National Energy Efficiency Action Plan

Questions (403)

Andrew Doyle

Question:

403. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if there is a monitoring system for the carbon control strategy which applies to all buildings in the State portfolio. [5443/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

My Department is responsible for co-ordinating the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan which commits all organisations in the public sector to achieving a 33% energy savings target by 2020. To achieve this target, my Department works with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the Office of Public Works to develop, enhance and embed good energy management practices in the public sector. Performance against this target is regularly monitored by my Department and I will be publishing an update to the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan in Quarter 2 of 2014.

There is also an obligation on all public sector organisations to report annually on their energy consumption. I intend to publish an updated report on energy use in the public sector shortly.

Departmental Multimedia Services

Question No. 405 answered with Question No. 379.

Questions (404)

John Deasy

Question:

404. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the apps his Department or attached agencies have been involved in developing for smartphones and other multimedia devices in the past three years; and the cost and the software developer employed in each case. [5455/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), which is a Division in my Department, is working on developing apps for geological data, particularly for Tellus and Infomar projects. The work on this to date has been undertaken by project and in house staff at no additional cost to my Department.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland developed a Smartphone App in 2011 to support its Power of One Activity at a cost of €16,985 ex VAT. The Home Energy Manager App was part of a wider community engagement programme and accompanied printed resources to assist homeowners in reducing their home energy use.

In relation to the other Agencies under the aegis of my Department, I have notified them of the question and have requested them to respond directly to the Deputy with their replies.

Question No. 405 answered with Question No. 379.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (406)

John Deasy

Question:

406. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will accept that satellite broadband services are not a viable option in many coastal areas because of high annual rain and cloud cover; and his plans to bring an adequate level of fibre broadband connectivity to these communities. [5485/14]

View answer

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 can be found on a number of websites, including ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie as well as the websites of individual commercial operators.

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. 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 and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. In the fixed line segment of the market, eircom has announced plans to pass 1.4m properties with its next generation broadband service, with speeds of up to 100Mbps, while UPC has increased its entry level and maximum speeds to 120Mbps and 200Mbps respectively. Mobile operators have also made announcements regarding network upgrades and are rolling out enhanced product offerings.

These developments have been facilitated through the implementation of measures in the National Broadband Plan, including the conclusion of ComReg's multiband spectrum auction, and the new regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and service bundles. Both of these measures are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by operators. The ESB Electronic Communications Bill, which I introduced last month, is a further step in promoting investment in competitively priced high speed broadband. The Bill will, when enacted, enable the ESB to utilise its electricity distribution network to provide telecommunications services in the Irish market.

In tandem with these developments, intensive work continues in my Department to progress a State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access. 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 over the coming years, the results of which will inform the areas that need to be targeted in the State-led investment as envisaged in the National Broadband Plan.

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. In designing the procurement process for the intervention, my Department will be required to comply with the EU State aid rules which set out conditionality in relation to, among other things, technology neutrality. As different technological solutions exist to provide broadband services, no particular technology or network platform should be excluded. The EU State aid guidelines do however emphasise the role of fibre in assisting the delivery of high speed broadband through various platforms.

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.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (407, 411)

John Deasy

Question:

407. Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his Department will conduct an urgent and comprehensive review of broadband capability in each county, including an assessment of all local exchanges, in order to reassess national broadband scheme shortcomings and priorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5486/14]

View answer

Seán Kyne

Question:

411. Deputy Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress of the national broadband mapping project and of his Department's discussions and dialogue with the European Commission regarding state aid, which will be necessary to meet the Government's commitment of ensuring all households and businesses have access to high-speed broadband by 2016. [5682/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 407 and 411 together.

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 can be found on a number of websites, including ComReg's website at www.callcosts.ie as well as the websites of individual commercial operators.

The State only becomes involved in investing in the provision of broadband services in instances of clear market failure, such as the case of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS). The broadband service contracted under NBS is a basic, affordable, scalable product in keeping with EU State Aid clearance for the Scheme in September 2007. With basic broadband widely available across Ireland, the focus is now on accelerating the roll out of high speed 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. 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 and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. These developments have been facilitated through the implementation of measures in the National Broadband Plan, including the conclusion of ComReg's multiband spectrum auction, and the new regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and service bundles. Both of these measures are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by operators. The ESB Electronic Communications Bill, which I introduced last month, is a further step in promoting investment in competitively priced high speed broadband. The Bill will, when enacted, enable the ESB to utilise its electricity distribution network to provide telecommunications services in the Irish market.

