5 April 2001 Edition

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ESB privatisation opposed

The supply of adequate electricity is a major problem for the border region, according to Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. He was speaking in a Dáil debate last week which highlighted the need for further electricity generating capacity, particularly to regions outside Dublin which are at a disadvantage in terms of attracting high technology industry.

Ó Caoláin said it would come as a surprise to most people that we have reached such a critical stage, given the generation and transmission capacities of the ESB. He said that the shortfall in supply is already having an economic impact and that if this is not rectified, the consequences could be very serious. The Sinn Féin TD told the Dáil:

``It seems that we are unable to properly service existing IT industries and the inadequate service is becoming a deterrent to future investment. As a deputy representing a border constituency, I view this with grave concern. If the Dublin region, where the mass of new industry is located, is experiencing this problem, what hope is there for the border, midlands and western regions in attracting new job creating investment, which we need so badly. The neglect of successive governments has meant that we are already at a disadvantage in terms of infrastructure, including electricity supply. If we come to crisis point in electricity supply, our region, before others, will be plunged into darkness.

``I reject the notion that the panacea for the energy supply problem is privatisation of the ESB. The Minister for Public Enterprise signalled that privatisation and complete deregulation of the electricity supply industry should be in force by 2005. I oppose the privatisation of the ESB. Tribute should be paid to the ESB and all its workers who, over the years, built up our vital energy infrastructure for the benefit of all the people. This is a strategic sector which should remain in public hands and should be given all the support necessary to ensure it provides the best and most efficient service. We all have admired the public spiritedness of ESB workers who risked life and limb in dangerous weather conditions to ensure that service was restored to citizens in all parts of the country, including isolated rural areas. They have given service in other countries also in times of crisis.

``When we look at the pathetically small proportion of our power supply which comes from wind energy, we can see another failure of policy on the part of successive governments. That said, I welcome today's announcement by the ESB of the decision to invest more than £50 million in a new wind farm development adjacent to the Moneypoint station in County Clare. It is incredible that in a country which is buffeted by Atlantic winds the whole year round we have not harnessed this natural and clean resource before now.

``Instead, the government and some members of other parties prefer to see waste incinerators built. These incinerators are bad in terms of waste management, the environment and health. These plants have been described as waste-to-energy but the corollary is that we will be dependent on the continuing production of waste at current and even expanded levels to produce energy. We have heard little in the debate about energy conservation. A major part of the solution to the emerging power supply problems is a concerted campaign to reduce the wasteful use of electricity where feasible.''

An Phoblacht
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