Other Questions

RTÉ Revenue

Shane Cassells

Question:

42. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to reform the funding model for public service broadcasting in view of the fact that there is an evasion rate of 14.5% of the television licence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49087/17]

I ask this question in the context of the appearance before the Committee of Public Accounts of the Secretary General of the Department, Mr. Mark Griffin, two weeks ago to account for the Department's accounts and expenditure. The largest item of expenditure, accounting for more than half of all departmental spending, was €241 million on broadcasting. In response to questions from me, Mr. Griffin acknowledged that the funding model for public service broadcasting was broken, with television licence evasion rates of 14.5% resulting in lost revenue of approximately €40 million per annum. In light of these figures and the comments of the Secretary General, what are the Minister's plans to reform the funding model for public service broadcasting? I am not trying to catch the Minister out on this issue. I have a great interest in and passion for public service broadcasting and the issue needs to be addressed.

I recognise the important part that public service broadcasters play in our democratic society. The provision of stable and adequate funding is essential to ensuring the continued delivery of their role in this regard. I am very much aware, however, of the challenges that face the existing television licence system, including the current unacceptable levels of evasion.  While the evasion rate has fallen from 15.3% at the end of 2013 to the current rate of 14.6%, it is still very high.

  In light of changes in technology and viewing habits, I accept that the current system needs to be reformed. Having said that, despite its limitations, it is important I ensure the current system works as an effective collection mechanism. In that context, my Department has been working with An Post and RTÉ on an ongoing basis in order that all steps are being taken to ensure the system is working as effectively as possible. Marketing campaigns, more evening and weekend inspections and the appointment of additional temporary inspectors are just some of the initiatives utilised to enhance sales and improve compliance rates.

I obtained Government approval earlier this year to draft a number of legislative amendments to the Broadcasting Act 2009, including amendments to allow for the tendering of television licence fee collection.  The proposed amendments are under pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The committee is also considering the longer-term issue of the future funding of public service media. Its work is ongoing and it hosted a very useful consultative forum on this important topic on 7 July last. I look forward to receiving the joint committee's report, which will inform consideration of future funding options. In the meantime, there will be no change to the existing television licence fee arrangements, and An Post continues to work as the issuing agent for television licences in accordance with section 145 of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

The grant to RTÉ last year was €6.5 million less than the Estimate because income from television licence sales was lower than anticipated. The amount of the grant in 2016 was €179 million, which is roughly in line with the figure for 2015. The €6.5 million shortfall on the Estimate amounts to 40,000 licence payments of €160. While the licence fee has not increased since 2008, the population and number of households have increased in the past decade. Despite this, RTÉ income has declined by more than 10% and the uncollected fees for television sets exceed RTÉ's annual losses. This means others must pick up the tab for those who do not pay.

The broader issue is whether and how we will maintain the public service broadcasting model. Are we to say to hell with the current approach and embrace commercialisation of broadcasting? Will we follow in the footsteps of the United States where President Donald Trump tunes into Fox News to make sure he is doing okay? I do not believe we will go down that route because coverage of events such as the 1916 commemorations and sporting events would cease. In such circumstances, I do not believe the international rules game between Ireland and Australia would have been broadcast last Saturday morning. RTÉ also broadcasts the Ard-Fheiseanna of all the main political parties, including Sinn Féin's Ard-Fheis at the weekend. A fundamental question must be addressed regarding our commitment on this score.

I do not disagree with anything the Deputy said. The system needs to be reformed and the joint committee is actively considering the issue. A range of funding models are utilised in the European Union, with some member states having licence fees and others funding public service broadcasting from taxation or charging a fee linked to electricity bills. Finland, for example, has a broadcasting tax in place.

There are two aspects to the decline in licence fee income, namely, the evasion rate and the 9% of households which indicate they do not have a television. The latter figure is not surprising given the change in devices used for viewing content. The current focus is on the evasion rate. The evasion rate in the United Kingdom, for example, is approximately half the rate here. Licence fee evasion has a significant impact on RTÉ's income and we are examining how we can tackle the issue. A broader, longer-term issue also arises with regard to the funding of public service broadcasting. I look forward to the recommendations the joint committee will make on this issue.

