Government's Energy Security Package is a Welcome if Cautious Step Towards End of Fossil Fuel Era

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Government makes clear that more gas does not mean more security

Friends of the Earth has given a cautious welcome to the detailed energy security package approved by Cabinet today. After a 3-year review, the Government has agreed a range of measures to enhance Ireland’s energy security while decarbonising the power system.  Friends of the Earth believes the commitments can pave the way for decreasing reliance on polluting fossil fuel infrastructure, in particular the recognition that renewable energy will be the ‘anchor’ of our energy security and that reducing gas demand is central to our climate and security objectives.

The Government’s energy security package includes the following commitments and findings:

  • It commits to a renewables, not fossil fuel-led, energy system. Delivering on renewable energy targets is noted as integral to Ireland’s energy security and for the first time is emphasised as key element of Ireland’s energy security.
  • In a landmark move, the energy security package includes a commitment to a Network Transition Plan which will address the decreasing role of gas, decommissioning of gas grid and requiring new scenarios for our gas network, all in accordance with our climate commitments.
  • It commits to the introduction a transitional ‘state-led Strategic Gas Emergency Reserve’ to only be used in the event of a gas disruption. A temporary floating reserve that is state-controlled, not a permanent commercial LNG terminal, is further noted as the Department’s preferred option for such a reserve, which will be the subject of further analysis.
  • Importantly the package also clarifies that the Government’s 2021 Policy Statement which introduced a moratorium on LNG and fracked gas imports remains in place pending the finalisation of the state-led Strategic Gas Emergency Reserve. The Government’s policy position against a commercial LNG development, such as Shannon LNG, therefore remains unchanged.
  • It commits to reducing gas demand as the solution to climate action and energy security and instead pledges to examine climate-aligned options such as renewable gas storage  in the South-West Kinsale reservoir.
  • The importance of reduced and responsive energy demand is clarified, rejecting suggestions that more gas equates to more security.

Providing an initial reaction to the Government’s decisionJerry Mac Evilly, Head of Policy in Friends of the Earth said:

“As the International Energy Agency recently said ‘We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era and we have to prepare ourselves for the next era’.  The Government’s energy security package is central to Ireland’s preparations.  It is welcome that finally gone are the days when energy security is misrepresented as amounting to little more than fossil fuel infrastructure, ignorant of the impact on climate and on households.”

“We welcome that Government is clear that energy security must align with Ireland’s legally-binding climate pollution limits adopted by this Dáil on a cross-party basis, which require a rapid reduction in fossil fuel use.  The review emphasises decreasing gas demand while increasing energy efficiency and renewables, as central to reducing fossil fuel dependence and reducing exposure to energy shocks. In terms of gas supply, the Government does not put forward a polluting expensive commercial LNG terminal as the preferred approach with the review committing to further analysis on temporary state-controlled gas storage, with the existing moratorium on LNG and fracked gas imports remaining in place.”

“This review has had to take account of an energy price crisis stemming from a dependence on dirty, expensive gas, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as an electricity demand crisis exacerbated by a laissez-faire approach to unprecedented data centre development. Most importantly the review has had to factor Ireland’s climate obligations. The Government’s decisions finally takes account of the fact that the solution to all of these challenges, and the best way to protect communities, is the same: rapidly reduce our dependence on dirty expensive fossil fuels.”

“The energy security decision is not without risks for climate action; this Government and future Governments will have to remain vigilant. The acceptance of state-controlled floating storage linked to LNG could still pose gas lock-in risks without proper planning, conditions and oversight. Crucially, however, the Government is clear that any new gas storage must be a limited, temporary, insurance measure for emergencies only and used in accordance with our climate obligations. “

This energy security review builds on significant Government commitments and developments, including - 

  • In 2020 the Programme for Government pledge to reject fracked gas imports through LNG. 
  • In 2021 the Government's Policy Statement introducing a moratorium on LNG and fracked gas pending the outcome of this energy security review
  • Also in 2021 the introduction of legally binding carbon budgets and a legislative ban on new offshore exploration licences.
  • In 2022 the Government’s public consultation on energy security, including independent expert analysis which rejected a commercial LNG facility as an energy security option given it would “likely result in the importation of fracked gas to Ireland…embedded emissions in LNG can exceed that of natural gas….no guarantee that stored gas volumes would be sufficient to cover a security of supply shock…”.
  • An Bord Pleanála’s recent decision to reject planning permission for Shannon LNG on the basis of the 2021 moratorium and expert analysis. 

All the Government documents are online here.