Post Office Network

Questions (301)

Pat Breen

Question:

301. Deputy Pat Breen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to undertake a review of the post office network; the timescale involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11664/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I refer to the reply to Priority Question No. 1 and to Questions Nos. 11, 17, 31 and 35 on today's Order Paper.

Offshore Exploration

Questions (302)

Robert Dowds

Question:

302. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of offshore drilling licences at present; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11688/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I can confirm that there are no drilling consents extant in respect of the Irish offshore. There are 27 petroleum exploration licences extant in respect of the Irish offshore and it is expected that the holders of at least one of these licences will submit a drilling consent application to my Department during the course of 2014.

Offshore Exploration

Questions (303)

Robert Dowds

Question:

303. Deputy Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount it costs on average for an oil-gas exploratory drill. [11689/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The cost of drilling an offshore exploration well is determined by a number of factors including the market rate for drilling rigs, duration of the well programme, water depth and remoteness of location. Exploring offshore the west coast of Ireland is expensive relative to other petroleum producing areas due of its remoteness and deep water depths. For example, in the Atlantic Margin water depths are 7-8 times greater than that of the North Sea. This is reflected in the cost of drilling a single deep-water well in the Atlantic, which can be expected to cost in excess of €100m.

Offshore Exploration

Questions (304, 305)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

304. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has selected the consultants to conduct the review of Ireland's licensing and tax regime for oil and gas resources; the names of the consultants; the way they were selected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11697/14]

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Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

305. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding his planned review of the tax and licensing regime for Ireland's oil and gas resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11698/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 304 and 305 together.

On 23 December 2013 my Department commenced a tender process in accordance with EU procurement requirements for the "Provision of Expert Advice on Oil and Gas Exploration, Development and Production Fiscal Terms". There was a good response to the tender and in February 2014 Wood Mackenzie was chosen as the successful tender.

The contract was awarded on the basis of the most economically advantageous tender. The following award criteria were applied:

- Price;

- Demonstrated understanding of the nature and requirements of the assignment as set out in the Request for Tender (RFT);

- Comprehensiveness and quality of the proposal to fulfil the assignment as set out in the RFT;

- The qualifications and expertise of the team assigned;

- Project management plan showing tasks that will be carried out and by whom and the timescale for completing such tasks within the required time.

Wood Mackenzie who have considerable experience in providing fiscal advice to a broad range of clients, including governments, have now commenced their work and I look forward to receiving their expert advice in due course.

Postcode Implementation

Questions (306)

Ann Phelan

Question:

306. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the proposed timeline for the introduction of a new post code system; the benefits this is expected to bring to the national and local economies; the implications for businesses, particularly for small and medium enterprises, jobs and opportunities for postal services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11759/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Following the award of a contract to Capita Business Services Ltd, work has started on the development of the postcode system. The indicative timeline for introduction of postcodes is April 2015. In the interim period, work will proceed on the design of the postcode and on the preparatory work on public sector databases as well as preparations for the dissemination of postcodes to the general public. The introduction of Postcodes will give rise to significant economic and social benefits including:

- Enabling organisations to improve existing services and develop new service offerings, including the SME sector;

- Delivery of improved efficiencies with regards to logistics including emergency service response;

- acting as a strong support for the development of digital applications in the Irish economy;

- Improved efficiency and accuracy of internal business processes as a result of improved accuracy and consistency of databases across public and private sectors;

- Better planning and analysis capabilities across public and private sectors;

- Providing a stimulus to mail volumes through improved direct marketing capabilities;

- Facilitating improved efficiencies and quality improvements in the mails sector; and

- Better targeting of services to local areas and development of customised services for localities.

An Post will be highly involved in the dissemination and the rollout of the National Postcode System and will see a substantial sustained benefit as the introduction of postcodes is likely to result in an immediate and sustained increase in mail volumes as businesses update database systems to include postcodes.

Action Plan for Jobs

Questions (307)

Ann Phelan

Question:

307. Deputy Ann Phelan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will outline the areas under his remit that have experienced growth through the Action Plan for Jobs 2013; the areas identified for further supports and investments under his remit in the Action Plan for Jobs 2014; the core implications for the communications systems, energy requirements and natural resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11760/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Action Plan for Jobs incorporates a wide range of measures to support growth in areas under my remit. Critical among these, are initiatives in relation to the digital economy and improvements to energy efficiency. The National Digital Strategy was published in 2013 and contains a series of actions aimed at stimulating digital engagement. A key initiative in the Action Plan for Jobs, reflecting commitments in the National Digital Strategy, is the implementation of a Trading Online Scheme. This initiative aims to help Irish businesses improve their competitiveness and grow by having access to new markets and a wider customer base. A Trading-online Voucher scheme is being designed and will be rolled out nationally later this year. The scheme will target 2,000 small Irish businesses over a period of two years. A study by the European Commission estimated that companies that have a meaningful online trading presence, grow twice as fast, export twice as much and employ twice as many people. With 70% of Ireland's annual online spend currently going overseas, targeting Irish businesses for online trading is a key jobs and economic imperative.