In tandem with these developments, intensive work, including a comprehensive mapping exercise, continues in my Department in relation to the State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access. 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.

Under the national mapping exercise, information has been sought from all undertakings authorised by ComReg in relation to current and planned broadband services, both basic and next generation access (NGA). Mapping data have been submitted to my Department by a total of 23 operators and the process of analysing the data and supporting information is continuing. In many cases, this includes follow-up queries and requests for further information. The mapping data are being assessed on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the EU State Aid Guidelines. When all of the information has been analysed, a clear picture should emerge of coverage throughout all of the country. When this process is complete, it is my intention to publish a map showing existing and planned NGA broadband coverage, along with the Government's proposals for a State-led intervention to roll out high speed broadband across the country.

My Department has commenced initial engagements with the EU Commission in relation to State Aid Guidelines and the Government's plans to intervene in the market. A formal State Aid notification process will commence when the mapping has been completed and the level of intervention required has been identified.

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.

Wind Energy Generation

Questions (408)

Michael Colreavy

Question:

408. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the energy produced by the proposed wind turbines in the midlands can be used in the Irish grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5588/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland has the capability to achieve its national targets for renewable electricity from onshore renewable generation alone, with capacity to spare. This means that, under the co-operation mechanisms outlined in Directive 2009/28/EC, there is potential for projects of scale both onshore and offshore that are aimed at export markets. It is in this context that the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Mr Edward Davey MP, and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation.

Projects of a significant scale specifically for export will have to await the signing of an Inter-Governmental Agreement, the Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework which is being developed by my Department over the coming year or so, and the obtaining of planning permission, informed by this policy, from An Bord Pleanála. Both onshore and offshore developers are free to bring forward export proposals and any such projects, if they take place in the future, would not connect to the Irish grid but would involve separate direct connection to the UK.

Separately, in relation to meeting our domestic renewable energy requirements Gate 3 was designed to ensure the 40% target for renewable electricity (RES-E) by 2020 could be achieved. The latest figures show that the Gate 3 phase of group processing by EirGrid and ESB Networks has resulted in offers being accepted by wind generators to connect approximately 3,000 megawatts so far. When taken with the current installed renewable generation and existing contracts for connection, this is in line with Ireland's requirements to meet 2020 renewable energy targets.

Broadcasting Sector Regulation

Questions (409)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

409. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the measures available to the Oireachtas and the Government to ensure that RTE does not act in contravention of its public service obligations as mandated under the Broadcasting Act 2009, particularly in cases where it is reasonably believed by the Minister that an action is in contravention of RTE's public service statement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5602/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

As a public service broadcasting corporation, RTE is obliged under Section 101 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to prepare a Public Service Statement within 12 months of the passing of the Act, and every 5 years thereafter. Every such statement is required to set out the principles to be observed and the activities to be undertaken by the corporation in order to fulfil its public service objects, as laid out in section 114 of the Act.

Taken with its statutory objects and any extant statement of strategy prepared under section 99 of the Act, the Public Service Statement informs the corporation's annual Statement of Performance Commitments. The extent to which the corporation has fulfilled its commitments under this Statement of Performance Commitments is reviewed on an annual basis by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland in accordance with section 124(2) and, on the basis of this review, the Authority is required to submit to me, as Minister, a report which is to include recommendations in regard to the adequacy of funding of the corporation.

The Deputy will note that the report and recommendation of the Authority as well as my response to the recommendation are laid before the Houses of Oireachtas.

Electricity Transmission Network

Question No. 411 answered with Question No. 407.

Questions (410)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

410. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the terms of reference for the expert panel to oversee the preparation of reports on Grid Link and Grid West; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5668/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

On 28 January, in response to EirGrid's recent public consultation process, I announced that I had appointed an Independent Panel of experts, to be chaired by Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, to decide terms of reference for comprehensive, route-specific studies of fully underground options for both Grid Link and Grid West. The Panel will be asked to ensure that the underground studies are complete and objective, and are comparable to similar studies of overhead options for the two projects. Studies of the overhead and underground options will then be published side-by-side, in objective and comparable terms, before proceeding to the next stage of public consultation on those two projects. The two studies will take account of environmental (including visual amenity) impacts, technical efficacy and cost factors. The Independent Panel will have power to commission its own work if there is any perceived deficiency in the studies presented.

