Dáil Éireann - Volume 650 - 12 March, 2008

Written Answers. - Electricity Transmission Network.

Deputy Bernard Allen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on threats by ESB unions to impede roll out of smart meters; if the roll out will be funded by the ESB as originally planned; if he will change his position on the transfer of ownership of electricity transmission assets from the ESB to EirGrid in response to the threats; if he is still committed to such complete transfer by the end of 2008 as stated in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10620/08]

  Deputy Eamon Ryan: Management of industrial relations within ESB is, in the first instance, a matter for the board and management of the company. I am aware of the ballot undertaken by a number of the unions within ESB last November. I am also aware of recent comments from a representative of one of the constituent unions with regard to Smart Metering. My Department is continuing to monitor the situation closely. The roll out of smart meters, as committed to in the Government’s Energy Policy Framework and in the Programme for Government, is a central component of our strategy to improve management of demand for electricity and to achieve greater energy efficiency through use of the latest technology.

The delivery of smart metering requires a collective response. That is why I have made it a priority for my Department to work intensively as part of the Steering Group overseeing the roll out. The group is chaired by the CER and consists of Sustainable Energy Ireland, ESB Networks, ESB Customer Supply and independent suppliers. There are also four working groups examining the complex technical aspects of smart metering including, Tariffs, Billing/Data Services, Networks and Customer Behaviour. It remains the position that the smart meter programme will be financed under the ESB Networks Investment Programme. The recognised potential of smart metering in terms of increased energy efficiency, reduced costs, reduced harmful emissions, facilitation of micro and distributed generation and improved customer service, will deliver tangible benefits to all consumers of electricity.

In relation to the transfer of ownership of the electricity transmission network assets from ESB to EirGrid, the Programme for Government reaffirms the commitments in the Energy Policy White Paper. As I have stated before, and in line with successive Partnership Agreements, there is an ongoing process of engagement with the management and unions of both [174] ESB and EirGrid on all issues inherent in implementation of the transfer of the asset ownership function.