for granted that there is no need to be concerned about energy security. They presume that, when they plug in kettles in the morning or turn on switches at night, there will be light and that the kettles will boil. Energy security must be a concern. Yesterday, I met the National Oil Reserves Agency, NORA, the body responsible for the acquisition and storage of critical oil supplies to meet our 90-day target. It has made tremendous progress in recent times, with 71% of oil stocks being stored in this jurisdiction for the first time ever. Even five years ago, that figure was 43%. Gradually, NORA has built up to 71% of our critical oil stocks needs being sourced in this jurisdiction.

I do not trivialise the question. This is a serious issue, but people would only acknowledge it as being critical if it arose.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan With the new Paul O'Connell adverts, this matter is under discussion. People are of the opinion that the supply is endless. There should be an awareness of energy conversation.

A figure was mentioned as regards oil and so forth. The Minister has met various stakeholders. According to the ESB, 40% of its usage was from wind energy at one stage in its production. Can this figure be sustained or does it reflect a low usage point? If it is accurate, is a long-term strategy possible?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte There is a limit technically on what the grid can take. The overall target is 40% from renewables, meaning wind in the main, by 2020. I am unsure as to the proportion in the case of the ESB alone, but the extent of reliance on renewables will gradually grow between now and 2020.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan Is it not a fact that, at one point-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I am sorry, but we have gone way over time on this question. I must move on.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan -----40% of energy usage was-----

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte From renewables in terms of generation.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan Yes.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I would be reluctant to agree with that statement without checking it, but I will check it and communicate with the Deputy.

Deputy Michael Moynihan: Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan I thank the Minister.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Off the top of my head, most of the power generation stations would not seem to bear out that statement.

  Question No. 11 answered with Question No. 7.

Renewable Energy Generation Issues

 12. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he is satisfied that the ocean energy development unit, OEDU, which has been reduced to two part-time staff, can adequately support indigenous Irish wave energy developers.  [34276/13]

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I thank the Ceann Comhairle for facilitating the Deputy. I am sure that she will remember him at Christmas.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We have just two minutes left.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Wave and tidal energy technology is still at the research, development and demonstration stage globally. Ireland has a rich ocean resource and significant potential in this regard. In order to take forward the ocean energy strategy, the OEDU was established in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, in 2009. This unit has been taking forward the development of the sector through administration of a prototype development fund of grants for industry. The SEAI has also been progressing the development of a full-scale grid-connected wave test site near Belmullet, County Mayo, which would complement existing wave testing facilities such as the wave tank in Cork and the quarter-scale wave testing site in Galway Bay.

  The Government recognises the potential of our indigenous wave energy resource and the research and development and job potential in this area. In the context of overall reducing budgets, the capital allocation for the ocean energy programme was increased to €5 million for 2013, bringing the cumulative amount of expenditure on ocean energy in the period 2009-13 to almost €21 million. The offshore renewable energy development plan, which will, inter alia, address resources for the sector, is being finalised and will be published following approval by the Government.

  In terms of staffing, my Department and all of the agencies under its aegis must operate within the employment control framework put in place by the Government with the aim of reducing public sector employment numbers over time. To assist this process, workforce action plans are used to match resources with business policy needs. Staff allocation within the SEAI is in the first instance a matter for the chief executive in the context of the agency's workforce action plan.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly The Minister used to have four full-time staff working in this area, but now he is down to two. They also have other responsibilities, resulting in telephone calls and e-mails on the issue of ocean development not being answered.

There is potential, but large multinationals have their eye on the resources off our shores. Meanwhile, small developers have spent hundreds of thousands of euro of their own money to develop protocols and prototypes, but they have taken that work as far as they possibly can. Should the Minister not bring these small organisations together and work with them, perhaps under the auspices of the ESB, so that we can harness the potential for Ireland's economy instead of allowing the benefit to be hived off to the multinationals? I understand that large Australian multinationals are interested in the development off Belmullet. Would we not be better off supporting our small, indigenous companies?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Wave and tidal energy technology is still at the research stage. Notwithstanding the economic constraints on the Government, we have managed more than to keep the programmes alive. Given our current circumstances and the impact of some of the adjustments that must be made, not everyone would agree that wave and tidal technology ought to be a priority. I agree with the Deputy that wave and tidal energy research could be important for this country. Some international experts affirm the view that we have considerable potential in this regard.

It is true that staffing in the SEAI was reduced from 72 to 55. This is typical of the reductions in staffing that have taken place in various public sector organisations throughout the country, leading to well in excess of 30,000 public servants no longer being in employment in the public sector. We know the history of that and I do not want to go back over it.

However, we have spent €21 million in this area and we have valuable projects extant and being supported. Last week, the Taoiseach turned the sod in Ringaskiddy on the Beaufort Laboratory. This will support the Irish maritime and energy resource cluster, IMERC, facility, which is performing leading edge work and innovation in conjunction with the navy and University College Cork.

We are managing to keep these initiatives afloat, if the Deputy will forgive the pun. Doing so is extremely difficult, given the economic circumstances in which we find ourselves.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I am afraid that our time has expired.

  Written Answers follow Adjournment.


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