Seal Deaths

Questions (366)

Clare Daly

Question:

366. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if he will meet with the Irish Seal Sanctuary in order to deal with the reports of multiple seal deaths many of which appear to be suspicious and to discuss their offer of assistance in the carrying out of post mortems in the regional veterinary laboratories and colleges. [12824/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Arts)

I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 379 of 28 February 2013, where I detailed my Department’s response to the recent reports of seal deaths around our coast, including co-operation with the Irish Seal Sanctuary.

I will arrange for officials of my Department to meet with the Irish Seal Sanctuary in order to discuss further options for co-operation in this matter.

Exploration Licences Approvals

Questions (367)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

367. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will wait until the results of the environmental impact assessment study have come back and are fully considered before granting any exploration licence for onshore shale gas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12840/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I can confirm that two of the three companies granted onshore licensing options in February 2011 have submitted applications for a follow-on exploration licence. My Department will shortly commence its evaluation, focusing on the technical rationale underpinning the applications, along with the corporate information provided. Where the outcome of this stage of the evaluation is positive, further consideration of the application will then be put on hold until after the findings of the new EPA research have been published.

In addition, I can confirm that I do not propose to consider applications for exploration authorisations in respect of other onshore areas until the EPA research has concluded.

Fisheries Protection

Questions (368)

Dara Calleary

Question:

368. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he proposes to take to protect the native oyster beds on Lough Swilly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13064/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I am advised by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) that Lough Swilly is located within a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). As the exploitation of these fisheries is by means of dredging, an “Appropriate Assessment” against predetermined conservation objectives is required. These assessments are undertaken by the Marine Institute an Agency within the aegis of the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) is the agency which issues oyster dredge licences under the 1959 Fisheries (Consolidation) Act. Until the completion of an Appropriate Assessment, IFI must ensure, on a precautionary basis, that no intensification of the oyster dredge fishery occurs. This precautionary policy has been further strengthened by the Habitats Directive as transposed by European Commission (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011

In accordance with this principle, IFI limit the number of licences annually to no more than the average number of licences that have been issued over the previous 5 years when dredging actually took place, prior to 2011. If the number of licences issued in 2011 was restricted then the number issued in the years after 2011 must not exceed that number until the Appropriate Assessment is completed by the Marine Institute.

This precautionary management regime means that a total of 24 licences are available for issue in 2013 in the Lough Swilly area.

The Appropriate Assessment, when completed, will provide a status report on the current fishery, identify potential impacts of current fishing and aquaculture activities in Lough Swilly and identify the necessary conservation measures required to ensure sustainable management of the fishery into the future.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (369, 370, 371, 372, 373)

Robert Troy

Question:

369. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the costs of providing hardware and software to his home and the home of the Ministers of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12363/13]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

370. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the costs of providing telephone in the homes of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12381/13]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

371. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost of telephones and ICT provided to constituency offices, including monthly telephone bills of Ministers and Ministers of State in his Department since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12400/13]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

372. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if any additional costs other than telephones, ICT and monthly phone bills are being paid to constituency offices by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12418/13]

View answer

Robert Troy

Question:

373. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of mobile telephones in use by him, Ministers of State and politically appointed staff; the total costs of the mobile telephones since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12436/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 369 to 373, inclusive, together.

Details of all hardware provided by my Department to my home are as follows: One PC and one scanner at a total cost of €325.00. No Departmental equipment has been provided to the Minister of State, Deputy O’Dowd’s home and there was no software procured for use by myself or the Minister of State.

I wish to advise the Deputy that my Department at all times seeks to achieve the optimum cost efficiency in the provision of both ICT and communications equipment

and telephone services to the offices of Ministers, and throughout the Department. Regarding the Deputy’s specific questions, I can confirm that the Department has

not provided telephone equipment in either my home or the home of the Minister of State.

