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Ireland’s Energy Security is at Risk

8 Apr 2020

Leaked assessment from Attorney General’s office regarding lack of energy security is misleading and inaccurate, say Stop Climate Chaos

Ireland’s largest climate coalition, Stop Climate Chaos, has today refuted the claim by the Attorney General’s office, reported in last Sunday’s Sunday Times[1] that Ireland’s energy security is at risk unless we invest in more gas infrastructure. According to the Sunday Times article, the undated analysis by the AG stated that the Irish state could incur fines if we are found not to comply with European standards for energy security.

Prior to Brexit, Ireland’s security of gas supplies had been assessed together with the UK since we import around 40% of our total gas requirements via a twinned interconnector with Scotland (the remainder comes from the Corrib/Kinsale fields). However, since the departure of the UK from the EU, Ireland is no longer capable of meeting the EU N-1 standard/requirement in isolation from the UK. The article suggests that it would be inappropriate to ban offshore oil and gas exploration and warns that the public might not fully appreciate the risks to Ireland’s energy security.

According to Stop Climate Chaos spokesperson Sadhbh O’Neill,

“The AG’s assessment is wrong and contradicts studies by other leading agencies and experts. It should not influence the public debate about climate action. This leak from the AG’s office does not mean that Ireland needs more gas. It means that the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment urgently needs to file an application with the European Commission for a derogation so that we do not incur fines."

"It also means that the next government needs to act urgently to reduce Ireland’s dependence on fossil fuels. According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, over 80% of Ireland’s total energy is met with combustible (i.e. fossil) fuels. This degree of dependence is risky, unsustainable, polluting and it is completely at odds with our obligation to reduce emissions under the Paris Agreement.”

This leak comes at a crucial moment in energy policy. The Government announced in December 2019 that it would conduct an Energy Security Review to assess the need for new infrastructure to meet the 70% target for renewable electricity by 2030.[2] Stop Climate Chaos recently published its own draft Terms of Reference (see here) along with a background study into energy security. The coalition has demanded a public consultation prior to the commencement of the Review to ensure that the process is guided by the priority of decarbonisation.

However, the Sunday Times report, based on a leak from the AG’s office of an undated assessment into Ireland’s gas supplies, appears to relate to public opposition to LNG terminals and the prospect of a ban on all further offshore gas and oil exploration considered by the last Dáil (the Climate Emergency Measures Bill 2017). This bill was blocked by the Ceann Comhairle and the Government using a Money Message procedure.

According to Ms. O’Neill,

“The AG’s assessment should not stop the new Dáil from banning offshore oil and gas development, or the imports of fracked gas. The next Government needs to invest in measures to reduce energy demand and develop clean renewable energy alternatives for power generation, heating and transport.”

"Ireland’s gas supplies are well met since the completion of the second pipeline interconnector to Scotland. The completion of the fully twinned connection means that in the event of a disruption to either pipeline, there is an alternative pipeline which can provide full capacity to meet Ireland’s gas demand."

In 2018, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) examined potential disruptions to supply from the Moffat entry point to Ireland including risk of loss of supply from Great Britain and outside of the EU under various scenarios. The CRU concluded that there is no significant risk to gas supplies to Ireland from Great Britain or from outside the EU via Great Britain.

Ms. O’Neill concluded,

“As we begin a decade in which global emissions must decrease by half if the 1.5°C limit set out in the Paris Agreement is to remain viable, there is no scientific justification for investment in new fossil fuel infrastructure. The Energy Security Review should set the energy and climate agenda for Ireland for the coming decades, as we transition to a zero-carbon future. It needs to show how we can decarbonise our economy whilst keeping the lights on, by ensuring sufficient interconnection and energy storage infrastructure.”

ENDS

[1] Tighe, M. 5th April 2020 The Sunday Times, Ireland edition ‘EU fines may be in air for Ireland over gas supply’.

[2] The review into the security and sustainability of Ireland’s energy supply was announced in late 2019, by the Minister with responsibility for Climate Action, Richard Bruton following public outcry over the Shannon LNG project. Many environmental organisations expressed a concern that the Review, as announced, was established to justify the Government’s support for the LNG terminal. The Irish Government confirmed support for the fracked gas import facility in Shannon without a sustainability or climate assessment of the project.

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