Animal Culls

Questions (186)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

186. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if a badger vaccination programme announced earlier in 2018 has commenced; and his plans to end the culling of badgers which has caused an estimated 120,000 deaths to date. [41516/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Field trials testing the effectiveness of badger vaccination as an alternative to removal were conducted from 2014 to 2017 in areas where the wildlife program had been running in excess of 5 years and where local densities of badgers were considered low enough to be suitable candidates for vaccination with BCG. The findings confirmed that vaccination of badgers can play a role in reducing the level of infection in cattle. From January 2018 the formal vaccination programme commenced in the areas which formed part of the field trials, i.e. in parts of counties Monaghan, Longford, Galway, Tipperary, Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork and in all of Louth. Badgers in a vaccination area will be captured/vaccinated/released instead of being captured/culled. The vaccination program will continue on an annual basis, so each year’s births in vaccination areas will be vaccinated as they are captured. The vaccination area will be expanded incrementally to all parts of the country during the 2018-2022 period and it is anticipated that the rate of badger removal will reduce from the present c.6000 badgers per year to less than 1,000 in c.4-5 years’ time.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (187)

Bríd Smith

Question:

187. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the contingency plans in the event that the remaining bid for the national broadband plan is deemed untenable by the procurement team or otherwise becomes inoperable; the estimated costs of the NBP; the cost to date of the tendering process undertaking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41487/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The final tender for the contract to roll out the National Broadband Plan State intervention was received by my Department on 18 September and this is the final stage in the procurement process.  Evaluation of that tender submission is ongoing and will be allowed the time required. I do not propose to speculate on the outcome of that ongoing evaluation.  On conclusion of the evaluation, my Department will make a recommendation to me on whether to appoint the bidder as preferred bidder and I will bring the matter to Government for decision.   The level of subsidy required to bring high speed broadband services to citizens and businesses in the NBP State intervention area will be determined through the procurement process. 

The procurement process was launched in December 2015. 

Expenditure on external advisors in support of the NBP procurement process from January 2016 to date is approximately €18.05 million. This expenditure includes the cost of corporate and economic advice, technical support and network design, the cost of legal advice, environmental advice and process auditor costs.  These services were procured by way of competitive tender.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (188)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

188. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when high-speed broadband will be installed in the Corrigeenroe, Boyle, County Roscommon; the timeline for same; if the work will involve running broadband boxes on poles from the exchange in Boyle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41268/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

In April 2017 I published an updated High Speed Broadband Map which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan.

There are 65 premises in Aghacarra (Corrigeenroe). 14 (22%) fall within the AMBER area and therefore will be served under the State led Intervention, while 51 (78%) are LIGHT BLUE and fall to be served by eir's planned rural deployment.

Under a Commitment Agreement signed with me in April 2017, eir is in the process of passing 300,000 predominantly rural homes with high speed broadband. Approximately 175,000 of the committed premises have been passed as of Q2 2018.

According to my Departement's map, eir's deployment has yet to reach Aghacarra (Corrigeenroe). Further details on eir’s deployment are available at www.fibrerollout.ie.  The manner of the deployment within the LIGHT BLUE area is a matter for eir.

My Department is in a formal procurement process to select a company who will roll out a new high speed broadband network in the State intervention area. The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. Evaluation of the final tender submission is ongoing and will be allowed the time required.  On conclusion of the evaluation, my Department will make a recommendation to me on whether to appoint the bidder as preferred bidder and I will bring the matter to Government for decision. 

For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen.  These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities.  The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to developing infrastructure. The Department of Rural and Community Development maintain a list of Broadband Officers, a link to which is available on my Department's website at https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/communications/topics/Broadband/national-broadband-plan/Pages/NBP-Information-Leaflets.aspx

Electricity Grid

Questions (189)

Tony McLoughlin

Question:

189. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will make contact with ESB networks in order to identify a person within the company that Deputies can contact to highlight local issues with regard to upgrade works that need to be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41290/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Queries relating to ESB Networks local issues with regards to upgrade works that need to be completed are dealt with in the first instance by the Public Affairs Manager of ESB. I have arranged for the relevant contact details to be communicated  to the Deputy.

Electricity Generation

Questions (190, 191)

Carol Nolan

Question:

190. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase the level of grant aid in budget 2019 for domestic solar energy systems; and his further plans to reduce the current average nine year wait time for a return on investment to a more attractive five year payback period. [41422/18]

View answer

Carol Nolan

Question:

191. Deputy Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to introduce an incentive scheme in budget 2019 to subsidise the cost of connecting agriculture solar energy suppliers to the ESB Networks grid in order to incentivise producers to contribute non-storable surplus to the grid in the absence of export tariffs for the supply of solar energy for same. [41423/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 190 and 191 together.  