The cost, from February 2011 to date of the provision of ICT equipment to both of the constituency offices is €5,503, with all printers and scanners provided from existing Department stock. In the same period the costs of telephony for constituency offices amounted to €4,167.90. My Department has not incurred any costs, additional to ICT and communications costs.

A total of 11 mobile communications devices (phone, data and tablet) have been provided to myself, the Minister of State and politically appointed staff. The cost of the provision and operation of this equipment and ancillary equipment was €6,769.63 in 2011, €8,353.22 in 2012 and €1,660.98 to date in 2013.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (374)

Robert Troy

Question:

374. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost of drivers of each vehicle assigned to him and Ministers of State in his Department since March 2011; the mileage and other costs claimed in respect of each since March 2011; the overall yearly costs of ministerial cars in 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12454/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The information requested by the Deputy on costs from March 2011 to date is outlined in the tables following.

Minister’s Car

Cost of Drivers to date (Includes Employer’s PRSI and expenses)

Mileage and other costs

€165,497

€23,272

Minister of State’s Car

Cost of Drivers to date (Includes Employer’s PRSI and expenses)

Mileage and other costs

€149,351

€29,836

My Department did not incur any Ministerial transport costs in 2010. In that year all Government Ministers were provided with a State car that was driven by a member of An Garda Síochána from a pool of gardaí, two of whom were assigned to the Minister at that time. The cost of this service was funded from the Vote of An Garda Síochána. In addition the Minister of State assigned to my Department in 2010 did not claim mileage in my Department. The decision to terminate state transport for Ministers (other than An Taoiseach, An Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice) has led to savings of 65% to the Exchequer.

Departmental Expenditure

Questions (375)

Robert Troy

Question:

375. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of credit cards issued to staff and Ministers in his Department and the total costs of each card since March 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12473/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

In total, there are three credit cards held in my Department since March 2011. The cards are held by the Minister, Private Secretary to the Minister and the Private Secretary to the Minister of State.

The use of cards provides for the efficient management of payments, but all use is subject to the overriding objective of economy and efficiency, full compliance with travel and subsistence rules, value for money and compliance with rules and expenditure limits on hospitality. Total expenditure over the two year period on each of the cards was €1,625.98, €5,440.62 and €3,664.18 respectively.

Wind Energy Strategy

Questions (376)

Willie Penrose

Question:

376. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will take steps to initiate and undertake a strategic environmental assessment of Ireland's overall onshore wind energy strategy similar to that which was initiated in 2011 which undertook an assessment of the likely significant environmental effects of implementing Ireland's offshore wind energy plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12507/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I intend to finalise the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on the draft Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP), on which a public consultation has been held, in the coming months and to publish the final OREDP, including appropriate assessment decision and SEA Statement at that time. EirGrid has undertaken and published an SEA on the implementation plans for Grid 25, and this is available on the EirGrid website, www.eirgrid.com.

The Department of Environment has published guidelines related to Wind Energy Planning. These are available on the Department of Environment website at www.environ.ie. A focused revision of these guidelines is currently underway.

The guidelines offer advice to planning authorities on planning for wind energy through the development plan process and in determining applications for planning permission. The guidelines are also intended to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country in the identification of suitable locations for wind energy development and the treatment of planning applications for wind energy developments. The guidelines are also intended to be of assistance to developers and the wider public in considering wind energy development. The guidelines were issued under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, which requires both planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to them in the performance of their functions.

Each local authority is required to publish a development plan, setting out the overall planning policies of the local area for a 6 year period and in doing so, they are statutorily required to have regard to the Wind Energy Planning Guidelines. Each local authority Development Plan is the subject of a strategic environmental assessment, which has taken wind energy development into account.

Broadband Services Provision

Questions (377)

Robert Troy

Question:

377. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in the interest of choice and price competitiveness, if he will reconsider his policy towards an over reliance on individual private sector broadband service providers to deliver this service in rural areas including Newtowncashel, County Longford. [12521/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland’s telecommunications market is fully liberalised and is regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), in accordance with an EU Regulatory Framework. It has been liberalised since 1999 and has developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available on a county-by-county basis can be found on the website of the ComReg at www.callcosts.ie.