The third reason for the decline in income is that advertisers are copping on that viewing habits are changing. Services such as Netflix are also having an impact. The Minister is correct to focus on evasion. I would like to hear his thoughts on the recommendation that Revenue should become involved in collecting television licence fees.

The print media model is broken and television is heading in the same direction. Deputy Dooley is introducing proposals on the print media to ensure we have an independent media model which works for the country.

The Minister is also correct that the way in which people access news is changing. Either we value the product or we do not value it, and if the latter is the case, we will move towards the broadcasting model in place in the United States. Colm McCarthy wrote an analysis earlier this year in which he stated that the "advent of laptops and smartphones, equally capable of accessing television broadcasts, has finally brought it home to policymakers that this antiquated and cumbersome method of raising revenue has no place in a modern fiscal system". That may be the case, but public service broadcasting must also be able to wash its own face, so to speak. Ultimately, the issue is whether the Government and citizens value it. I ask the Minister to set out his view on the Government's commitment to public service broadcasting.

I have reiterated several times my commitment to public service broadcasting and news content. While I have accepted that this comes at a significant cost, we are very lucky in terms of the way in which news content is disseminated in this country and the balance it provides. This balance is not provided in other countries, including the United States, the example the Deputy cited. One could give other examples across Europe where particular media outlets give a particular slant on the news. We should be proud that this is not the case here.

The proportion of the population who listen to the radio is probably higher in Ireland than anywhere else in the world. Moreover, community radio is thriving to a greater extent than anywhere else on the planet.

I accept that the existing model needs to be reformed and the Revenue Commissioners could be a mechanism for doing so. There are a number of options available for a long-term funding model. What we fund and how we fund it must be examined. As I stated, I am waiting for the joint committee to submit a report to me on this matter. In the interim, it is intended to introduce legislation to amend the Broadcasting Act 2009 to address the issue of evasion in the short term.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

43. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the date on which finalisation of the national broadband plan will be complete in view of the fact that the expenditure allocations 2018 to 2020 document allows €15 million for finalisation of the procurement process for the State-led intervention for the plan; the timeframe for the complete implementation of the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49085/17]

Broadband ar ais arís. The roll-out of the national broadband plan calls to mind the old dial-up connection. It is slow, we are hearing lots of noise and screeching and it is simply not uploading. People need to see the plan being rolled out much more rapidly. The roll-out of fibre by Eir is a positive development and the service is wonderful in those areas where it is being made available. However, a timeline is needed for the so-called amber locations and communities that are not being reached. We must also establish where these areas stand in terms of broadband.

The national broadband plan will ensure high-speed broadband access of a minimum of 30 Mbps to all premises, regardless of location.  The plan continues to act as a catalyst to commercial investment, with more than €2.75 billion invested by industry in the past five years. Current investment is running at €1.8 million per day. As a result, approximately 1.5 million or 65% of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland now have access to high-speed broadband.  By the end of 2018, this figure will reach 77% and it will exceed 90% by the end of 2020.

I recognise that people want quality mobile and broadband connectivity as soon as possible and I reiterate that delivering connectivity to the 542,000 premises in the State-led intervention phase of the national broadband plan remains a Government priority.

The procurement process in which my Department is engaged will select a company or companies which will roll out the new high-speed broadband network for the State-led intervention. As the Deputy will recall, a significant milestone in that process was reached in September with the submission of detailed solutions by two bidders and these are now being evaluated by my Department's specialist NBPT. This is the last stage of the procurement process before receipt of final tenders and progression to the appointment of a preferred bidder or bidders. My Department will engage with the winning bidder or bidders to ensure the most efficient deployment as part of the contract.

