Hydraulic Fracturing Policy

Questions (126, 128)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

126. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he expects the Environmental Protection Agency report on hydraulic fracturing to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9975/13]

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Michael Colreavy

Question:

128. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if any licensing options or exploratory licences will be granted for hydraulic fracturing prior to the publishing on the Environmental Protection Agency report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9976/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 126 and 128 together.

I have made it clear on a number of occasions that any application for an exploration licence that proposed the use of hydraulic fracturing as part of an unconventional gas exploration programme would be subject to a full environmental impact assessment. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) entails consideration of the potential impacts of a project on population, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, including the architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the inter-relationship between the above factors. Under the EIA Directive, it is not possible to permit a project unless it can be determined following assessment that it would not have an unacceptable environmental or social impact.

In this context, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has commenced a process to issue a public call inviting interested parties to tender for the offer of funding from both the EPA Strive Programme and my Department to conduct detailed research on the use of Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction in Ireland, in particular with regard to the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technology. The study follows on from the preliminary research into the environmental aspects of shale gas extraction, conducted by the University of Aberdeen, which was published by the EPA in May 2012.

The proposed terms of reference for this study have been developed and are currently the subject of a Public Consultation Process which was launched on 11 January 2013. Interested parties have been invited to submit written comments by 8 March 2013. Further details are available from the EPA website (www.epa.ie ). The final results of this study are expected in early 2015.

As I have confirmed to the House on a number of previous occasions, no decision will be made on any proposal for the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling in Ireland until there has been time to consider the outcome of this further EPA research.

Environmental Schemes

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 126.

Questions (127)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

127. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he is using Ireland's Presidency of the EU Council to advance a green tech agenda; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10088/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

There are a number of items to be progressed by the Irish Presidency in relation to the promotion of green technology.

The Council conclusions on last year’s Commission renewable energy communication invited the Commission to present non-binding guidance to further improve national support schemes in order to achieve further cost reduction and market integration, as well as separate guidance on the implementation of the cooperation mechanisms provided for in the Renewable Energy Directive. The Commission is expected to publish its report in May and the Irish Presidency will facilitate discussions on it.

In May, Dublin will host the 2013 SET-Plan Conference in Dublin. The Strategic Energy Technology (SET) Plan is the EU strategy to accelerate the development and market roll-out of low carbon energy technologies. The conference will run over two days and focus on Energy, Research and Industrial policies at European and National levels.

The Energy Council in June will deliver Council conclusions on the Internal Energy Market Communication. This communication sets out actions to drive towards the achievement of the internal market for energy. The aim of achieving this internal market is to benefit customers, promote competition, achieve sustainability of supply and to decarbonise the electricity industry through increased renewable energy penetration and the improvement of infrastructure.

The Irish Presidency is also progressing discussions on the proposal to amend the Renewable Energy Directive and the Fuel Quality Directive to take into account the indirect land use change impacts of biofuels. These proposals include measures which would incentivise the production and use of next generation biofuels. There will be orientation debates at the February Energy Council and March Environment Council and it is the Presidency’s aim to produce a Progress Report for both Councils in June.

Finally, last month the Commission published a draft Directive on the Deployment of Alternative Fuels Infrastructure. The aim of this proposed directive is to reduce dependency on oil throughout the EU by ensuring that adequate infrastructure is available in Member States both for the supply of alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas, hydrogen and biofuels and for the charging of Electric Vehicles. The Commission will present on its proposal at the Transport Council on 11 March and there will be a first exchange of views by Member States.

Question No. 128 answered with Question No. 126.

Electricity Transmission Network

Questions (129)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

129. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will direct EirGrid to implement smart grid technology in County Mayo until such time as the 400 kV line planned for is in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9952/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

EirGrid’s Grid25 programme is a strategy designed to develop the transmission networks in order to ensure safe, secure and affordable electricity supplies throughout Ireland supporting economic growth, renewable and sustainable energy. The Government endorses this major investment programme currently underway in the high voltage electricity transmission system. Grid25 is the most important investment in Ireland’s transmission system for several generations and will position our energy system for decades to come.

The Smart Grid is a key enabler of a future low carbon electricity system that facilitates demand side efficiency, increases the share of renewable and distributed generation and enables consumer participation. EirGid’s Smart Grid programme is a series of projects to upgrade the current electricity system while continuing to operate and maintain a safe, secure and reliable system. EirGrid is also involved in the Smart Grid Innovation Hub which is a collaborative initiative between the EirGrid Group and the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) to promote the development of innovative Smart Grid solutions. EirGrid and SONI (System Operator Northern Ireland) support a number of demonstration projects in the Smart Grid sector in order to encourage the development of a Smarter Grid in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

I understand that EirGrid would be happy to offer the Deputy a briefing in relation to the overall Grid25 strategy, including the GridWest project in County Mayo. This briefing would also include information on the deployment of Smart Grid technologies that will help system operators use grid infrastructure more efficiently.