The State can only become involved in the provision of broadband services on a commercial basis in accordance with the market economy investor principle or in the provision of broadband services in instances of clear market failure, in accordance with EU State Aid rules. The Government has undertaken a number of initiatives to bring broadband to those parts of the country where operators have been unable to offer services on a commercial basis.

My Department entered into a contract in late 2008 with Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd (“3”) for the delivery of the National Broadband Service (NBS). The scheme offers a basic broadband service, in line with EU State aid clearance, to fixed residences and businesses located within certain designated Electoral Divisions. In County Longford, NBS services are available within 11 of its 55 Electoral Divisions. Under EU State Aid rules, the NBS is prohibited from providing a service in served areas where to do so would give rise to an unacceptable level of market distortion.

The Rural Broadband Scheme (RBS) was launched in 2011 in recognition of the fact that despite the widespread availability of broadband throughout Ireland, there still remained individual premises that were unable to receive broadband provision. This Scheme was aimed at making a basic broadband service available to unserved premises in rural areas, not already covered by the NBS. Commercial service providers were in a position to offer services to all applicants under the Scheme from County Longford.

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.

Specifically, it commits to: 70Mbps to 100Mbps available from the commercial market operators to more than half of the population by 2015; at least 40Mbps, and in many cases faster speeds, to at least a further 20% and potentially as much as 35% of the population; and a minimum of 30Mbps for every remaining home and business in the country.

During the preparation of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, the commercial market operators indicated that they expect to provide 70Mbps to 100Mbps services to 50% of the population by 2015. The commercial sector is already making these investments in high speed services, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas. The Government is also committed in the Plan to investing in areas where high speed services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market.

My Department is making preparations to commence a formal national mapping exercise to identify where the market is expected to succeed and fail in the delivery of high speed broadband over the coming years. This will inform the level of Government interaction that may be required and the areas that need to be targeted for a State-led investment. It will also form a critical input to an EU State Aid application in respect of any State-led intervention.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, we are committed to increasing the availability of next generation speeds significantly, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and business can participate fully in a digitally enabled society.

I would reiterate that the Government remains committed to the delivery of the speeds referred to above, to ensure that all parts of Ireland, including Newtowncashel, County Longford, will have speeds of at least 30Mbps.

Energy Schemes Issues

Questions (378)

Nicky McFadden

Question:

378. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline proposals for the residential sector to transition from the retrofit scheme to a new pay as you save financing model; the way this transition will impact on the homeowner in terms of benefits and ability to finance home improvements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12543/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administers the Better Energy Homes Scheme under the Better Energy Programme. Better Energy Homes provides a financial incentive to private homeowners who wish to improve the energy performance of their homes. Fixed grants are provided towards the cost of a range of measures including attic insulation, wall insulation, heating systems upgrades, solar thermal panels and accompanying BER. By the end of February 2013 the Scheme had dispersed over €150 million in Exchequer funding, providing 353,232 energy efficiency measures to 138,970 homes.

The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan and the Programme for Government include a commitment to roll out a Better Energy Financing (i.e. pay-as-you-save) energy retrofit scheme for domestic buildings after 2013. The Better Energy Financing (BEF) model proposes that the current suite of Exchequer funded grants for energy efficiency measures, excluding the low-income housing retrofit programme, will be replaced by a new financing scheme open to households and commercial operators.

The key benefit to the homeowner of such a financing mechanism is that the scheme will allow them to secure upfront financing for energy efficiency upgrades to their homes, and in the process remove one of the key energy efficiency barriers. The consumer will also benefit through the creation of a robust quality assurance process that will protect consumers and ensure high-quality workmanship.

My Department has put in place a project team to design a replacement retrofit financing scheme under the direction of a Project Board representing key state and industry stakeholders. Project resources have been drawn from industry experts and elsewhere in the public sector. It is planned that the design of the scheme will be developed over the coming months and that a public consultation process will be undertaken later this year.