With regard to funding for the State-led intervention, the Government has allocated an initial €275 million in the 2016-21 capital plan for the national broadband plan. These moneys will help finance the initial years of the network build-out. Significant further funding will be required over the lifetime of the proposed 25 year contract. The total level of funding required will be established through the ongoing competitive procurement process.

The indicative solutions that have been submitted to the Minister from the two groups give indications of the kind of timelines they expect and it should be possible to give some direction to rural communities of when those companies are likely to be able to make broadband available. The Minister has those since September last. It seems that the commercial companies are taking control of the timeline. We need to get from the Minister a direction on the kind of timeline on which he wants to see the roll-out of this broadband. We have already seen dates slipping from this summer. Has the Minister a date on which broadband will be available to people in those amber areas? For example, in my own area, whether in Kilmichael, Rylane or Donaghmore, when constituents try to download a large item of the Internet it could take them 36 hours. They are not happy with it but they know the time it will take. They can go away for the weekend and have something when they come back. They know they have a timeline. In the interests of people in those amber areas, we also need to get a timeline on the rural broadband programme. When can they expect to see that broadband at their doorstep?

As I stated earlier, this is a complex procurement process. It is the first time this type of procurement has been used. The advantage with this competitive process is that it will facilitate a far quicker build-out than would have been the case with the traditional procurement processes.

It is a 25-year contract. It is important that we get it right, that we do not do like we did with the electronic voting machine or the national broadband scheme which was obsolete the day it went live. This has to last the period of time. Everyone is focused on a date but the reality is that people are sick and tired of dates being thrown out and then being missed. When I give a date, I want to be able to stand over that date and be definitive in relation to it.

What I am focused on is making this happen as quickly as possible, not only in relation to the high-speed broadband ultimate solution but using the existing infrastructure that has been rolled out to virtually every village across the country to give people opportunities, not only for hot-desking but also for wireless and mobile coverage. Everyone needs a service as quickly as possible. It will be great that people will have the gold-plated service after that but the important point is that they get access to broadband and to mobile phone coverage now.

This is not the first time a project of this scale has been rolled out across rural Ireland. We have had a very successful rural electrification system many years ago. It is possible and it should not be a surprise or anything new.

The companies which have given the Department the bids have given indicative times as part of their submissions. It should be possible to identify timelines. Are we talking about the end of 2020 or 2022, or will it be much sooner, perhaps in 2018? It should be possible to give an indication of timelines because the information has been already made available by those commercial companies when they gave the Department those details in September.

There are indicative proposals but what we and the public need are definitive dates in relation to it. I am confident that, by 2020, more than 90% of people and premises will have access to high-speed broadband. I cannot be any more definitive than that until we award the contract and look at the build-out in relation to it.

I want to see this happen. My constituents, the people in Roscommon and Galway, are as frustrated as everyone else across the country that they do not have access to a broadband service or a mobile service at present, and that they must turn off their data, as I do, in order to get a mobile phone signal. That should not be the case. That is why we have released the 3.6 GHz spectrum to ensure we can improve the mobile phone coverage. That is why it is the first 5G enabled network that has been auctioned across Europe. On foot of that, we have already got one operator who tells me that it expects to have 85% geographic coverage of the country by 2019.

This is moving. It is not moving as quickly as I would like but it is moving. I am trying to fast-track this at every available opportunity.

Broadband Service Provision

Bernard Durkan

Question:

44. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he expects to be in a position to provide broadband services to those areas outside the proposed or existing provisions, in some cases only by a matter of metres; if he will consider a separate contract for such customers to run concurrent with the current programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49078/17]

The purpose of this question, somewhat similar to the previous question, is to bridge the gap between the existing work that has been done, is satisfactory and is a major improvement on what we had, and the next stage for those who require service and are anxious to know when they will get it.

I assume from the question the Deputy is referring to premises that are adjacent to, but not included in, eir's ongoing rural deployment of broadband to 300,000 premises between now and the end of 2018. This roll-out by eir is an example of the ramping up of commercial investment by industry which has been stimulated by the Government's national broadband plan.