Electricity Transmission Network

Question No. 131 answered with Question No. 104.

Questions (130)

Clare Daly

Question:

130. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if significant public funds of €3 million are to be paid to a contractor who did not complete the East West Inter Connector project on time and would appear not to be contractually entitled to such payments; and if these payments are to be made, the reason for same. [9985/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

This is a day to day operational matter for EirGrid and not one in which I, as Minister, has a role or function.

Question No. 131 answered with Question No. 104.

Energy Schemes Issues

Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 97.

Questions (132)

Brendan Griffin

Question:

132. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the actions he is taking to help ensure that the Shannon LNG project in County Kerry will proceed; his views on the employment and economic benefits associated with this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9944/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I and Government colleagues have consistently been supportive of the proposal by Shannon LNG to construct a LNG terminal near Ballylongford, County Kerry. Such a facility, together with the bringing onshore of Corrib Gas would provide important security of gas supply for Ireland in future years.

The Deputy will be aware that on 29 June 2012 the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) published its decision on the treatment of the gas interconnectors. The Deputy will also be aware of Shannon LNG’s application to the Courts for Judicial Review of the CER decision of 29 June last. The case is due to commence on 28 February. In view of the legal process now in train and the fact that Ireland and the Attorney General have been named as respondents in the case I will not be making further comment in the matter.

Question No. 133 answered with Question No. 97.

Broadband Services Provision

Question No. 135 answered with Question No. 116.

Questions (134)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

134. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline the effect on his Department's budget of the cutting of the EU's broadband budget for the period 2012-2014 by nearly €7 billion; if he believes that Ireland will reach its 2020 EU broadband targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9918/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 471 of the 19th February.

Question No. 135 answered with Question No. 116.

Exploration Licences Approvals

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 123.

Questions (136, 142)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

136. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the exploration licence granted to a company (details supplied) to prospect off the coast of Dublin complies with the Aarhus Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9990/13]

View answer

John Halligan

Question:

142. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the exploration licence granted to a company (details supplied) to prospect off the coast of Dublin complies with the Aarhus Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9991/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 142 together.

The Aarhus Convention, which is implemented through the Public Participation Directive, obliges the State to adopt all measures necessary to ensure that, before consent is given, projects likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue, inter alia, of their nature, size or location are made subject to an assessment with regard to their effects and that such assessment be subject to public participation in the decision-making. This has already been the practice in Ireland in the case of exploration for oil and gas.

Prior to the launch of Licensing Rounds for the award of exploration authorisations offshore Ireland, a Strategic Environmental Assessment or SEA, has been undertaken. An SEA of the Celtic and Irish Seas was also undertaken prior to the award of the exploration licence in the Kish Bank Basin. An SEA, which includes both public consultation and consultation with prescribed bodies, is the process by which environmental considerations are required to be fully integrated into the preparation of Plans and Programmes and prior to their final adoption. The objectives of the SEA process are to provide for a high level of protection of the environment and to promote sustainable development by contributing to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation and adoption of specified Plans and Programmes.

In the event that an exploration company applies to progress a project to production, an application for approval of a Plan of Development pursuant to a Petroleum Lease would be subject to a full Environmental Impact Assessment or EIA. The EIA Directive ensures that the environmental implications of projects are taken into account in the permitting process, before the final decisions are made and it involves the public in the decision–making process making it more transparent. The specific requirements of the Directive entail consideration of the potential impacts of the project on population, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, including the architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the inter-relationship between the above factors.

Under the Directive it should be noted that it is not possible to permit a project unless it can be determined following assessment that it would not have an unacceptable environmental or social impact.

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 123.

Online Business Voucher Scheme

Questions (138)

Brian Stanley

Question:

138. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has considered a charge on broadband access on households; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9974/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I have no plans to introduce a broadband charge on Irish households.

In Ireland, businesses and citizens can obtain a broadband service from a multiplicity of service providers operating in the market. The market is competitive with prices being determined by competitive dynamics between the various operators.

The State has also intervened to ensure that basic broadband services are available in those areas where commercial operators have not invested. This has generally been implemented in cooperation with private service providers on foot of a competitive process. Prices for these services would reflect market norms.

The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland has met the EU Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013, and the focus is now on accelerating the roll out of high speed services.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August last, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed services of at least 30Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, well in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible. This will be achieved through a combination of private and public sector investment.

Marine Resources

Question No. 140 answered with Question No. 97.