Renewable Energy Exports

Questions (379)

Robert Troy

Question:

379. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Bord na Móna recently issued a public request for tender seeking expressions of interest for market soundings in relation to wind energy direct export from Ireland to Great Britain; if this is part of a scheme to build up Bord na Móna assets and interests with a view to privatisation; and when and how the outcome of this public request for tender will be released. [12545/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Earlier this year a Memorandum of Understanding on energy co-operation between the UK and Ireland was signed which 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. 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.

There are currently a number of potential project developers that have expressed interest in renewable export. In terms of our negotiations with the UK, we have not yet determined or agreed the selection process for potential joint projects, which will be a further matter to be discussed and negotiated in the coming year. Any such selection process will, of course, be open and transparent. It is in this context that Bord na Móna recently published a notice on etenders to establish market soundings with a view to exploring the possibility of collaborating with other market participants on a major renewable energy export project. This was not a public request for tenders nor a competition call and Bord na Móna clearly states that no decision to proceed with such a project has in fact been made.

Bord na Móna’s traditional peat business is in decline and due to environmental and climate change concerns, the company has embarked on its “New Contract with Nature” strategy, designed to transition the company towards a new more sustainable business. Reducing its dependence on peat and maximising on opportunities in the low carbon economy are the core drivers of Bord na Móna’s transformation under its “New Contract with Nature”. Bord na Móna has set objectives for the Group over the next 15 to 20 years to transform each of its business units, to be a leading provider of sustainable products and services both nationally and internationally. It is vital for Ireland to grasp the opportunities for underpinning economic growth through sustainable, competitive energy policy.

Bord na Móna’s ongoing strategy of diversification and commitment to sustainability is a key driver in the development of installed wind energy capacity at existing cut away bog sites and the company is progressing a number of significant wind farm projects on its properties. The recent notice to determine “market soundings” is a further move in exploring future opportunities consistent with its diversification strategy.

In 2012 the Government announced a programme of State asset disposals which is currently progressing and which includes the sale of Bord Gáis Éireann’s energy business and some of ESB’s non-strategic power generation capacity. Bord na Móna is not part of the State asset disposal process.

Wind Energy Guidelines

Questions (380)

Robert Troy

Question:

380. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he intends to commission any independent studies into the adverse health effect that low frequency noise has on residents who live close to wind turbines. [12546/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government has published Guidelines related to Wind Energy Planning. These are available on that Department’s website at www.environ.ie.

The Wind Energy Guidelines offer advice to planning authorities on planning for wind energy through the development plan process and in determining applications for planning permission. The Guidelines are also intended to ensure a consistency of approach throughout the country in the identification of suitable locations for wind energy development and the treatment of planning applications for wind energy developments. The Guidelines are also intended to be of assistance to developers and the wider public in considering wind energy development. The Guidelines were issued under Section 28 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000, which requires both planning authorities and An Bord Pleanála to have regard to them in the performance of their functions.

A focussed revision of these Guidelines is currently underway. The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with my Department, is undertaking a technical update of the guidance on noise (including separation distance) and shadow flicker in the Guidelines (the Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006). This update is intended to ensure that the Guidelines are supported by a robust and up to date evidence base on these issues to support wind energy development in a manner which safeguards residential amenity consistent with EU and National Policy. Submissions from the public on these aspects of the Guidelines were received in February 2013 and these are currently being considered.

The two Departments have agreed with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) that SEAI will tender for a desk based study to review and provide advice on the impact of related to onshore windfarms and that the output from this will be used to inform the focussed revision of the Guidelines.

Media Ownership

Questions (381, 382)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

381. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied that there is enough media diversity here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12568/13]

View answer

Michael Moynihan

Question:

382. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if media ownership has the potential to impact on media diversity here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12569/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 381 and 382 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, Section 25 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 requires that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) endeavour to ensure that the broadcasting services made available serve the diverse needs of the people of the island of Ireland, and that both programming and control of both commercial and community broadcasters is diverse. To that end, the BAI has a range of powers around the ownership of media as part of its licensing function and, indeed, published a new ownership and control policy for broadcast media in 2012.

