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 Header Item Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements (Continued)
 Header Item Priority Questions
 Header Item Renewable Energy Generation Targets
 Header Item Media Mergers

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 931 No. 3

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] It is really important that we understand very clearly that what Europe has supported to date, along with the United States and elsewhere, needs to be kept in situ.

  One may call that whatever one wants: I call it a particular set of circumstances that apply here in regard to Northern Ireland. I would much prefer it if we had greater clarity, which we will not have until the Prime Minister decides, within her rights, to move Article 50. Within the party in the House of Commons, there are those who express frustration over a lack of clarity on the position being put forward by Britain. I hope that comes reasonably quickly.

Priority Questions

Renewable Energy Generation Targets

 34. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if Ireland is on target to meet binding European Union 2020 renewable targets; the fines that will be realised if not achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38773/16]

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Could the Minister set out in the House the position on the binding European Union 2020 renewable targets and the fines that will be realised if we do not achieve the targets that have been set out?

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I thank the Deputy for the question.

  The Energy White Paper, Ireland's Transition to a Low-Carbon Energy Future, published in December last, sets out a vision for transforming Ireland's fossil fuel-based energy sector into a clean, low-carbon system by 2050.

  The EU renewable energy directive set Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. Ireland is committed to achieving this target through meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heat and 10% of transport from renewable sources of energy, with the latter transport target also being legally binding.

  The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, has calculated that 25.3% of electricity, 6.5% of heat and 5.7% of transport energy requirements were met from renewable sources at the end of 2015. The SEAI analysis also shows that 9.1% of Ireland's overall energy requirements in 2015 were met from renewable sources and has estimated that this avoided over €286 million of fossil fuel imports.

  The Government has a range of policy measures and schemes to incentivise the use of renewable energy and although good progress towards the target has been made to date, meeting the 16% target remains challenging. The renewable energy feed-in-tariff schemes support the development of a range of renewable electricity technologies including hydro, biomass combustion, biomass combined heat and power, landfill gas and onshore wind.

  My Department is currently developing a proposed new renewable electricity support scheme and a new renewable heat incentive scheme, designed to assist us meeting our targets. The introduction of any new scheme, including the overall costs and technologies to be supported, will be subject to Government approval and state aid clearance from the European Commission.

  In addition to our onshore wind resource, bioenergy, solar, offshore wind and other technologies may play a role in diversifying our renewable generation portfolio over the period to 2030.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

In the transport sector, Ireland aims to meet its renewable target mainly through the increased use of sustainable biofuels, with electric vehicles also making a small contribution. A further increase to the obligation rate in the biofuels obligation scheme will take effect from 1 January 2017 when the rate will increase to 8% by volume.

  The renewable energy directive provides a comprehensive framework for member states to work towards achieving individual and EU renewable energy targets, including mechanisms for countries to work together such as statistical transfers, which allow member states to meet their targets by purchasing credits from member states that overachieve on their renewable targets. The SEAI has estimated that the cost to Ireland of meeting our overall renewable energy targets other than through domestic measures may be in the range of €100 million to €150 million for each percentage point by which Ireland falls short of the overall 16% renewable energy target. While all options will be kept under review, the focus of my Department is on the implementation of the range of actions set out in the White Paper that will enable our transition to a low-carbon economy.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley I thank the Minister for setting out the background. Yet again, there is a proposal to put a plan in place to reach the 2020 targets. It is the case that the figures reflect relatively paltry growth across the renewable energy sector and even show a 0.2% decrease in the portion of the heating sector powered by renewable sources. It is well recognised across the industry that we have made considerable headway in regard to the generation of electricity but we are very significantly behind regarding transport and the heating sector. I would like the Minister to explain, as best he can, when we can expect to see a plan setting out a method for achieving the targets set out for 2020. In doing so, can he identify for us what the cost will be if we do not reach those targets? The SEAI has estimated that the cost to Ireland may be in the range of €100 million to €150 million for each percentage point by which Ireland falls short of the overall 16% renewable energy target.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I disagree that there has been paltry growth across the sector. In fairness, the Deputy has acknowledged that, on the electricity side, significant progress has been made. I accept that a lot more can be done with regard to both transport and heat. Transport falls within the competency of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, and heat falls within my remit. I hope to be in a position later this month to circulate for the final phase of public consultation the proposal regarding the renewable heat incentive scheme. Our objective is to try, in so far as is humanly possible, to reach the renewable heat target of 12% by 2020. We are determined to push that along.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Tempting as it is to transfer some of the burden to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport – I understand why it might be – there are so many burdens on his shoulders right now, sadly, that I suspect he will not get next nor near the transport sector to address its impact on climate change. It would be helpful if the Minister could confirm the estimate of the SEAI that for every percentage point by which Ireland falls short of the 16% target, the cost to the State in fines will be in the region of €100 million to €150 million. Could he address that? Could he identify in so far as he can – we will be dealing with this in another question – what more he believes he can do in the energy generation sector? Perhaps we will leave that for the next question. Could the Minister address the impact of fines and give us a quantum in that regard? Could he confirm that the responsibility for the impact of the transport sector on climate change rests with himself? The co-operation of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is required, of course, from an overall policy perspective in putting the transport sector into a position in which it can meet its targets.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I confirm that the SEAI has estimated that the cost to Ireland may be in the range of €100 million to €150 million for every percentage point by which we fall short. This does not relate to fines but to having to buy off the shortfall. Whether there will be fines is a completely separate matter.

On the burden on transport, policy responsibility lies with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, not my Department. That said, however, the two initiatives on the transport area have been progressed by my Department. I refer to the initiatives on biofuel substitution and the blending of fuels and on electric vehicles, both of which have been pushed forward by my Department. What I have is overall responsibility for co-ordinating what takes place across all Departments. That is why we will be putting out for public consultation within the next few weeks the draft mitigation plan. It will examine the measures across all Departments to deal with energy reduction and the use of renewable heat. We will be announcing our draft proposals on renewable heat within the next couple of weeks. Therefore, there will be significant movement on many of these aspects over the coming weeks. People will get the opportunity to have an input. I look forward to the feedback of Deputy Timmy Dooley and to making progress thereafter.

Media Mergers

 35. Deputy Brian Stanley Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if he will use his powers to prevent the purchase of a company (details supplied) in the interest of maintaining a level of media plurality here.  [38677/16]

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Members are very aware of the damaging effects of the lack of media plurality and that this is having an effect on our democracy. A threat of legal action is hanging over this House at present. The situation is untenable if the purchase of Celtic Media Group by Independent News and Media is allowed to go ahead unchecked, thus adding more regional newspapers to its empire. The Anglo Celt, the Meath Chronicle, the Connaught Telegraph, the Offaly Independent, the Westmeath Examiner, the Westmeath Independent and the Dublin People would be added to Denis O'Brien's already vast media empire.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten Following approval by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, notification of the proposed merger referenced in the question was received by me as Minister on 21 November 2016. I have 30 working days from the notification deadline of 24 November 2016 to conduct an initial, or phase 1, assessment of the case on media plurality grounds. This examination is guided by the relevant criteria laid out in the legislation and by the guidelines on media mergers, both of which are available on my Department's website.


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