To ensure that nobody is left behind, my Department is engaged in an ongoing procurement process to select a bidder or bidders which will roll out the new high-speed broadband network for the State-led intervention phase of the national broadband plan. My Department's specialist national broadband plan team is currently evaluating the detailed solutions received from two bidders last September as part of that competitive procurement process. This is the last stage of the procurement process before receipt of final tenders and progression to the appointment of a preferred bidder or bidders.

As Ireland's telecommunications market is a liberalised market, decisions by private companies on the roll-out and locations for their infrastructure are a matter for those companies.  I understand the frustration for people who live near, but are not included, in the current roll-out of fibre by commercial companies. eir's decisions as to the areas and premises to be served as part of its 300,000 rural deployment is a matter for the company. While that is the case, eir has indicated that it will consider including additional premises for areas where low-level designs have yet to be completed. I have asked that the local authority broadband officers identify candidate premises for inclusion in the eir 300,000 roll-out based on guideline criteria and I understand that this information was submitted via my Department to eir last week. Decisions on the inclusion of any individual premises remains a matter for eir.

I reiterate that any premises not covered by commercial operators private investment will be included in the State-led NBP intervention phase.

I thank the Minister for his reply.

It is not true to say that we had services all over the country a few years ago. Six or seven years ago, there were several black spots in the country with no mobile phone coverage, no telephone services, no radio signal and no television signal. The position has improved a little since then because of the action being taken.

The problem is that many find themselves 100 m from existing service. With that existing service, they feel they could work from home just as well as they can travelling into work. There are many in those circumstances all over the country. Is there any way the Minister can bridge that gap between where the services now stop and those who have a strong reason for getting service, have promoted the reasons over the years and continue to request the provision of service?

I believe it is possible to do it. The digital highway is in position and it is the minor roads with which we have a difficulty now. We need to come to some arrangement under which we can identify the end of the road.

First, I understand the frustration to which the Deputy refers. There are thousands of my own constituents who are in the exact same situation, whereby they are struggling with little or no coverage. Some of them are also quite close to fibre that has been already built out or that is planned to be built out. eir has decided to look at its build out plan to see if there are commercial premises, schools or clusters of housing to which its network could be easily extended. The company is actively looking at that at the moment but that is a commercial decision for eir. Aside from that, the national broadband plan will bridge the gap and ensure that every single premises in the country will have access to high speed broadband. More than 90% of premises will have that access by 2020. We are also looking at how we can sweat the existing asset, the fibre that has been built out and the infrastructure that is already in place. That is why the auctioning off of the 3.6 gigahertz spectrum was so important because it allows for both mobile and wireless operators to provide broadband data services to a much broader catchment more quickly. In the coming months we will see some of those companies beginning to trial and offer services to customers who do not have access to such services at present.

I thank the Minister for his response. Is there any possibility that the situation could be examined with a view to ensuring that those who are closest to the existing fibre could be accommodated, even temporarily? It may be possible to do that kind of thing without incurring too much expenditure. Would it be possible for the Minister to discuss that with eir or other private operators to see whether it could be done in the short term? It may be possible to do it using wireless technology or by some other means or it may not be possible at all. However, unless an attempt is made to address that issue, there will be a considerable level of discontent and people will feel they are being ignored and isolated. Some of these people are in the business of job creation and offering employment.

I assure the Deputy that they are not being ignored and isolated. I am very conscious of each and every one of the 542,000 premises across the country. This is not just about sustaining existing jobs. There are also huge opportunities for new businesses to be created, not just with the provision of broadband. Broadband will only facilitate that. The new An Post parcel delivery and collection service means that in any location in the country one can provide an online service selling goods to customers across the globe and never have to leave one's own area. There are huge opportunities in that area. There are also huge opportunities in delivering health services which have not been exploited.

I assure the Deputy that I am actively discussing these matters with eir. A submission on a further build out was compiled by the broadband officers across the country and submitted to eir via my Department. We are also looking at how we can best exploit the existing infrastructure through both mobile and wireless services.

