Broadband Services Speeds

Questions (32)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

32. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the percentage of households in County Donegal that currently have access to broadband speeds of 30 Mbs; the percentage of households in County Donegal that currently have access to broadband speeds of 40 Mbs; if all households in County Donegal will have access to broadband speeds of at least 30 Mbs by 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45027/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland's telecommunications market has been fully liberalised since 1999 in accordance with the requirements of binding EU Directives. The market has since 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 in each County, including County Donegal, can be found on ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie.

The State can only intervene to ensure access to broadband services in areas where the competitive market fails to deliver such services. The Government's National Broadband Plan, which I published in August 2012, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses, including those in County Donegal. This will be achieved by providing:

- a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment, and

- a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services, including in parts of Donegal. In order to progress the State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained.

My Department is engaged in a comprehensive mapping exercise of the current and anticipated investment by the commercial sector to identify where the market is expected to deliver high speed broadband services over the coming years. This will culminate in the development of coverage maps which will aggregate the information provided by operators. These maps will indicate the current and future availability of high speed broadband throughout the country, as well as where there are gaps. The situation pertaining to County Donegal will be captured within the maps, which will be made available on my Department's website.

Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations, including stakeholder engagement, are ongoing. The procurement process for the approved intervention will be carried out in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules and it is expected that it will be launched in 2014.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, I am committed to ensuring that all parts of Ireland have access to high speed broadband, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in, and maximise the benefits of, a digitally enabled economy and society.

Electricity Transmission Network

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 29.

Questions (33)

John McGuinness

Question:

33. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline a response to the OECD's Economic Survey of Ireland 2013, in particular, his views on whether the OECD's suggestion that ownership of the electricity transmission grid should be transferred from the ESB to EirGrid; his views on whether the ESB's generating business should also be separated into competing generating companies and partially privatised; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44977/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government, in July 2011, considered the ownership of the Irish electricity transmission system and the appropriateness of transfer of transmission assets from ESB to EirGrid. This consideration was undertaken in the context of how best to implement the unbundling provisions of the "Third Energy Package" and the various options set out therein.

The Government's July 2011 decision, on foot of a detailed analysis of the transmission assets, was that Ireland would apply the option or derogation set out in Article 9.9 of the relevant Directive (Directive 2009/72/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 concerning common rules for the internal market in electricity and repealing Directive 2003/54/EC). Effectively, the Government's decided to confirm the current transmission asset ownership regime. An application for certification under Article 9.9 was submitted to the European commission. On 12 April 2013 the European Commission certified the transmission system arrangements in Ireland as being in accordance with Article 9.9.

As regards the 2013 OECD report, I should highlight that the report did not make a fresh recommendation regarding transfer of the ownership of the electricity transmission assets. Rather, it reported on the current state of play in relation to recommendations previously made and it noted that our transmission system arrangements had been certified by the European Commission in May 2013.

With regard to ESB's generation business, in February 2012 the Government committed to the sale of some of ESB's non-strategic electricity generation assets. Certain assets have been identified for sale and progress is being made with the first sale announcement expected to be made shortly.

More generally, it is also important to note that the opening up of the power generation sector in Ireland has led to the entry of new players and investors.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 29.

Wind Energy Generation

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 29.

Questions (35)

Charles Flanagan

Question:

35. Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will ensure that a full technical and economic analysis of the wind energy export project is carried out in advance of an intergovernmental agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45036/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In January of this year the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Mr. Ed Davey MP and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation. That Memorandum sent a strong signal of our shared interest in developing the opportunity to export green electricity from Ireland to Britain and will result in completion of consideration of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of both countries. An agreed programme of work to this end, including a full technical and economic analysis, is underway with the ambition to settle on an Inter-Governmental Agreement in early 2014. A key objective, from an Irish Government perspective, is to realise the potential for investment, jobs and growth.

The amount of energy to be procured by the UK and the mechanisms for sharing the resultant economic benefits, including an appropriate return to the Exchequer, are among the matters to be addressed ahead of signing any Inter-Governmental Agreement.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 29.

Wind Energy Generation

Questions (37, 43)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

37. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps he is taking to ensure that Irish workers, crew, boat builders and installation companies are given priority when installing offshore wind infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45026/13]

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Michelle Mulherin

Question:

43. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps being taken to ensure that the Government objective of ensuring local employment where possible on energy projects is being pursued by project developers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44898/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37 and 43 together.

I refer to the reply to Question No. 333 [44826/13] of 22 October.

Garda Investigations

Questions (38)

Clare Daly

Question:

38. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in view of the fact that a person (details supplied) is subject to an investigation by the Metropolitan Police in relation to the person's Dublin hacking operation, the reason no investigation has been ordered by him into media violations of privacy and unlawful activity, nor any other steps taken to attempt to deal with this situation. [45042/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Any criminal investigation in this jurisdiction such as the one referred to in this case by the Deputy is a matter for An Garda Síochána to consider and not one in which my Department or I, as Minister, have a role.

Mine Sites Remediation

Questions (39)

Billy Timmins

Question:

39. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding the restoration of the Avoca mines site, County Wicklow. [45221/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

A study commissioned by my Department and undertaken by CDM set out a plan for full remediation of the Avoca mines site, with costs identified in excess of €50 million. Given current pressures on the public finances, resources are not available to fund the full series of measures recommended in the report. My Department has, however, provided funding of €3m for a programme of essential works to make safe hazards arising from adits, shafts and unstable spoil heaps, and provision of further fencing and signage.

My Department has recently invited tenders for the provision of technical design, procurement and project management expertise and I expect to have a multi-disciplinary project team in place before the end of the year to assist the Department in identifying the works to be prioritised and to project manage all elements of the work to be carried out over the next three years. The team will be required, on appointment, to liaise and consult with relevant stakeholders throughout the duration of the project.

Post Office Network

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 7.

Questions (40)

Denis Naughten

Question:

40. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the steps being taken to support the maintenance of the post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45218/13]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Operational matters and the role of developing commercial strategies for the post office network are a matter for the management and Board of An Post and one in which I have no statutory function. As shareholder, however, I have a strong concern in relation to the ongoing commercial position of the Company and I regularly liaise with the Company in this regard.

An Post has many strengths and has the largest retail presence in the country. I have been supportive of its attempts to diversify its income streams and to win a wider range of commercial contracts offering higher margins. An Post has made much progress towards diversification with its enhanced arrangement with AIB and its agreement with Aviva for the transfer of Aviva Ireland's branch offices personal insurance business to One Direct. The opportunity to pay the local property tax via An Post outlets was also secured. An Post was selected as the preferred bidder, following a competitive tender process, for the cash element of welfare payments which augurs well for the future of the network. I understand An Post will pitch strongly for the social welfare ePayment business when it is put out to tender. Having invested in the computerisation of all post offices, An Post is well positioned to become the front office provider of choice for Government and financial services sector.

In the context of the public sector transformation agenda I will continue to engage with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to consideration, as appropriate, of the post office network for transactional elements of the business of Government Departments and Agencies and have stressed to my Government colleagues that the network is ideally configured for over the counter transactions.

Overall, it is Government policy that An Post remains a strong and viable company, in a position to provide a high quality, nationwide postal service and maintain a nationwide customer focussed network of post offices.

Question No. 41 answered with Question No. 7.