Thursday, 20 May 2010
Dáil Eireann Debate
197. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the efforts that are being made to assess demand for natural gas in the town of Kells, County Meath; when persons will be able to avail of natural gas connection; and if this connection would be extended to Carlanstown, County Meath. [21194/10]
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Eamon Ryan): The development and expansion of the natural gas network is in the first instance a commercial matter for Gaslink, which is mandated under Section 8 of the Gas Act 1976, as amended, to develop and maintain a system for the supply of natural gas that is both economical and efficient.
The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is a statutory, independent body, has, since 2002, been charged with all aspects of the assessment and licensing of prospective operators who wish to develop and/or operate a gas distribution system within the State under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002. I have no direct statutory function in relation to the connection of towns to the gas network.
The CER, in 2006, approved a new network connections policy, which created the opportunity to reassess the feasibility of connecting certain towns to the gas network. In order for any town to be connected to the gas network, certain economic criteria need to be satisfied as a prerequisite. This is to ensure that, over a certain period, the costs of connecting the town to the network are recouped through the actual consumption of gas and the associated tariffs. The policy allows for the appraisal of a town either on its own or as part of a regional group of towns.
Gaslink recently announced the connection of Kells and three additional towns to the gas network. The announcement follows the completion of Phase 3 of the New Towns Study carried out by Gaslink. The study is a comprehensive assessment of 39 towns not already connected to the national gas network. The study was approved for publication by the CER following detailed economic analysis based on the criteria outlined in the CER’s Connection Policy.
Timing and roll-out to the four towns will be on a phased basis and will be dependent on demand, interest and industrial/commercial development in each town. Gaslink is working with local authorities, businesses and developers in each of the towns to ensure that natural gas flows to these towns as soon as economically viable. Gaslink will continue to review towns which did not qualify for connection under the Study and other towns on an ongoing basis. The key factor which would qualify a town or group of towns in any future review would be a significant increase in demand for natural gas, probably resulting from the addition of a new large industrial or commercial facility.
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