I currently have no statutory responsibility for the print media sector. Legislation is in train to transfer responsibilities for the public value aspects of media mergers from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to my Department.

Arising from the critical role of the media in our democracy, and the potentially harmful effects of an over concentration of media ownership, this issue is a vitally important one. The Government remains committed to implementing a set of robust measures that allow for a transparent and objective assessment of the public good in media mergers cases, and to do so as quickly as possible.

Television Licence Fee Collection

Questions (383)

Clare Daly

Question:

383. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline the remit of the value for money policy review group dealing with the television licence fee replacement tax, due to report before the end of March 2013; the date on which the group was set up; and the names of the members. [12577/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Value for Money (VFM) Policy Review Group on the introduction of a Public Service Broadcasting Charge held its first meeting on 4 September 2012. The objective of the Review is to analyse whether an alternative funding model to the traditional TV licence fee model would provide a more stable source of funding for public service broadcasting into the future by being more efficient and effective in terms of revenue intake and lowering the evasion rate.

As required by the Department of Finance guidelines for a VFM Policy Review process, a Steering Group was established comprising officials of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, with an independent external chair.

The primary purpose of the Report is to assist my Department in its deliberations in the context of any recommendations that may, ultimately, be made to Government on this matter. The question of the status of the Report, including the need to make public the names of those on the group, will be addressed in that context once this process has been finalised.

Broadcasting Sector Regulation

Questions (384)

Clare Daly

Question:

384. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the meetings he has had with independent broadcasters of Ireland representing the big media companies (details supplied) and notwithstanding difficulties regarding state aids to commercial interests, the discussions he has had regarding funding independent broadcasters with public service broadcasting funds. [12578/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In line with my responsibilities for the broadcasting sector, I confirm that I have met with the representative body, Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI), on three occasions (8 June 2011, 3 July 2012 and on 16 January 2013) since my appointment as Minister and that these meetings included discussion of the IBI’s proposals regarding public funding.

As I have stated previously in this House, while I fully recognise the contribution of the independent radio sector in bringing diversity to the airwaves, and serving the needs of communities, I remain to be convinced that the distribution of public funds to independent commercial broadcasters represents a sound proposition in terms of policy for the sector. These stations were founded as commercial operations with creating a profit for their owners as their primary objective. Station owners sought and accepted licences on clear commercial terms. In many cases, their success in the licence application process was assisted by the voluntary commitments they gave in regard to the provision of public service type content, over and above that required by the relevant legislation. The fact that some of these stations are now undergoing an understandable degree of financial stress does not mean that the State should immediately step in and provide funding – they are and remain commercial companies. Moreover, it should also be noted that the very popularity of these stations in the communities they serve is, in many cases, as a distinct result of the local news content and current affairs type programming that they provide and which, in turn, gives them a powerful advertising presence and thus earning potential. As the economy recovers, it is to be expected that this commercial pressure will ease as advertising revenues recover apace.

In addition, as the Deputy may be aware, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is presently engaged in the first five year review of the funding of public service broadcasting corporations, RTÉ and TG4, under Section 124 of the Broadcasting Act 2009. As part of this review, the Authority will specifically examine the impact of further ‘top slicing’ of the available licence fee fund on the ability of these two broadcasters to deliver on their statutory public service mandates. The findings of this review will be used to inform my Department’s policy making in this area.

Electricity Generation

Questions (385)

Joe McHugh

Question:

385. Deputy Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will give an update on the micro-generation scheme that was announced in February 2009; when decisions will be made; when the scheme will be progressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12725/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

In 2009, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) initiated a pilot microgeneration programme. This involved 42 installations of various microgeneration technologies. A final monitoring report on the performance of the installations and learning from the programme is awaited from SEAI. This will inform future policy development.

