Environment News

New Bill to Strengthen State’s Capacity to Manage Oil Supplies

The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan, has welcomed Cabinet approval to publish the Oil Emergency Contingency and Transfer of Renewable Transport Fuels Functions Bill 2022. The main purpose of this Bill is to strengthen the government’s ability to manage stocks in the unlikely event of a curtailment of oil supplies.

There is no such concern or risk at present. International oil supplies and prices have been steady over recent months. Motorists have seen a fall in prices, for petrol and diesel, at retail forecourts of late.

This Bill follows work undertaken by the department last year, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. From the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the resulting impact on global energy markets, the government has sought to address the negative impacts of higher energy prices on consumers, society and the economy. In Budget 2023, the government announced a suite of measures to help people with higher energy prices, while the Energy Poverty Action Plan, published last month, provides further support for people at risk of energy poverty this winter.

While higher energy pricing overall remains a key concern, there is also an onus on the government to provide confidence to households and businesses with respect to the security of Ireland’s energy supply. Energy security is enhanced by having in place a multitude of robust emergency plans that seek to mitigate, offset or prevent supply issues emerging. The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications has been testing emergency plans in recent months with relevant departments and agencies. Work is ongoing to ensure that plans can be operationalised at speed, if required, however unlikely any such scenario may be.

The government’s approach is in keeping with that of other EU Member States, where emergency preparedness plans have been sharpened in response to the ongoing energy implications of the war in Ukraine.

The key measures that are being introduced in the Bill include:

  • More clarity around the powers of the Minister, and how quickly they can be deployed, to control the supply and distribution of fuel in an emergency.
  • Putting all aspects of oil emergency planning on a statutory footing.
  • Establishing a register of oil suppliers to ensure fast communication to retailers.
  • Allowing Revenue to share data on oil movements to enhance the responsiveness of the State in an emergency.

Minister Ryan said, “this Bill is part of a suite of initiatives being developed by my department to ensure the security of Ireland’s energy supply in the near future. Our long-term priority, however, and the best approach for Ireland, is to insulate consumers from volatility on international wholesale energy markets by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy, expanding interconnection with European markets and deepening internal market integration.”

“Climate Action Plan 2023, published before Christmas, sets out how Ireland will accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources. This shift brings with it many rewards, not least greater energy security and stable prices. At the same time, my department continues to closely monitor the security of energy supplies to Ireland, particularly since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. The government is strengthening the State’s contingency planning measures to ensure that we can respond quickly and effectively should oil supplies be constrained.”

The Bill also provides for the formal transfer of functions from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications to the Department of Transport with respect to renewable transport fuels; the change in policy responsibility took place in early 2021.

New legal provisions in the Bill will support specific measures for the achievement of targets in Climate Action Plan 2023 for biofuels, effectively incentivising higher blends of biofuel ethanol in petrol and biodiesel in diesel consumption, while we transition to alternative modes of electric transport, public and active travel in the years ahead. The specific measures have previously been set out in the Renewable Fuel for Transport Policy 2021. They will incentivise the supply of renewable transport fuels such as HVO, biomethane, and green hydrogen, as well as the supply of renewable transport fuel for use in aviation and maritime transport.

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