Change of Minister: Pat Rabbitte

The continued roll-out of a national REFIT scheme for the Republic’s homes and state buildings, which could create up to 30,000 construction jobs, is a priority for the Republic’s new Energy Minister.

Pat Rabbitte, former leader of the Labour Party, took the Communications, Energy and Natural Resources post that was formerly held by Eamon Ryan of the Green Party.

Since his appointment, the new Minister has spoken at an industry conference about the need for his department to speed up EU approval for a new scheme to subsidise the latest round of wind farms. He has also asked his officials to liaise with the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on allowing the development of wind farms close to conservation areas and the development of offshore wind technologies. Rabbitte has said there is a need to secure agreement from the EU for a new tariff paid to electricity generators for each unit of electricity.

Referring to the Isles project, which includes Northern Ireland, the Republic and Scotland, Rabbitte said that early results “look positive” and he is looking forward to seeing the completed report later this year.

“We are working closely with the UK Government and devolved administrations in the two energy workstreams in the British-Irish Council on energy infrastructure and on ocean energy technologies,” he reported. “We are looking to develop a regional approach towards developing our energy infrastructure and at ways to make our energy markets more compatible to facilitate cross-border trade.”

In terms of energy, the new Programme for Government pledges to:

• double funding for home energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes until the end of 2013;

• roll out a ‘pay as you save’ scheme after 2013 to continue home energy efficiency retrofitting work (without recourse to public funding) which will consider placing an ‘energy efficiency obligation’ on energy suppliers;

• tender for a ‘pay as you save’ contract to insulate all public buildings in the state, where the contractor provides the capital;

• establish Ireland as a renewable manufacturing hub;

• position Ireland as a leading player in the global carbon market, and a centre of excellence in the management of carbon; and

• create energy co-operatives to make it easier for small-scale renewable energy providers to contribute to the 20 per cent renewable target.

In addition, the Labour Party’s manifesto had pledged to have 350,000 electric cars on Irish roads by 2020, achieve 50 per cent green public procurement, “maximise” Ireland’s wind and wave potential and become a net exporter of “clean energy”.

Before Rabbitte took office, Fianna Fáil Minister Pat Carey (who was overseeing the energy portfolio after the Green Party left government), granted planning permission for a controversial gas pipeline in County Mayo.

This will be an important issue for Rabbitte because, over the last decade, locals and opposition TDs (particularly from Sinn Féin) have vigorously opposed the plans by Shell to build an onshore pipeline. Rabbitte, who has queried the project in the past, has been criticised for telling the Dáil that, as Energy Minister, he will not revoke the decision to grant planning permission.

Related Posts