The Action Plan for Jobs and the National Digital Strategy also underline the importance of ensuring young people are equipped with the skills required for the modern economy. My Department and the Department of Education and Skills are funding an ambitious programme that will see all second level schools in Ireland having a 100Mbps broadband connection by the beginning of the 2014- 2015 school year. In tandem with this, my Department is engaging with schools to optimise the use of technology in the classroom. Together with curriculum developments being overseen by the Department of Education and Skills, these programmes aim to position Ireland's future workforce to compete and contribute in an increasingly global jobs economy.

The 2014 Action Plan for Jobs also includes the further implementation of the National Broadband Plan as a priority action. The National Broadband Plan will facilitate the provision of high speed broadband across the country. This in turn should help smaller non-urban businesses to realise the full potential of trading in a digital economy and stimulate growth in rural areas.

As set out in the Action Plan for Jobs 2013, over the period to 2020, it is intended to transform Ireland into one of the most energy efficient economies in Europe, yielding a significant jobs dividend in a range of areas, including retrofitting, energy management services and the development and manufacturing of energy efficient products.

Under the 2014 Plan, €13.5 million will be provided for the Better Energy Communities scheme, €20 million for the Better Energy Homes scheme and €20 million for the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme in 2014, which collectively will sustain 3,500 jobs in energy efficiency installations. 2014 will also see a broadening and deepening of supports to industry. A key initiative in this regard is the financing of energy efficiency improvements through the Energy Efficiency Fund. It is envisaged that the Fund will make commercial finance available to two main types of energy efficiency projects in public and commercial sectors, Energy Performance Contracts (EPCs) where funding is lent to an Energy Services Company (“ESCO”) and direct lending to the client company.

Renewable Energy Generation Targets

Questions Nos. 309 and 310 answered with Question No. 296.

Questions (308)

Michelle Mulherin

Question:

308. Deputy Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of grid offers that have been made under Gate 3 by EirGrid; the total value of these contracts; the number of applicants that have accepted and paid for offers; the number that are outstanding and in dispute with EirGrid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11778/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

At the end of 2013 the total amount of renewable generation capacity connected to the grid was around 2,300 MW. It is estimated that around 4,000 MW of renewable generation capacity will be required to allow Ireland to meet its commitment of 40% of electricity demand being met by electricity generated from renewable resources by 2020. This is necessary to meet our overall target of 16% of our energy demand being met by renewables by 2020.The issuing of grid connection offers under the Gate 3 process was largely concluded towards the end of last year.

Oversight of the Gate process is vested in the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). Operation of the process is carried out by the independent system operators, ESB Networks as the Distribution System Operator, and EirGrid as the Transmission System Operator. I am advised by EirGrid that the total number of grid connection offers made by the system operators under Gate 3 was 162. This equates to 5,327 MW of generation capacity and includes both renewable and conventional generation projects. To date 140 applicants have accepted their offers. This equates to 3,697 MW of generation capacity, the bulk of which is renewable. A further 14 grid connection offers are still live. This equates to 1,037 MW. The remaining 8 connection offers, which equate to 593 MW, have lapsed. This information is available on both the EirGrid and ESB websites.

I understand that the full cost for a developer of connecting to the grid is a combination of many factors, only one of which is the cost of connection charge payable by each developer to the relevant system operator. Therefore, the full cost of connection to the grid for an individual developer varies greatly according to the nature of each connection, and, consequently, is not known to the system operators.

Questions Nos. 309 and 310 answered with Question No. 296.

Post Office Network

Questions (311)

Kevin Humphreys

Question:

311. Deputy Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the plans he has to ensure the future prosperity and sustainability of the post office network; if he will confirm that there are no plans to close Kevin Street post office in Dublin 8; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11816/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Operational matters are an issue 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. I will request An Post to issue a direct reply to the Deputy regarding the future of the Post Office on Kevin Street, Dublin 8.Insofar as the future of the post office network is concerned, I refer to the reply to Question No. 1 and to Questions Nos. 11, 17, 31 and 35 on today's Order Paper which sets out the position in this regard.