Electric Ireland has been offering a 9c/kwh feed in tariff, on a commercial basis, to domestic microgenerators since February 2009. No other electricity supply company has to date chosen to enter the market and to offer a microgeneration feed-in-tariff on a commercial basis, although the Commission for Energy Regulation invited them to do so.

Previously, a joint ESB/Electric Ireland microgeneration support scheme for the domestic sector offering a total of 19c/kwh (comprising €10c/kwh from ESB Networks combined with the 9c/kwh from ESB Customer Supply (now Electric Ireland)) ran for 3 years (February 2009-February 2012) and had a take up of between 500 and 600 installations.

In terms of current supports, it is noteworthy that the REFIT scheme operated by my Department does not set lower limits. There are currently some very small hydro plants operating in the scheme, as well as some small landfill gas and anaerobic digestion (AD) plants.

In REFIT 3, covering the biomass sector, the tariff structure is weighted in favour of smaller scale developments, with a higher tariff being offered for AD plants of less than half a megawatt (500 kW) and biomass CHP plants that are less than1.5MW (1500kW).

REFIT 3 Tariffs

i. AD CHP (units less than or equal to 500 kWe) 15c per kWh

ii. AD CHP (units of greater than 500 kWe) 13c per kWh

iii. AD (non CHP) (less than or equal to 500 kWe) 11c per kWh

iv. AD (non CHP) (units of greater than 500 kWe) 10c per kWh

v. Biomass CHP (units less than or equal to 1500kWe) 14c per kWh

vi. Biomass CHP (units of greater than 1500kWe) 12c per kWh.

SEAI has been asked to provide my Department with analysis of other means through which the microgeneration sector could be supported, apart from through a feed-in-tariff funded from the Public Service Obligation. In view of falling technology costs, the Department has also asked SEAI to update analysis on the costs of varying levels of support for microgeneration technologies, with a view to considering how the sector could be supported going forward.

Broadband Services Speeds

Questions (386)

Dara Murphy

Question:

386. Deputy Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with regard to the roll out of high speed broadband nationally, the action being taken to improve the speed in Whitechuch, County Cork, which is densely populated and growing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12742/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Considerable progress has been made in recent years in both the coverage and speeds of national broadband infrastructure, with a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms.

The Government has also undertaken a number of initiatives, including the National Broadband Scheme and the Rural Broadband Scheme, to bring basic broadband services to those parts of the country where commercial operators have been unable to offer services. 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.

In addition to consumer services, there are State-funded Metropolitan Area Networks throughout County Cork, specifically in Bantry, Blarney, Carrigaline, Charleville, Cork City, Dunmanway, Fermoy, Kanturk, Midleton, Mitchelstown, Passage West, Ringaskiddy, Skibbereen and Youghal. These networks provide high capacity fibre connectivity for businesses and telecoms operators in the region.

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.

Specifically, it commits to:70Mbps to 100Mbps available from the commercial market operators to more than half of the population by 2015; at least 40Mbps, and in many cases faster speeds, to at least a further 20% and potentially as much as 35% of the population; and a minimum of 30Mbps for every remaining home and business in the country.

During the preparation of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, the commercial market operators indicated that they expect to provide 70Mbps to 100Mbps services to 50% of the population by 2015. The commercial sector is already making these investments in high speed services, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas. The Government is also committed in the Plan to investing in areas where high speed services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market.

My Department is making preparations to commence a formal national mapping exercise to identify where the market is expected to succeed and fail in the delivery of high speed broadband over the coming years. This will inform the level of Government interaction that may be required and the areas that need to be targeted for a State-led investment. It will also form a critical input to an EU State Aid application in respect of any State-led intervention.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, we are committed to increasing the availability of next generation speeds significantly, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and business can participate fully in a digitally enabled society.

I would reiterate that the Government remains committed to the delivery of the speeds referred to above, to ensure that all parts of Ireland, including, Whitechurch County Cork will have at least 30Mbps connectivity.