In the interests of being helpful, I suggest that Questions Nos. 45 and 54 be grouped together because they are on the same topic. Both questions deal with electric vehicle charging points. I make the suggestion in order to move things along.

While I appreciate the Deputy's desire to be of assistance, the questions have not been grouped-----

I would ask that the questions be taken together. We have done that previously in the interests of moving things along. Questions Nos. 45 and 54 are almost identical. They both deal with electric vehicle charging points.

I have no objection to them being taken together.

Deputy Dooley, who tabled question No. 45, has no problem with my suggestion.

I have no objection either.

That is fine, if everyone is in agreement.

Electric Vehicles

Timmy Dooley

Question:

45. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures his department will take to address the lack of availability and poor management of Ireland's electric vehicle charging infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49105/17]

Brian Stanley

Question:

54. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans in regard to the future charging network following a recent decision by the regulator in terms of the future financing of the public charging points for electric vehicles. [49010/17]

The Minister is well aware of the importance of getting a shift in the way in which people use private vehicles. In particular, we need to move away from the burning of fossil fuels and electric vehicles would seem to be an appropriate method of addressing our climate change obligations and improving citizens' behaviour in that regard. I ask the Minister to give us some understanding of how he intends to improve the management of Ireland's electric vehicle charging infrastructure to assist in that effort.

Does the grouping of the questions mean that I have double the time to respond?

Yes, the Minister has four minutes.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45 and 54 together.

The ESB, through its eCars programme, has rolled out an extensive public network of charging points across Ireland with approximately 900 electric vehicle charge points. We have one of the more comprehensive charge point networks in Europe for a country of our size. The maintenance and repair of these points is an operational matter for ESB eCars. Although there will be outages from time to time for technical reasons, ESB eCars operates the system to a high standard. This can be seen through the online map which shows the status of each charge point including if it is in use.

As battery technology develops, the range of electric cars will grow and higher capacity charging will be needed to support quicker charge times and longer travelling ranges. It is anticipated that large car manufacturers will become increasingly involved in the provision of high-powered infrastructure. A number of providers are likely to emerge onto the Irish market in the coming years. Nissan already has a number of charge points available through its dealer network and Tesla recently opened its second supercharger location in Ireland.

The provision of electric vehicle infrastructure, particularly the availability of public charging points, is a key focus of the work of the low emissions vehicle task force. The task force is co-chaired by my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and is examining options for infrastructure, regulation and pricing in order to devise a sustainable policy framework for effective and efficient electric vehicle recharging.

  The work of the low emissions vehicle task force led to a package of measures in budget 2018 designed to promote a low carbon, electric vehicle future. These measures include funding to support the operation and development of the public charging network with a specific emphasis on increasing the number of rapid chargers. The task force is also planning a stakeholder workshop later this month to explore issues related to the future requirements for electric vehicle recharging infrastructure.

  Following a public consultation, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, last month published its decision on the future ownership of the electric vehicle charging network. A key outcome of the decision is that the charging network should not form part of the regulated asset base and therefore expansions of the network should not be funded from network charges. This is in keeping with the proposals published last year by the European Commission in the 'Clean Energy for All Europeans' package.  The decision also sets out the need for electric vehicle charging infrastructure to operate on a commercial basis. Currently, recharging electric vehicles at public charge points is free and unlimited. Deputies will, however, appreciate that free fuel for electric vehicles, funded by electricity consumers, is not sustainable in the longer term. At the same time, it is important that if payments for the use of public charge points are introduced in the future, they are at a level which does not disincentivise the uptake of electric vehicles.

  The low emissions vehicle task force has made a number of recommendations. The task force is also assessing the decision of the CRU in its examination of the future requirements for electric vehicle recharging infrastructure. The work of the task force is well underway and has already resulted in a package of measures in budget 2018 designed to promote a low carbon, electric vehicle future. 

The budget did little to support a greater uptake of electric vehicles. The elimination of benefit-in-kind on a one year basis is a disincentive. Companies, as the Minister knows, seek certainty around their asset base and how they are taxed and very few will invest if it is just for one year.

