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Energy Bill 2016 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Continued)

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 911 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten] They also include a transitional provision to allow the regulators to continue operating under the current SEM definition while developing the new EU-compliant market rules in preparation for the going live of the new I-SEM market in late 2017.

  Sections 9 to 16, inclusive, provide for various amendments to provisions in the 1999 Act. Section 9 provides for the service of notices by electronic means or fax. Section 10 provides for timelines for the prosecution of offences under section 6 of the 1999 Act. Section 11 provides for a clarification that reference to "final customer" is inclusive of electricity and natural gas. Section 12 replaces the reference to a monetary amount in the 1999 Act with a reference to a class A fine in line with the Fines Act 2010 and increases the existing penalty provisions for offences in respect of unregistered gas installers and electrical contractors. Section 13 makes minor amendments regarding the terms and duration of the appointment of authorised officers by the commission and provides for the replacement of a penalty provision of £1,500 and up to 12 months of imprisonment with a reference to a class A fine.

  Section 14 provides that the commission may specify in a licence to supply electricity such standards of performance and quality as it determines ought to be achieved by the licenceholder. This places a statutory obligation on the licenceholder to achieve and comply with those standards of performance. Failure to comply comes under the definition of "improper conduct" and is, therefore, open to investigation and application of a sanction by the commission.

  Section 15 provides for the formal closure of the carbon levy account. This addresses the Comptroller and Auditor General's concern that the existing text of the Bill did not appear to provide for the formal closure of the account. Section 16 places a statutory obligation on the CER to produce an energy strategy statement in respect of its energy remit.

  Part 5 relates to amendments to the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002. Sections 17 and 18 are technical amendments. Section 17 provides that "the Act of 2002" is a reference to the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002. Section 18 corrects a typographical error in section 13(1) of the 2002 Act.

  Section 19 amends the text of section 16 of the 2002 Act in respect of licences for natural gas in order to enable the commission to specify in licences such standards of performance and quality as it determines ought to be achieved. This places a statutory obligation on the relevant licenceholder to achieve and comply with those standards of performance, with failure to comply coming under the definition of "improper conduct".

  Part 6 relates to the restatement of Regulation of Energy Market Integrity and Transparency, REMIT, penalties. Penalties for breaches of REMIT are currently provided by way of secondary legislation, namely, SI 480 of 2014, which provides for penalties on conviction of €50,000 for an individual and €500,000 for a body corporate, the maximum limit that may be imposed under secondary legislation. This should be replaced by a more robust and appropriate sanctions model on a par with penalties in neighbouring jurisdictions. Section 20 now allows for increased penalties of up to €250,000 for an individual and up to 10% of turnover for a body corporate.

  Part 7 amends the Sustainable Energy Act 2002. Section 21 provides that any reference in this Part to the "Act of 2002" is to be read as a reference to the Sustainable Energy Act 2002. Section 22 amends that Act in respect of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, board appointments. It removes the requirement that each year on 1 May, the three longest-serving members must retire. Instead, it provides that members may be appointed for a period not exceeding five years, subject to a maximum of ten years. Section 23 obliges the authority to submit its annual report to the Minister within six months of the end of the financial year.

  Part 8 amends the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007 to provide for greater flexibility by the National Oil Reserves Agency, NORA, in the administration of the biofuels obligation scheme. Section 24 provides that a reference to the "Act of 2007" is to be read as a reference to the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007. Section 25 amends that Act by inserting into it a new subsection 43A to provide arrangements regarding the exchange of oil data, which will enable the Department to cross-check data received by it and thereby ensure that all oil importing companies are correctly paying the NORA levy.

  Section 26 provides for a definition of the term "reporting period" in the NORA Act. Section 27 enables NORA to make a determination as to the deadlines to apply to biofuel obligation account holders for submitting the relevant information; the closing date for receipt of applications for biofuel obligation certificates for an obligation period; and the timing and dates within an obligation period for biofuel obligation account holders to apply for certificates.

  Section 28 removes the specified deadlines for NORA to issue notices and provides that NORA shall make a determination specifying the date by which it will issue a statement on any revised deadline and that this shall be published on its website. Section 29 amends the 2007 Act to increase the deadline under section 44 from 35 to 75 days.

  The final Part of the Bill is Part 9, which provides for miscellaneous amendments to existing legislation. Section 30 amends subsection 72(4)(b) of the Registration of Title Act 1964 to clarify that existing telecommunications deeds of easement shall have the same legal effect that section 72 of the Act already confers on deeds of easement for gas pipelines. Section 31 provides for the correction of a typographical error in section 6 of the Continental Shelf Act 1968.

  I ask the House to note that I intend to table a number of amendments on Committee Stage to include further amendments to the Registration of Title Act 1964 and some minor amendments to the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 and the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002. These amendments relate to the Galway-Mayo pipeline.

  I have outlined the main provisions of the Bill and provided additional detail on the sections. I hope that this level of detail and my description of the background to the four particular elements of the Bill will be of some assistance to Deputies in drafting amendments to its provisions. Even reading out the various sections shows that this is complex legislation. As I have told Members privately, my officials are available to them to assist in drafting whatever amendments they may wish to introduce on Committee Stage. I look forward to an informed and meaningful debate and to working constructively with Deputies from all sides of the House. Their input will help in advancing and improving the Bill's individual provisions.

Acting Chairman (Deputy John Lahart): Information on John Lahart Zoom on John Lahart Deputy Dooley has approximately ten minutes but I understand that he will be sharing time. What does he propose to do with it?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley My intention is to pass on to the next Deputy, if I do not use all of the ten minutes.

I thank the Minister for introducing the Bill, the main provisions of which Fianna Fáil supports. It entails amendments to the energy Acts and a strengthening of secondary legislation. We welcome this. The Minister stated that this Bill was just a broad outline of how to address climate change but I hope that the House has an opportunity in the near future to address that important issue. A consensus is emerging among the State's citizens of the importance of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

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