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Securing Ireland’s energy

 The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources’ Eamonn Confrey summarises the EU’s latest energy security policy developments.

 

It’s been a busy year in terms of EU policy development, admits DCENR’s EamonnConfrey. In May 2014, the European Energy Security Strategy was published which included actions aimed at evaluating Europe’s capacity to overcome any major disruption during the winter of 2014-2015.

 

Stress tests were taken by a number of European countries simulating two energy supply disruption scenarios for a period of one or six months: a complete halt of Russian gas imports to the EU, or a disruption of Russian gas imports through the Ukraine’s transit route.

 

For Ireland, it turned out that the country broadly speaking would be “okay” with a short-term gas supply disruption, but in the long-term this could mean the potential for higher prices.

 

Confrey, who is Principal Officer in DCENR’s Energy Security Division, explains: “The security strategy also sought to strengthen emergency contingency plans – protecting strategic infrastructure, building a well functioning internal energy market and diversifying our external supplies related to infrastructure.”

 

There were three communications in February 2015 covering energy union, infrastructure and interconnection, and climate change. In the following month, the European Council conclusions spoke of accelerating infrastructure projects including interconnections to peripheral regions.

Other issues covered in the conclusions included reinforcing the framework for security of supply for both electricity and gas, where energy security can be strengthened by robust grids, and energy efficiency.

 

Confrey highlights in particular EU Regulation 994/2010 i.e. the gas security of supply regulation. A revision of this was included in the European roadmap for 2015. A consultation process took place from January to April. The responses were published in June and it is expected that the proposal for revision will be adopted later this year.

 

“The anticipated objectives of that revision will be around things like better implemention of the regulation and looking at scope to strengthen our capacity to respond to future gas supply crises,” he says.

 

Also awaited is legislation on electricity security of supply – effectively a revision of the 2005 Directive, the establishment of an infrastructure forum by the European Commission, and an LNG and storage strategy.

Ireland has been heavily engaged in the EU refining fitness check, to comprehensively evaluate if the sector’s regulatory framework is fit for purpose. Launched in 2013, it was created in recognition of difficulties faced by the refining sector. It is looking at EU legislation including the areas of energy taxation, air quality and renewable energy. Findings are expected in the coming months.

 

Among its draft suggestions are that the gap between the top and bottom performing refineries has widened, there has been a $2.10 per barrel loss in competiveness compared to other regions, and a higher increase in EU energy costs per barrel in the period 2000-2012 compared to competing regions, including the Middle East and Asia.

 

DCENR is in the midst of a “comprehensive and extensive” policy development and review phase since January which will continue until September. It follows on from extensive stakeholder engagement over the last year. The white paper is currently being drafted and is due to be published in September.

 

The energy policy trilemma of how to balance the three pillars of sustainability, competitiveness, and security has been “the foundation of our energy policy since 2007 and the previous white paper,” he notes.

“They will remain. I mean there is nothing we’ve seen in the intervening years to suggest that those policy areas are unsound. They are very, very important.”

 

He concludes: “The trick and challenge for us is to maintain the tension and balance between those.” The one thing that is new is that the citizen will be “very much at the heart of energy policy going forward”.

 

“Really it’s about how to maintain a sustainable clean, energy system in order to protect against climate change while maintaining a continued security of supply, competitiveness, trying to keep policy costs down, and affordability – trying to ensure that our targets from 2015-2030 are affordable.”