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 Header Item National Mitigation Plan (Continued)
 Header Item Other Questions
 Header Item North-South Interconnector

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 959 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten] This continuous review process reflects the broad and evolving nature of the sectoral challenges outlined in the plan, coupled with the continued development and deployment of emerging low carbon and cost-effective technologies across different sectors of the economy. As this first plan moves into the implementation phase, the process will enable it to be amended, refined and strengthened over time and will assist in keeping Ireland on target to meet our obligations.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley The Minister spoke about the Environmental Protection Agency's report of March 2016, indicating that projected emissions in 2020 in Ireland could be in the 4% to 7% range.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten In a 4% to 6% range.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley My reading is they will be 6% to 11% below 2005 levels. As we are supposed to have a 20% reduction on 2005 levels, we will be significantly below that figure, if my numbers are correct. I do not buy the contention that the fines will be somewhat small and irrelevant; they will be significant. It will depend on the cost of carbon credits, but fines may, of course, be very significant. It remains a mystery to me as to how the Government intends to pave the way towards meeting our even more ambitious targets for 2030. This is totally unacceptable and there is a lack of regard for the severity of the climate change challenges we are facing. The Minister now has a public that in the past two to three years has moved significantly towards accepting and recognising the real threat posed by climate change. We have seen various weather events, most recently in County Donegal and previously in the Minister's area and mine along the River Shannon. We have the potential to get a public buy-in, but yet again the Department and the Government are way behind on the matter.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The Deputy had an initial statistical point. The previous EPA projection indicated that emissions would be between 6% and 11% below 2005 levels. The target is a 20% reduction. I am saying the projection is now worse as the current figures from April 2017 indicate that the range will be between 4% and 6% below 2005 levels. I wish they were between 6% and 11% as that would be a far more positive position, but they are not. Ireland is projected to cumulatively exceed its obligations by between 11.5 megatonnes and 13.7 megatonnes carbon dioxide equivalent between 2013 and 2020, but it is not at all positive. These are the projections in respect of the 2020 target for carbon emissions.

With regard to energy targets for 2020, the overall objective is to reach a 16% reduction figure. Based on the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland's analysis, there is a 9.4% reduction. We expect, at a minimum, to be at a figure of 13.2%. The intention is to get it to between 15% and 16%.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley If the Minister is to make any meaningful progress towards reaching our targets, we need a plan and action. I get where the Government is when it speaks about the mitigation plans being an organic document.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten To which target is the Deputy referring? Is it the 20% or 16% figure?

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Both. The Minister knows the decisions he must take in order to move the public. It requires much greater incentivisation to move people into electric vehicles, which will to some extent address some of our issues. We are way behind in the deep retrofitting of homes on the heating side. We may miss our target for the use of renewables in the electricity sector. There is still a very considerable way to go. The Minister has overall responsibility and said in the past that there are issues with certain Departments and that he cannot do it all on his own. We need some serious action and movement if we are to avoid paying significant fines.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The big risk with regard to paying significant fines is in not reaching renewable energy targets. I am confident that we will reach our electricity targets and the projections available to me indicate that we will reach a figure of 40%. It is important to remember that we are the global leader when it comes to supplying variable and renewable electricity on the grid. Currently, we can take a 60% loading of variable electricity, mainly produced from wind energy, which by the start of next year will go to 65%. Nobody across the globe has come anywhere near what we are doing on an isolated grid and we will be up to a figure of 75% by 2020. The renewable heat incentive scheme will significantly progress us towards the 12% target. Transport has been challenging and the target for 2020 is 10%, which is legally binding. It is not just about electric vehicles; it also concerns biofuel blending, on which we are engaging in consultation. We will get quite close to the targets and are determined to try to push as hard as we can to get to them. The Deputy is right in that there are potentially significant penalties that could occur or recur if we do not reach the targets.

Other Questions

North-South Interconnector

 27. Deputy Niamh Smyth Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the status of the North-South interconnector project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41712/17]

 52. Deputy Shane Cassells Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten his views on the tendering process initiated by EirGrid to acquire 400 pylons for the North-South interconnector project before the independent expert group study has been completed. [41886/17]

 53. Deputy Shane Cassells Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if he will direct EirGrid to cease the tendering process to acquire 400 pylons for the North-South interconnector project pending the outcome of the independent expert group's study.  [41887/17]

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth I ask the Minister the most up-to-date status of the North-South interconnector and to make a statement on the matter.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I am taking Questions Nos. 27, 52 and 53 together.

The 2012 Government policy statement on the strategic importance of transmission and other energy infrastructure states "The Government does not seek to direct EirGrid and ESB Networks or other energy infrastructure developers to particular sites or routes or technologies." On 19 December 2016 An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the North-South interconnector project in Ireland. The decision concluded a lengthy planning process which included an oral hearing completed over 11 weeks from March to May last year. My Department has been involved in one of two judicial review proceedings that have been brought against this planning decision. On 22 August this year the High Court upheld the development consent granted by An Bord Pleanála for the interconnector. A second judicial review is scheduled for hearing later this month.

Following the motions calling for an updated independent study that were passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann earlier this year, I have commissioned two independent studies designed to address the main points of the motions, as well as key concerns expressed by parties opposed to the development of an overhead line. The first is an independent study to examine the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the interconnector. I have approved the appointment of independent experts to carry out this study and their work commenced in August. The consultants are Bo Normark who will chair the group, Professor Ronnie Belmans and Professor Keith Bell.  The independent expert group is expected to deliver its final report by the end of next January. I have also commissioned a study of the levels of compensation provided for land and property owners in proximity to high voltage transmission lines in a European context.​ Work is also under way on this study and its results are expected in the first quarter of 2018.

In September 2017 the ESB published a tender notice for works related to the project, including the design and testing of equipment. These works have very lengthy lead-in times and I understand the procurement process will take a minimum of nine months to complete and can be cancelled at any time. The results of both commissioned studies will be published prior to the conclusion of the procurement process.  In addition, no work will be commissioned during the procurement process. The planning process for the section of the project in Northern Ireland is ongoing, following the conclusion of an oral hearing on 27 February 2017.

Deputy Niamh Smyth: Information on Niamh Smyth Zoom on Niamh Smyth We have not yet had an independent review with support across the Chamber, but the key to any review of this thorny and important matter is public acceptance.


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