On 29 January, I confirmed that the matter of electro-magnetic fields (EMF) issue will not fall under the remit of the Expert Panel. In light of the fact that responsibility for this rests with the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, Minister Phil Hogan has agreed to engage expert assistance to review and report on international developments in the scientific literature on potential health effects of EMF emanating from transmission grid infrastructure. The study will serve as an update on a report, "Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields", which was produced by my Department in 2007.

The Expert Panel has not yet met but is scheduled to do so at an early date, and it will proceed to settle on terms of reference to oversee the integrity of the process now put in place.

Question No. 411 answered with Question No. 407.

Post Office Network

Questions (412)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

412. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will put in place plans to ensure the survival of post offices (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5702/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

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 in the community. The importance of maintaining a network of post offices around the country is recognised in the Programme for Government. That said, the Deputy should be aware that operational matters and the role of developing commercial strategies for the post office network are a matter for the Board and management of An Post and not one in which I have a 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.

The reports undertaken by the Irish Postmasters' Union and the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications on the future of the post office network set out many options for exploration in relation to the future development by An Post of the post office network. The company has already invested in the computerisation of all post offices which leaves the post office network well positioned to become the front office provider of choice for Government and the financial services sector. Any such developments would, of course, need to be subject to public procurement requirements as appropriate.

Post Office Network

Questions (413)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

413. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if the Government will agree to a once-off capital investment fund for the further modernisation of the post office network to enable the wide-spread provision of banking facilities in rural areas and disadvantaged urban areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5704/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Operational matters and the role of developing commercial strategies for the post office network, including capital investment in the network, are a matter for the Board and management of the company and not one in which I have a function.

Severe Weather Events Response

Questions (414, 421)

Tom Fleming

Question:

414. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will request the Office of Public Works to carry out emergency remedial works at Waterville, County Kerry, as a matter of priority, as significant damage was done during the recent storms and high tides; if he will make the necessary funding available to protect the promenade and Ring of Kerry N70 at this location; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4882/14]

View answer

Brendan Griffin

Question:

421. Deputy Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will assign funding to fix the promenade and reinforce coastal protection of the Ring of Kerry N70 at Waterville village, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5287/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 414 and 421 together.

During the period from 13 December 2013 to 6 January 2014 Ireland was subjected to a series of severe storms, affecting the country roughly once every three days. In addition to the very strong winds, there were periods of extremely heavy rain and a lot of thunderstorm activity. These storms coincided with high spring tides and created severe and damaging conditions in a number of coastal areas. On 14 January I brought an Interim Report to Government on the storms, compiled by my Department in its capacity as lead Government Department for the response to severe weather.

At the request of Government, my Department is currently collating more detailed reports from local authorities on the anticipated repair and recovery works, including related costings. This will enable Government, through the specific areas of responsibility of relevant Departments and Agencies, to support the local authorities on recovery measures.

Coastal Protection

Questions (415)

Tom Fleming

Question:

415. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will confirm that there is a special exemption for the carrying out of coastal protection works in special areas of conservation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4973/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Coastal protection works above the high water line are considered to be "development" for the purposes of the Planning and Development Act 2000 and therefore generally require planning permission. In the event that the works are to be carried out by a local authority, they will not require planning permission, but will require the approval of the elected members of the local authority, or, if the works require the undertaking of an environmental impact assessment or appropriate assessment, the approval of the An Bord Pleanála under section 175 or 177AE of the Planning Act, as appropriate. In addition, where the works would be likely to impact on a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is required to be consulted and have his or her views considered before the relevant permission or approval is given.

Voluntary Sector Funding

Question No. 417 answered with Question No. 114.