Questions (139)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

139. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will list the marine energy testing facilities currently in operation in Irish waters; the extent to which each of these projects are funded by the Irish State or other states; if there are any marine energy projects currently under consideration which may require State support; if the State is in a position to provide this support; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9891/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In terms of marine energy testing facilities in Irish waters, there is one existing wave test site in Galway Bay in operation. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the Marine Institute established an Ocean Energy Test Site for quarter scale prototypes of wave energy devices in Galway Bay in 2006. The Galway Bay wave energy test site facilitates the open sea deployment of scaled prototypes of Wave Energy Converters during the early stages of the development of their concept.

Ancillary power and communications are also available on site. Wave energy devices that have been successfully deployed at the test-site since its inception include Wavebob and the Ocean Energy buoy. Also incorporated within the test site area is the SmartBay project, run by the Marine Institute. This is a national research infrastructure project for oceanographic monitoring.

The Galway Bay test site has been co-funded by the Marine Institute and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland i.e. from state funds. Free access to the Galway site for developers is however available through Marinet. Marinet is an EC-funded network of research centres and organisations that are working together to accelerate the development of marine renewable energy - wave, tidal and offshore-wind - by offering periods of free access to their world-class testing facilities, standardising testing, coordinating research, providing focused training and industry networking. Marinet can be accessed by contacting the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre at Beaufort, University College Cork.

The Ocean Energy Development Unit in SEAI was established to progress the ocean energy sector in Ireland. SEAI has also been taking forward the development of a full scale grid connected wave test site off Annagh Head, County Mayo. This site is not yet operational. SEAI has applied to the Department of Environment for a foreshore lease in respect of the project and is in the latter stages of the consenting process. Additionally a grid connection offer from ESB Networks has been accepted. A comprehensive data collection project to provide wave and seabed information for device developers is also underway.

The cumulative amount of expenditure on Ocean Energy by SEAI in the period 2009 – 2013, including the estimated 2013 allocation, is €20.659m. Some of this funding has also been allocated under a grant scheme for industry known as the Prototype Development Fund. SEAI has been allocated an ocean energy budget this year and has several current applications from ocean energy companies for funding under this scheme. Applications are being assessed with a view to the distribution of funds to eligible applicants within the budget available.

Other supports for the sector include the development of the Beaufort Laboratory as part of the IMERC facility in Cork, which will see a re-housing of the wave tank facility and will bring together researchers in the area currently based in the Hydraulics and Maritime Research Centre (HMRC) and the Coastal and Marine Research Centre (CMRC), as part of a broader campus approach with the Naval College, UCC and Cork Institute of Technology, aimed at maximising on marine industrial opportunities.

The Government recognises the potential of our indigenous wave energy resource and the Research and Development and job potential in this area. In the context of overall reducing budgets, the capital allocation for the Ocean Energy Programme was increased to €5 million for 2013. One of the priorities to be pursued is the further development of the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site (AMETS) at Annagh Head. The potential for private sector involvement in this regard is being explored.

Question No. 140 answered with Question No. 97.

Television Reception

Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 136.

Question No. 143 answered with Question No. 123.

Questions (141)

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

141. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if there is 100% coverage for Saorview; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9981/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

RTÉ has built, owns and controls the Saorview TV network and is responsible for the roll-out, coverage and operation of that network. This is in accordance with Part 8 of the Broadcasting Act 2009, which provides that the development of the RTÉ network is an operational matter for RTÉ.

Section 130 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 Act provides that RTÉ must roll out a national digital TV network to the same extent as its existing analogue network. In regard to SAORVIEW, as with the analogue terrestrial TV network that it replaces, the new national digital terrestrial TV service is operated by RTÉ and which provides access to the national Irish TV channels on a non-subscription basis i.e. free to air covers 98% of the population. 100% coverage is not possible on a terrestrial network.

In addition to Saorview, RTÉ has developed SAORSAT, a new free-to-air satellite service unique to Ireland to ensure the free to air RTÉ television services are available to 100% of the population. This is the first time free to air Irish TV is available to 100% of the population. RTÉ is not obliged to provide this satellite service and is doing so on its own initiative.

Question No. 142 answered with Question No. 136.
Question No. 143 answered with Question No. 123.

Broadband Services Provision

Questions (144)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

144. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has identified the source of funding for the rollout of broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9970/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

On 30 August 2012, I published the National Broadband Plan, which contains ambitious targets for high speed broadband services across Ireland. The Plan is available on my Department’s website.

The National Broadband Plan will deliver on these targets by leveraging investment from both private and public sectors. The Plan envisages that industry will be the key driver of investment with State intervention only where there is market failure.

Approximately €1bn is being invested in Ireland by existing companies in fibre infrastructure which will deliver broadband speeds of 30Mbps to 150Mbps to most homes and businesses by 2015. Mobile telecommunications operators will be rolling out advanced mobile broadband products in 2013, following the recent multi-band spectrum auction.