The Minister could nearly substitute the words "electric vehicle" for "broadband" in what he announced. It is what Tesla and Nissan are doing, and there is a task force and another group looking into it.

If we are to get real about addressing the climate change issue, we must target the population of vehicles across the State. We must have an aggressive approach to taking action to encourage behavioural change. I think the Minister can do it. I know he gets it because he has already told me he is using a hybrid vehicle himself and he has complimented the technology that exists. We will have to put in place financial incentives in the short term. For example, we will have to retain the free electricity so let us not talk about paying for five or six years for those who take it up. What has been done to date has not worked. We had 2,970 vehicles by June 2017 in the battery and electric vehicle plug-in hybrid market. The reality is that this is one twentieth of what Fine Gael had promised, although I am not expecting the Minister to answer for Fine Gael. We need to take it out of the hands of the mandarins in the Minister's Department and other Departments who are looking at task forces and a step-by-step approach. It will be 2030 and we will still not have even reached our 2020 targets. We need action.

To correct the record, the benefit-in-kind zero rate is for a minimum of three years, not one. The Deputy is right that this needs to be a minimum, and the hope and intention is to extend that timeframe. In the budget we have maintained the grant relief, which is among the best in Europe, and we are also committing to bringing in a grant for the installation of home charges, not just for new vehicles but for second-hand vehicles, and to support electric vehicles for taxis, hackneys and limousines.

The Deputy is right that there has to be behavioural change. This year we established the behavioural economics unit within the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland to look specifically at this. However, we cannot shoehorn people into this. We need to take a number of strands. First, we need people, when they are purchasing, to purchase clean vehicles and zero emissions vehicles, but we also need to look at how we can retrofit the existing fleet to drive down emissions in the short term. The behavioural economics unit is looking at such issues and is feeding into the task force and into other measures within the Department. We are trying to proceed based on what was done in the past, for example, with the plastic bag tax and the smoking ban, which have dramatically transformed attitudes in this country in regard to health and the environment. There are other measures and initiatives. What was announced in the budget for 2018 is a first step but it is a very positive step. The feedback I have already received from commercial businesses in regard to the three-year benefit-in-kind suggests we will see a significant shift in 2018.

The decision of the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities, CRU, has left the situation in limbo. I listened carefully to the Minister in regard to the charging points. The CRU in its paper said there will be no further funding of the assets through network charges and went on to say it expects the ESB to arrange the sale of the assets. We have 1,946 electric cars in the State. The Minister said we are the best in Europe but we are not, given other northern European states are at multiples of that figure. We have to put in place the infrastructure. While the Minister mentioned the plastic bag levy, which is successful and which we support, this is not the same as the plastic bag levy. It requires planning and action. We have not seen that to date in terms of where and how the infrastructure will be provided and how people will access charging points to get electric vehicles on the road and sustain them, even for short journeys.

First, we have one charge point for every four cars in the country.

That is because there are so few cars.

We have 900 electric vehicle charge points across the country. I compliment the initiative by the Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Orla Leyden, and Roscommon County Council, which has put in place proper signage in regard to electric vehicles and parking spaces. I hope other local authorities will follow the example of Roscommon County Council. Of those 900 electric vehicle charge points, some 800 are standard public charge points and 70 have DC fast chargers. I accept we need to improve the infrastructure across the country and that is why I have allocated funding in the budget for 2018 to roll out fast charge points across the country.

The Deputy is right that the CRU has made this recommendation. However, there is a ten-year lead-in time so we have time to transition from the current ownership model. We must remember that the decision that was taken previously was to establish this pilot project to roll out electric vehicle infrastructure and study the impact of electric vehicles on the electricity distribution system itself. From that point of view, it made sense. I do not think anyone is surprised by the decision that has been made by CRU. The fact we have a ten-year timeline is positive but it is the case that we need to invest in improving the infrastructure. That is why we started this process in budget 2018.