In July 2018, I announced details of a new pilot scheme to support micro generation, initially targeting solar PV, homeowners, battery storage and self-consumption. The data gathered during the pilot scheme will inform potential future phases of support for micro-generation in Ireland that may be appropriate, as we align with the ambition and requirements of the recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED) that recognises the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable self-consumers.

The payback period depends on several factors like the direction and accessibility of a dwelling's roof, the location in the country, and the amount currently paid by the occupier of the property for electricity. Using a typical system of 1.5kWp, each applicant would get a grant of €1,050 and save about €200 a year in electricity costs. On average this would give a payback of around 9 years.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has structured this grant support based on detailed analysis of costs and willingness to pay research, and the grant level (30-35% overall installation costs) is in line with other grants offered by the SEAI. It is in the interest of  each homeowner to increase self-consumption of the generated solar energy in the home, and by linking the additional grant scheme with battery storage, the scheme is tailored to encourage this.

The scheme will be subject to a six month review which will examine the uptake and the level of the grant, assess the costs associated with the technology and explore opportunities for broadening the scheme as appropriate. My Department is continuing to work closely with the micro-generation sector and the SEAI to better understand how to validate and further develop these policies in a fair and cost effective manner.

Micro generation, was also appraised as part of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) economic assessment. The analysis identified a number of challenges that may need to be addressed before a financial support scheme (payment) for micro generation can be developed. These include a reform of network charges, an assessment of the distributional impact of such a policy decision on the PSO (cost burden sharing), and development of a fair tariff for exported electricity taking the benefits of self-consumption into account. This approach is in line with experience from other EU member states who have attempted to introduce supports for micro generation.

The Deputy will appreciate that in developing and expanding  renewable energy support schemes  that a careful balance must be struck between the subsidy to  renewable generators and the additional costs to pay for these schemes that are transferred to  electricity bill payers. Proposals for all such schemes are and must be subject to careful economic appraisal.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (192, 193)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

192. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the monitoring undertaken of the roll-out of broadband in the DARK BLUE areas of the national broadband plan map; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41429/18]

View answer

Timmy Dooley

Question:

193. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the deadline for the roll-out of broadband to the DARK BLUE areas of the national broadband plan map; if a previous deadline was in place; if this deadline was reviewed; the reason for the review; the changes to each deadline put in place since publication of the map; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41430/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 192 and 193 together.

My Department engaged in an extensive mapping exercise during 2013 and 2014 to determine the extent of existing and planned high speed broadband networks in Ireland. The aim was to identify premises which were not, or would not in the near future, be commercially served with high speed broadband. Based on this work, a High Speed Broadband Map was published in December 2015. The latest version of this map is available at www.broadband.gov.ie.

The AMBER Area of the Map represents the parts of the country where commercial operators had no plans to deliver high speed broadband services. This is the State intervention area, and delivery of high speed broadband will be achieved through the State Intervention.  The procurement process to appoint a company to build, operate and maintain a network in the intervention area is now in its final stages.

The BLUE area of the Map represents the parts of the country where commercial operators are delivering or have indicated to my Department that they have plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

My Department also published a process document which set out that the Map may be subject to change if, for example, anticipated commercial deployment failed to materialise or if new plans were presented to the Department and satisfied the criteria as set out in that process document.

Since December 2015 my Department has continued to monitor the progress of the rollout of high speed broadband for all operators who were included in the BLUE Area on the Map.

Through direct engagement with operators and further investigation of specific issues, in April 2017 my Department identified 84,500 premises in the Blue Area that were not being served with high speed broadband and these premises were then included in the State intervention area.

My Department continues to actively monitor high speed broadband rollout by commercial operators. I have advised previously that people who are experiencing difficulty in receiving a high speed broadband service within BLUE areas should notify my Department in this regard. I continue to invite members of the public to highlight issues regarding broadband connection in BLUE areas by contacting the NBP customer service team at broadband@dccae.gov.ie, or on 01 678 2160.

North-South Interconnector

Questions (194)

Shane Cassells

Question:

194. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the course of action he plans to take in respect of the North-South interconnector project having considered the two independent reports; and if he will support an over ground or an underground option of the pylon project. [41486/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I commissioned two independent reports dealing with the North-South Interconnector (NSIC) following engagement with members of the Oireachtas and community interests. These were considered by Government earlier this month and are available on my Department's website. One considers the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the NSIC, while the second addresses comparative international practice and approaches to compensation of property owners in proximity to high-voltage lines.