Departmental Legal Costs

Questions (312)

Denis Naughten

Question:

312. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will set out in tabular form, by reference to each named firm, the amount paid out in respect of legal fees during 2013 by his Department to law firms in or outside the State for services rendered to it; if he will provide in a similar format the amount paid out in respect of legal fees during 2013 by State bodies including commercial or non-commercial and regulatory bodies established by or under his Department, to law firms in or outside the State for services rendered to it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11867/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

There was no expenditure on legal fees by my Department in 2013. The information the Deputy has sought regarding the agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter for each Agency. I will request the relevant bodies to reply directly to the Deputy with the information requested in respect of their organisation.

Postcode Implementation

Questions Nos. 314 and 315 answered with Question No. 296.

Questions (313)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

313. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources further to the response to Question No. 239 of 4 March 2014, in which he stated that his Department received correspondence from the EU Commission during 2012 in relation to the procurement process for the national postcode system to the effect that the case had been fully examined by the EU Commission, which had informed his Department in November 2013 that the matter had been closed by it as no breaches of the procurement framework had been found, if he will provide the correspondence stated in his response. [11937/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I will consider releasing the material in question directly to the Deputy, subject to consultation with the European Commission and any other third parties named in the correspondence.

Questions Nos. 314 and 315 answered with Question No. 296.

Electricity Transmission Network

Questions (316)

Pat Deering

Question:

316. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm that the expert panel set up to look at pylons and their use will look at the existing Moneypoint to Kilcullen line, to see the impact the pylons have had in the areas of tourism, environmental impact, property values, health and agriculture. [11962/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

On 28 January last, in response to EirGrid’s recent public consultation process, I announced that I had appointed an Independent Panel of Experts, chaired by Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, to decide the terms of reference for, and to oversee the integrity of a process to be undertaken by EirGrid to report on, comprehensive, route-specific studies of overhead and underground options for both the Grid Link and Grid West projects under the Grid25 programme. While the two studies will take account of environmental impacts, including visual amenity impacts, technical efficacy and cost factors, a review of the transmission line referred to in the Question is not within the remit of the Panel.

Electricity Transmission Network

Question No. 318 answered with Question No. 296.

Questions (317)

Billy Timmins

Question:

317. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the position regarding his announcement on establishing an expert panel chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness to oversee the preparation of reports on the best underground route options to compare with the Grid Link and Grid West high voltage power lines currently being designed; if he will indicate the way community groups make representations to the panel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11963/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I refer to the reply to Priority Question No. 5 on today's Order Paper.

Question No. 318 answered with Question No. 296.

Post Office Network

Questions (319)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

319. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of post offices closed on an annual basis in each of the past ten years to date; the extent to which any trend emerging can be addressed by way of the utilisation of the postal network for added compatible services on a nationwide basis; the degree to which discussions continue to take place in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12182/14]

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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 Board and management of An Post and not one in which I have a statutory function. Information provided by the company indicates that the number of post offices closed on an annual basis over the last ten years is as follows:

-

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

Post Office Closures

54

46

47

76

38

12

72

8

4

5

An Post has undertaken a programme of capital investment in the computerisation of the post office network including the automation of all post offices. The post office network stands well positioned to become the front office provider of choice for Government and the financial services sector for electronic transactions and over the counter transactions.

An Post has made much progress towards diversification with its enhanced arrangement with Aviva for the transfer of Aviva Ireland’s branch office personal business insurance business book to One Direct. The opportunity to pay Local Property Tax through the post office network has also been secured.

On 25 February, I announced that a whole of government consideration of the nature and extent of services that can be provided to the public using the post office network as a front office of government would be undertaken, in the first instance, by the Cabinet Committee on Social Policy. I hope that the Committee will make further progress on a holistic approach to sustaining and developing the network consistent with European law. A timeline of within six months is envisaged for the conclusion of the Cabinet Committee’s work.

Post Office Network

Questions (320)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

320. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which ongoing examination continues to take place at An Post with a view to expanding the scale and role of the services throughout the country thereby ensuring the continuation of the entire service through the medium of adaptation of new and expanded technologies and responsibilities; the extent to which a specific role has been identified in this regard with the objective implementation in early date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12183/14]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I refer to the reply to Priority Question No. 1 and to Questions Nos. 11, 17, 31 and 35 on today's Order Paper.