The Government is committed in the Plan to investing in areas where high speed services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market. The total funding involved for any State intervention has been indicatively estimated in the Plan at €350 million, €175 million of which will come from public funding sources with the other €175 million from the successful commercial service provider(s) emerging from a public procurement process. The actual cost to the State will be determined by the structure and outcome of the procurement process which will be designed to ensure value for money.

The precise source of funding of the necessary State investment will be decided at the appropriate time by Government. I anticipate that in advance of this decision my Department will discuss the matter with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and NewERA. In any event I wish to underline the Government’s commitment to the Plan and to the securing of the necessary funding.

Electricity Generation

Question No. 146 answered with Question No. 125.

Questions (145)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

145. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which he has analysed the energy market requirements and targets in respect of conventional and alternative electricity-generating sources with a view to determination of the extent to which reliance on imported fossil fuels can be reduced annually over the next ten years; the extent to which he anticipates energy exports in this area to be beneficial to the national economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9954/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Under the Renewable Energy Directive, Ireland is required to increase renewable energy from 3.1% in 2005 to 16% in 2020, with a minimum target of 10% in the transport sector. Energy is consumed across the transport, heating and electricity sectors. The intention is to reach Ireland’s overall target through 40% renewable electricity, 10% renewable heating and 12% renewable transport, which together amount to 16% of all energy consumption.

This is set out in our National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and First Progress Report on the NREAP, which are both available on my Department’s website. At end 2011, 6.4% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources had been achieved, so a further increase of 9.6% across the three sectors is required in the years to 2020 if Ireland’s target is to be achieved.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) published a report entitled “Energy in Ireland” in November 2012. That report gives an estimated figure of approximately €300 million in avoided national gas imports from the use of all renewable energies in the generation of electricity in 2011. For wind generation alone this would account for approximately an estimated €240 million of the €300 million in avoided gas imports.

The SEAI Modelling Unit estimate, subject to a variety of assumptions, that fossil fuel dependency in Ireland may be reduced by up to 14% due to the energy efficiency measures and by a further 15% by renewable energy policy in the year 2020. They have, however, also noted that a significant portion of biofuels and biomass may be imported in that period.

With regard to potential energy exports, the Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation that UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Edward Davey and I signed on 24 January will result in completion of consideration of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of Ireland and the United Kingdom. This will determine whether it is beneficial for both countries to enter into an Inter-Governmental Agreement under the Renewable Energy Directive to provide for renewable energy trading.

If an Inter-Governmental Agreement is entered into, there are potential significant employment opportunities. As an example, employment creation arising from a 3,000MW project would be expected to be in the order of 3,000 to 6,000 job years in the construction phase, with the actual number dependent on the construction schedule to 2020. There would also be additional jobs created in the ongoing maintenance of turbines over a 20-year operating life. Further employment opportunities could arise if turbines or components were to be manufactured in Ireland. All relevant State agencies, particularly in the enterprise area, would have to coordinate their activities early in the process to ensure employment potential of export projects is maximised. This opportunity has already been identified by the Industrial Development Authority and Enterprise Ireland in their clean technology growth strategies.

Question No. 146 answered with Question No. 125.

Broadband Services Provision

Questions (147)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

147. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of schools that currently avail of the 100 Mbps to schools project; if he will provide a breakdown by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9969/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

All post-primary schools will have a 100Mbps broadband connection installed by the end of 2014, through a project jointly funded by my Department and the Department of Education and Skills (DES).

In 2009, under the initial pilot phase of this project, a total of 78 post-primary schools, were provided with 100Mbps broadband connectivity.

The national rollout, which commenced in 2012, will be completed on an incremental basis. In 2012 some 202 schools were identified for connection, completing all post primary schools across 14 Counties. Those Counties included Cavan, Clare, Donegal, Galway, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath.

A further 216 schools will be connected during 2013 with a formal announcement on the locations to be made in the coming weeks. The remaining post-primary schools, approximately 250, will be provided with a 100Mbps broadband connection by end 2014.

A breakdown by County of the number of schools that currently avail of the 100Mbps to schools project is detailed in the table:

County

Number of Schools

Carlow

2

Cavan

11

Clare

19

Cork

4

Donegal

26

Dublin

20

Galway

48

Kerry

1

Kildare

3

Kilkenny

1

Laois

9

Leitrim

6

Limerick

4

Longford

9

Louth

18

Mayo

28

Meath

2

Monaghan

13

Offaly

11

Roscommom

8

Sligo

14

Tipperary

1

Waterford

3

Westmeath

16

Wexford

3

Wicklow

1

Total

280