On the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding, the report concludes that from a techno-economic point of view, an Alternating Current Overhead Line is the most beneficial way of meeting the need for enhanced power transfer capability between Ireland and Northern Ireland. An overhead line provides the opportunity for investment along the route of the line and offers a far more balanced electricity network across this country and across this island.

On the report into the comparative international practice in relation to compensation, that report indicates that Ireland has a comparatively generous compensation regime in place.

In addition to publishing the reports on my Department's website, I have forwarded copies of the two Reports to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

The development of the interconnector is an operational matter for EirGrid and ESB Networks.

Warmer Homes Scheme

Questions (195)

James Browne

Question:

195. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the grounds on which the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, will provide free window replacements under the warmer homes scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41494/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Warmer Homes Scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty, who meet the defined eligibility criteria. Typical measures available under the scheme include attic and cavity wall insulation, draught proofing, lagging jackets and low energy light bulbs. These measures were selected for inclusion in the scheme as they were deemed most likely to deliver significant energy savings to homeowners, at least relative cost, and would thereby optimise the use of Exchequer funds while at the same time maximising the opportunities for homeowner participation.

Earlier this year I expanded the measures available under this scheme to include dry lining and external wall insulation. These new measures will increase the number of households that can avail of the scheme. Subject to an SEAI survey, replacement windows may be offered in limited circumstances, most likely where external wall insulation is being carried out and the existing windows are very poor performing and need to be replaced to ensure the insulation performs effectively.

More information on this scheme is available on SEAI’s website or by Freephone 1800 250 204.

https://www.seai.ie/grants/home-grants/warmer-homes-scheme/

Climate Change Policy

Questions (196, 198, 199)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

196. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the actions he has taken or plans to take to address priorities in regard to climate action; the extent to which such action taken or proposed is likely to impact positively in the context of climate change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41496/18]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

198. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is most likely to undertake to achieve maximum beneficial effect in the context of carbon reduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41498/18]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

199. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which dependency on fossil fuels has been reduced in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41499/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196, 198 and 199 together.

Addressing climate change, whether through decarbonisation of our economy, or preparing to adapt to the impacts of climate change, is one of the most significant challenges facing this country.

The publication on Monday of the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impacts of global warming of 1.5C confirms the absolute urgency of achieving deep cuts in our greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades.

The Government has responded to this challenge by putting in place a strong policy framework underpinned by significant investment plans in climate action. The 2014 National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development sets out an ambitious long-term commitment to transition to a competitive, low carbon, climate resilient economy and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Ireland by at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors. In parallel, the National Policy Position commits to pursing an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.

The enactment, in December 2015, of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act, provides the statutory basis for the national transition objective, for the development and submission to Government for approval of a series of National Mitigation Plans and National Adaptation Frameworks, and for independent advisory and Oireachtas accountability arrangements.

Ireland’s first National Mitigation Plan was published in July 2017 and provides a framework to guide Government investment decisions in measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from four key sectors: Electricity Generation; Built Environment; Transport; and Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use.

The Plan set out 106 actions and 60 measures to reduce our emissions. It is a ‘living document’ which is being updated on an on-going basis as analysis, dialogue and technological innovation generate more and more cost-effective sectoral mitigation options.

I subsequently published Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework in January 2018. Under the Framework, seven Government Departments and Agencies, with responsibility for the twelve priority sectors identified in the Framework, are required to submit sectoral adaptation plans to Government for approval by 30 September 2019.

Furthermore, recognising the significant obligation which has been placed on the Local Authority sector to develop and implement its own climate action measures, I provided funding to establish and develop four Local Authority Climate Action Regional Offices. These offices will ensure links between sectors and provide expertise and capacity at local and regional level to contribute effectively to the national transition to a low carbon and climate resilient economy.

The publication of the National Development Plan in February of this year represented a step-change in the Government’s commitment to climate change, with €21.8 billion in funding directed to addressing the transition to a low-carbon society. This is in addition to major further investment of €8.6 billion in sustainable transport, including the DART expansion, Metro Link and the Bus Connects programme. This capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions over the period to 2030. I am taking a number of immediate steps to achieve maximum emissions reduction to seek to address Ireland’s targets for 2020 and to prepare us for the more challenging targets that Ireland will face for 2030.

In relation to biofuels, in May of this year, I signed an order increasing the obligation rate of fuel suppliers from the current level of 8% by volume to a level of 10% by volume which will come into effect from 1 January 2019. I intend to further increase this obligation to 11% by volume from 1 January 2020 and also carry out a public consultation next year in relation to further increases in the post-2020 period. 

