Pension Provisions

Questions (141)

Denis Naughten

Question:

141. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the discussions he has had with ESB regarding concerns associated with its occupational pension scheme; the reason it was changed to a defined contribution scheme and the implications for staff who do not generally have an entitlement to a State pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45179/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In late 2008, the Trustees of the ESB Superannuation Scheme brought forward the Tri-Annual Valuation of the Scheme by one year to assess the financial health of the Scheme. The Actuarial Valuation to 31 December 2008 showed an ongoing valuation deficit of €1.9 billion and a Minimum Funding Standard deficit of €1.8 billion. As required by the Scheme rules, ESB and the ESB Group of Unions formed a working group to assess how best to address the reported deficit and to protect as far as feasible the interest of ESB and the current members of the Scheme. ESB reached an agreement with staff in 2010 to resolve the pension deficit. The measures adopted under that agreement have, I understand, had a positive effect, resulting in the Scheme Actuary recently reporting that the Scheme is now in balance on an on-going actuarial basis.

Aside from the on-going actuarial position, the Pensions Board also requires the ESB Scheme to assess whether it could meet a certain prescribed standard, known as the Minimum Funding Standard (MFS). This effectively tests whether the Scheme could meet all its current obligations if it were wound up immediately. Neither the Government nor the ESB envisages the winding up of the Scheme but regardless, the Scheme is currently still required to meet the requirements of the MFS. I understand that the Scheme Actuary reported at the end of 2011 that the ESB scheme, like many others, did not, at that time, satisfy the MFS requirements.

I am advised that the Pensions Board does not require the MFS deficit to be addressed immediately but does require that a plan be developed to address it over a reasonable time. I am informed that the Trustees of the ESB scheme, with the agreement of ESB, submitted a funding plan to the Pensions Board, which was approved in October 2012. In light of the fact that the funding plan was submitted in 2011, the then existing rules relating to the Minimum Funding Standard applied - the Pensions Board published revised MFS rules in June 2012 for addressing pension fund deficits. I am also informed that the ESB plan aims to eliminate the deficit by 2018 and that this plan remains on track.

Finally, with regard to the manner in which ESB accounts for the Scheme in its financial statements, my Department has been assured by the ESB that having taken expert legal and financial advice, the Company is satisfied that the current accounting treatment for the Scheme is correct and in accordance with applicable laws and international accounting standards. I understand that the ESB Scheme remains registered with the Pensions Board as a defined benefit scheme, based on the relevant definitions as set out by the Pensions Act.

Wind Energy Guidelines

Questions (142)

Billy Timmins

Question:

142. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the review of the national policy on wind energy and wind farms. [45272/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with my Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, is undertaking a review of the Wind Energy Guidelines which will address the key issues of noise (including separation distance) and shadow flicker. Draft guidelines will be published for public consultation by end-November 2013 with a view to finalising guidelines by mid–2014. The revised guidelines will apply to all wind farm development in Ireland.

In terms of the potential export of renewable energy, one of the key requirements for proposals of a significant scale for wind energy export will be the achievement of the necessary planning consents in Ireland. Planning permission for such projects, which will be determined by An Bord Pleanála, must await the putting in place of a clear national planning policy framework and I have asked my Department to prepare such a framework. The policy framework will provide the opportunity to integrate relevant EU Directive requirements (including Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment), trans-boundary dimensions and stakeholder participation within the context of a national framework.

The outcome will be a high level development framework taking its lead from the Inter-Governmental Agreement, EU Directive requirements and relevant national, regional and local planning policy considerations in conjunction with wider policies, objectives and requirements. It will incorporate a vision and strategy coupled with technical parameters and a spatial element. The development of the framework will be progressed by my Department over the next year or so and will provide confidence and certainty for all stakeholders through an open, fair, balanced and consultative process.

The initial phase of public consultation has now commenced and all interested parties and members of the public have been formally invited to make written submissions on the export project which will be taken into consideration in preparing the framework. Details can be found on a new dedicated section on my Department's website, exclusive to the project, and which will be updated as the project progresses.

Bioenergy Strategy Publication

Questions (143)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Question:

143. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the timeframe for the publication of the bioenergy strategy; the other measures he plans to put in place to incentivise the Irish market for renewable energy products; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45304/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive set Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. In order to meet this target, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heating and 10% of transport power from renewable sources, with the transport target also being legally binding.

There are already a number of policies in place to incentivise the increased use of renewable energy. In the electricity sector, the REFIT schemes are the principal policy supports and offer guaranteed tariffs for electricity from wind, hydropower and a number of categories of biomass. The REFIT3 scheme also supports biomass-fuelled high efficiency cogeneration which, in addition to renewable electricity, supports renewable heat. This builds on the increases in renewable heat which were achieved by the Greener Homes Scheme, the Renewable Heat Deployment Programme (ReHeat) and the CHP Deployment Programme. In the transport sector, the penetration of renewable energy will grow mainly with the increased use of sustainable biofuels which is supported by way of the Biofuel Obligation Scheme. There is also a grant scheme in place to support the deployment of electric vehicles.

My Department is currently finalising a bioenergy strategy which will set out the actions, including any additional policies, required to optimise Ireland's bioenergy sector's contribution to the 2020 renewable energy targets.

Farm Improvement Scheme Expenditure

Questions (144)

Paul Connaughton

Question:

144. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if a subsidy is still in existence for the installation of electricity in farm out offices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44942/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Farm Electrification Grant Scheme (FEGS) was administered and funded through the former Department of Community Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs (DCEGA) followed by my Department from January 2005 to 31 December 2011. In that time some €511,000 was paid to farmers under the scheme, to subsidise the installation of electricity supply to farms located in disadvantaged areas which we re without supply or where supply was inadequate to facilitate their development and modernisation. The maximum grant payable was €508 for single-phase supply and €1,016 for 3-phase supply.

The scheme was closed to new applications from 1 December, 2010.

Animal Welfare Bodies

Questions (145, 146)

Dessie Ellis

Question:

145. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to help relocate the Ballymun Dogs Trust, which will be without a premises soon due to the regeneration of its current location in Balbutcher Lane, Dublin 9. [45082/13]

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Dessie Ellis

Question:

146. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the impending closure of Assisi Animal Clinic due to the regeneration of Ballymun and the demolition of the flat block from which it operated; and his plans to help this organisation to relocate considering the important work it does in the community. [45083/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 145 and 146 together.

My Department understands that the premises used by the Assisi Animal Clinic and the Ballymun Dogs Trust are located in one of the flat block s which are scheduled for demolition by Dublin City Council. It is a matter for the Council to make the necessary arrangements to ensure all units are vacated prior to commencing demolition. I have no function with regard to the sourcing of alternative accommodation for these organisations.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (147, 173)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

147. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which this country's carbon reduction targets continue to be met in line with international agreements; the extent if any to which adjustment is needed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45558/13]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

173. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the extent to which carbon reduction targets have been achieved in each of the past six years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45318/13]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 173 together.

The Environmental Protection Agency report, Ireland's Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2012, which was published on 9 October 2013 and is available on the Agency's website (www.epa.ie), sets out national greenhouse gas emissions for the period 1990 to 2012 and includes details on compliance for the purposes of the Kyoto Protocol over its first commitment period covering 2008-2012. Compliance with Ireland's Kyoto Protocol limit is achieved by ensuring that Ireland's total greenhouse gas emissions at the end of the five-year period are below our Kyoto limit, set as 314.18 Mt CO2eq. The data provided in the EPA report indicate that Ireland will achieve its Kyoto Protocol target.