That is all fine and dandy but we are talking about reducing our carbon dioxide emissions and we are not doing very well on that front. I do not understand the sense of urgency being given to this issue because we are way behind. There is very little mention of home charging points and there are question marks over whether the grid can sustain the load if several people with electric cars in the same street all plug in at the one time. It is Sinn Féin's belief that we need to get into home charging, particularly if we are phasing out the current system.

I heard the point about the ten-year phase-out, which is to be welcomed. I take it the ESB does not have to stop next month or the month after, and that it can be phased out. The Minister also made the point about there being one charging point for every four cars but that simply shows there is not the take-up we require. We need to look at this scheme again. One of the places we could start is with public service vehicles and local authority vehicles that are doing short runs. The milk carts of 30, 40 and 50 years ago ran on batteries. Surely it is not beyond the imagination and engineering ingenuity of this generation to get such vehicles running on electricity in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I want the Minister to take up with his Department officials the whole issue of home charging, which I do not think they are giving the urgency it needs.

With regard to home charging points, from 1 January a new grant scheme will be brought in. If someone buys a new car or second-hand car, he or she will get a grant for a home charging point. Every new car that has been purchased to date in this country has been able to avail of a home charging point but, from now on, it will be available not just for new purchases but for the purchase of a second-hand vehicle. That does two things: it gives confidence to someone who buys a second-hand vehicle but it also provides reassurance for those who buy new vehicles that there is a second-hand market.

With regard to the load on the grid, while this is a valid point, we are looking at the other side, which is microgeneration. As the Deputy knows, we held a forum in Dublin in the past month and the view was that both of those issues can be addressed together and can help to solve that problem - for example, putting solar PV panels on a roof has an impact on the grid. We have two problems, one in demand and one in supply, and the question is whether we can bring them together.

We are now examining a broader approach to that than has been taken to date.

I support everything that my colleague, Deputy Stanley, said about home parking. We do not need pilot projects for a couple of aspects, only common sense. People need to be able to charge at home and where they go ultimately. The majority of trips are to work or shopping centres. People park in the environs of their workplaces or public or private car parks.

The Department and the Government need to develop incentives for workplace and private car parks to put the infrastructure in place. We have a Mickey Mouse operation at the moment, with a couple of high-visibility points around St. Stephen's Green and other places like it that few people will ever get to use. As the Minister stated, the ratio of points to cars is adequate at 1:4, but we should not even be thinking like that. If we want a seismic shift in behavioural change, doubters of this technology need to see a free space everywhere they park. In addition to financial incentives, they would then know that they could charge in a public car park, at a filling station or in their work environs. That requires State incentives.

Roads used to be ass-and-cart dirt tracks but, with the advent of Henry Ford's invention, people had the foresight to start building infrastructure that could carry that type of vehicle in current volumes. The Government needs to get into that kind of mindset and put key infrastructure in place. If the Minister can make the shift and begin that process, he can dispense with some of his pilot projects and little groupings that are operating in the background. He knows where this needs to go. Make the big move and incentivise workplaces, car park owners and others to get there.

To address an issue raised by Deputies Dooley and Stanley, next year we will support the public sector and commercial fleet trials of electric vehicles and car sharing.

Turning to Deputy Dooley's point, technology has moved on. For the majority of people, the daily commute is far shorter than the car's charge. Among Nordic countries, for example, Nissan is discussing using excess electricity in car batteries. When people drive to their workplaces, electricity will go from their batteries and rejoin the network when it is in high demand. We are examining that idea.

Grid access is needed for that.

While we need to roll out infrastructure, we also need to upgrade existing infrastructure. This is all part of the process started by budget 2018. Range anxiety is beginning to disappear. For many people, a 200 km range is adequate to meet their daily commuting needs. Any household that has two cars should, on the purchase of a new car, convert one of them into an electric vehicle. We are installing charge points at home for people who are purchasing second-hand cars. We are also considering issues of technology, range anxiety and putting infrastructure in place for those travelling longer distances.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.