Questions (416, 475)

Derek Keating

Question:

416. Deputy Derek Keating asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will investigate the outcome of a Labour Court decision (details supplied). [5012/14]

View answer

Nicky McFadden

Question:

475. Deputy Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if, in conjunction with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, he will consider a cash limited scheme to address the issue of the capacity of the community and voluntary sector to pay enhanced redundancy payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5511/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 416 and 475 together.

My Department has no role in the internal operations of community and voluntary sector organisations and, therefore, does not have a role in relation to staff or employment matters, which are for the Board of the company, as the employer, to manage.

Under the Community Affairs (Transfer of Departmental Administration and Ministerial Functions) Order 2011, certain functions vested in the then Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs were transferred to me, as Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. These functions included the functions relating to Section 2 (3) of the Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2007 which provided that: "The Minister shall not be, or be deemed to be, an employer, within the meaning of the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994 and 2001, by virtue of the provision of funding to a person or persons under any scheme."

My Department has, in the past, under certain circumstances, supported such organisations to ensure that statutory redundancy payments have been made available to cushion the impact of job losses occurring as a result of reductions or cessation in funding for a particular activity or company. In this regard, a grant of €42,067.53 was provided to the Company referred to towards the statutory redundancy costs of the core funded community development employees.

The Government recognises that like other economic sectors, the community and voluntary sector has had to deal with reduced funding and financial shortages in recent years.  Issues have also arisen around the capacity of the sector to make enhanced redundancy payments. In relation to such additional payments, my Department is considering a cash limited scheme to address this issue, and discussions are ongoing with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in that regard.

Question No. 417 answered with Question No. 114.

Mortgage to Rent Scheme Administration

Questions (418, 482)

Joanna Tuffy

Question:

418. Deputy Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he will provide figures in tabular form for the number of mortgage to rent arrangements that have been put in place to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5102/14]

View answer

Dessie Ellis

Question:

482. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of units that have so far been turned over to local authorities and approved housing bodies, AHBs, as part of the mortgage to rent scheme; the number of persons seeking to take part in the scheme; and the number of homes that are expected to be turned over to local authorities and AHBs over the course of 2014. [5614/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 418 and 482 together.

On foot of the recommendations of the Keane Report on mortgage arrears the Government launched a Mortgage to Rent scheme on a pilot basis in February 2012. This scheme was extended nationally in June 2012, targeting those low income families whose mortgage situation is unsustainable and where there is little or no prospect of a significant change in circumstances in the foreseeable future. The Scheme ensures that the family remains in their home, while ownership is transferred to an approved housing body who in turn rents it to the original owners. Eligibility requirements are in line with other forms of social housing support.

To date, circa 1,975 cases have been put forward by the lenders for application of the Mortgage to Rent scheme. A total of 779 have thus far been approved for referral to the local authority. 33 cases are completed with households paying a differential rent to an approved housing body, a further 61 are sale agreed and 22 are under offer. An additional 61 are at the valuation stage in the process. A total of 278 cases were terminated during the process for various reasons including: the borrower declining the scheme; the lender withdrawing the offer of the scheme due to a change in circumstances of the borrower; and issues on the local authority assessment, having regard to the accommodation needs of the household concerned. An additional 22 cases failed to agree a sale price or the condition of the property did not allow for the sale to proceed.

It is currently estimated that in the region of 350 transactions will be completed in 2014. A Mortgage to Rent scheme for local authority borrowers in arrears has also been piloted in two local authority areas, namely Westmeath County Council and Dublin City Council. This Scheme will be extended nationally shortly.

Mortgage to Rent Scheme

Cases put forward by lenders

1,975

Cases approved, to date, for referral to local authority

779

Cases at valuation stage

61

Completed

33

Sale Agreed

61

Under offer

22

Terminated

278

Failure to agree sale

22

Tax Code

Questions (419)

Patrick O'Donovan

Question:

419. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the options available to a person (details supplied) in County Wexford wishing to tax a recovery vehicle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5238/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

A vehicle constructed or permanently adapted for the purposes of lifting, towing and transporting a disabled vehicle, and used solely for those purposes, is taxed in the contrivance class, which carries an annual tax of €333. If the vehicle is used for the carrying of other goods, it is taxable at the goods rate. The annual tax will depend on the unladen weight of the vehicle.

Waste Management Regulations

Question No. 421 answered with Question No. 414.

