The energy regulator has said Ireland must build import terminals to send and store gas as current gas supply arrangements from the UK are not secure.
Oife MacEvilly said the country is breaching EU energy security rules because much of the gas used here comes through two undersea pipelines from the UK, which is no longer in the EU.
Even without Brexit, she said over-reliance on the UK for supplies has created uncertainty.
If anything were to happen to break one of the interconnectors, Ireland would not have enough gas to meet heating, industrial and power generation needs.
Disruptions could be a mechanical failure, a shipwreck or a sudden surge in demand in the UK, as happened during the 2018 Beast from the East cold spell.
With a decreasing supply of locally sourced gas from the Corrib gas field and a lack of facilities to import supplies of gas in liquefied form (LNG), supply could not be considered secure.
“LNG import infrastructure should be considered,” she said. “We just don’t meet the care standards required by the EU,” she said.
Ms MacEvilly chairs the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), which regulates gas and electricity operators and advises the government on an energy security review.
Her comments before the Oireachtas Environment and Climate Action Committee are the CRU’s strongest yet on the contentious issue of LNG infrastructure.
Government policy enacted last year calls for a moratorium on LNG terminals until the safety review is complete.
Meanwhile, a private company is awaiting a decision on its planning application for a €650m terminal at Ballylongford in the Shannon Estuary.
LNG is controversial for several reasons. Much of this comes from the US, where it is extracted by fracking, a process banned in Ireland for environmental and public health reasons.
It is also a fossil fuel that Ireland no longer needs to use to meet legally binding, highly ambitious and urgent targets for reducing carbon emissions and climate change.
Lobbying to allow LNG terminals has intensified since the current gas supply and price crisis erupted, and it is believed the government is considering developing a state-owned non-commercial storage facility.
However, climate activists warned the committee against going down the LNG route.
Tara Connolly of Global Witness said one in Ireland would take years to build and the huge cost would be borne by households in their bills through high prices passed on by commercial operators or subsidies required for a government facility .
“Given the useful life of an LNG terminal of 30 to 40 years, it is conceivable that Irish gas customers or taxpayers will still be paying for the LNG terminal in 2062,” she said.
This would be 12 years after the point at which Ireland committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions.
Friends of the Earth’s Jerry MacEvilly stressed that this pledge is legally binding under the Climate Act.
“Any consideration of energy infrastructure must begin with how it will support the decarbonisation of Ireland’s energy system in accordance with the urgency and scope of the targets that we have now incorporated into national law,” he said.
https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/energy-regulator-says-gas-terminals-must-be-built-for-supply-security-41500986.html The energy regulator says gas terminals must be built for security of supply