Questions (420)

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan

Question:

420. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if provision will be made for farmers and other contractors who have their own slurry vacuum tanker to deliver the sludge from their own sceptic tanks, within the legislation governing the regulation and operation of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5284/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Provisions regarding the de-sludging of septic tanks and other domestic wastewater treatment systems are included in the Water Services Acts 2007 and 2012 (Domestic Waste Water Treatment Systems) Regulations 2012. No permit is required by persons who de-sludge their own septic tank and subsequently spread the sludge on their own land. However, the spreading of the sludge must be carried out in accordance with the provisions of Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) Regulations 1998, the Waste Management (Use of Sewage Sludge in Agriculture) (Amendment) Regulations 2001 and the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2010.

Any person collecting sewage sludge from a property not owned by them and transporting it off site, whether for use in agriculture or for disposal at a wastewater treatment plant, require s a permit under the Waste Management (Collection Permit) Regulations 2007, as amended by the Waste Management (Collection Permit) (Amendment) Regulations 2008. Copies of all the regulations referred to above are available in the Oireachtas library.

Question No. 421 answered with Question No. 414.

Rental Accommodation Scheme Administration

Questions (422, 488)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

422. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons who have transferred from the rent supplement scheme to the rental accommodation scheme in 2012 and 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5385/14]

View answer

Dessie Ellis

Question:

488. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government the number of persons currently on the rental accommodation scheme; and if he will provide a breakdown based on local authority area. [5620/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 422 and 488 together.

The Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) commenced in late 2005 and to the end of December 201 3 some 47,911 households have been transferred from Rent Supplement to RAS and other social housing options. In 2012 there were 5,451 transfers with 4,701 transfers in 2013.

My Department does not hold information on the number of households in RAS at any given time. Numbers in RAS constantly vary as contracts end, tenants move on to other properties, landlords withdraw from the scheme, new tenancies are allocated or vacancies in contracted units are filled.

Water Charges Introduction

Questions (423, 463, 464, 465)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

423. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government his plans to include in the forthcoming consumer protection and competition Bill provisions to mandate the amalgamated National Consumer Agency and Competition Authority to play a statutory role, which is fully resourced, in independently promoting and protecting the interests and welfare of consumers who will be negatively impacted by the introduction of household water charges. [5387/14]

View answer

Brian Stanley

Question:

463. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the National Consumer Agency, as the statutory body responsible in law for promoting and protecting the interests and welfare of consumers, was formally and directly consulted by him in relation to the introduction of legislation to establish the water service utility, Irish Water, and the introduction of household water charges. [5234/14]

View answer

Brian Stanley

Question:

464. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if the National Consumer Agency, as the statutory body responsible in law, at this time, for promoting and protecting the interests and welfare of consumers, has been given any statutory mandate by him to act as the independent consumer voice as part of the water reform process. [5235/14]

View answer

Brian Stanley

Question:

465. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government if he has asked the National Consumer Agency, in line with its legal functions as the statutory body responsible in law for promoting and protecting the interests and welfare of consumers, to undertake independent analysis in relation to the future delivery of water services and the likely impact on consumers of funding these services through household water charges. [5236/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 423 and 463 to 465, inclusive, together.

The Water Services Act 2013 require the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), as the new independent economic regulator of Irish Water, to perform its functions in a manner that best serves the interests of the customers of Irish Water. This is similar to the CER's statutory role in respect of the gas and electricity sectors. The CER will be responsible for approving the water charges plans prepared by Irish Water, and for approving codes of practice to be prepared by Irish Water. The codes of practice will cover matters such as the standard of performance by Irish Water of its functions; the provision of information by Irish Water to its customers; and the making of complaints by its customers.

The CER also has powers to direct Irish Water to prepare a code of practice on any matter that the CER considers necessary and appropriate to secure the interests of the customers of Irish Water. Moreover, the CER has the power to direct Irish Water to comply with a code of practice prepared in accordance with the legislation. In discharging its functions, the CER may consult with Irish Water, the public, or any other person it considers appropriate.  The Commission has already undertaken public consultations on the development of the economic regulatory framework for water services and will be undertaking further consultations during 2014.  

The National Consumer Agency participated in the consultation on the establishment of a water services utility during 2012 and submitted proposals to my Department which were considered in detail.