In order to promote further penetration of electric vehicles, I have secured Government support to expand the range of measures in place drive the electrification of transport, adding home charger support, Benefit in kind enhancement, toll reduction and support to the taxi/hackney sector.

I opened the first phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat for applications on 12 September.  This phase provides a grant of up to 30% of the installation cost of a heat pump system in non-domestic applications. 

I launched the first call for applications for the Climate Action Fund on 9 July. This is one of four funds established under the National Development Plan 2018-2027 as part of Project Ireland 2040 and it will have an allocation of at least €500 million over the period to 2027.

I secured Government approval in July for the high level design of the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The new Scheme has been designed to deliver Ireland’s contribution towards an EU-wide renewable energy target of 32% out to 2030, within a competitive auction-based, cost effective framework. The first RESS auction will deliver ‘shovel ready’ projects, reducing the gap to 2020 and assisting in the early delivery for our trajectory to 2030.

In relation to the reduction in Ireland’s dependency on fossil fuels, the latest available data, published in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland report, Energy in Ireland 2016, indicates that total displacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy resulted in approximately €342 million in fossil fuel imports being avoided in 2016, leading to a saving of 3.9 million tonnes of CO2. The overall trend in the contribution of renewable energy to total energy use over the past three years, relative to Ireland's targets for 2020, is set out in the following table.

Sector/Sub-sector

2015 achieved %

2016 achieved %

2017 achieved %*

2020 target %

RES-E (Electricity)

25.3

27.2

30.1

40

RES-H (Heat)

6.6

6.8

6.8

12

RES-T (Transport)

5.7

5.0

7.1

10

RES Overall

9.1

9.5

10.6

16

*Percentages are provisional data from SEAI.

Alternative Energy Projects

Questions Nos. 198 and 199 answered with Question No. 196.

Questions (197, 207)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

197. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when it is expected that wind, hydro or solar alternative energy production methods are likely to reach the required level to ensure grid reliability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41497/18]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

207. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the degree to which his Department has evaluated the potential for alternative generating capacity to meet in full or as near as possible thereto to meet the requirements of the grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41507/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 197 and 207 together.

Ireland’s statutory National Transmission System Operator (TSO), EirGrid, has a key role in planning for the development of the electricity transmission system to meet the future needs of society. This involves detailed analysis of electricity demand, electricity supply, electricity storage and interconnection, and locations of electricity demand and supply. A process is currently underway to consider a range of possible ways that energy usage may change in the future, and a series of scenarios are central to an extensive consultation that is being undertaken, covering four scenarios; Steady Evolution, Low Carbon Living, Slow Change, and Consumer Action. Details of this process, termed Tomorrow’s Energy Scenarios are available at  http://www.eirgridgroup.com/customer-and-industry/energy-future/

In relation to renewable energy, the 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive sets Ireland a target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020, and we have committed to achieve this through meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heat and 10% of transport from renewable sources of energy, with the latter target also being legally binding.

The most recent annual data from the SEAI indicates that 30.1% of electricity, 6.9% of heat and 7.2% of transport energy requirements were met from renewable sources at end 2017. Overall, SEAI analysis shows that 10.6% of Ireland’s energy requirements in 2017 were met from renewable sources, and that the projected 2020 outturn is in a potential range of up to 90% of the target.

Government has adopted a range of further policy measures and schemes to further incentivise the use of renewable energy including the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH), and increased biofuels obligation and supports for electric vehicles. In addition, ESB Networks has expanded capacity for delivery of grid connection and My Department has strengthened co-ordination with  the Commission for Regulation of Utilities,  EirGrid and ESB Networks.

Questions Nos. 198 and 199 answered with Question No. 196.

Energy Policy

Questions (200)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

200. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which an economic evaluation has been carried out of a shift away from dependency on fossil fuels here without reliance on imports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41500/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Timely and reliable energy statistics underpin evidence-based decision making. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) work closely with my Department and present a comprehensive overview of energy supply and demand in Ireland to inform Government policy.

The SEAI has a lead role in developing and maintaining comprehensive national and sectoral statistics for energy production, transformation, and end-use. This data is a vital input in meeting international reporting obligations, for advising policymakers, and informing investment decisions.

The SEAI have a specialist statistics team, the Energy Policy Statistical Support Unit (EPSSU), whose core functions include the collection, processing, and publishing of energy statistics to support policy analysis and development in line with national needs and international obligations; conducting statistical and economic analysis of energy services sectors and sustainable energy options; and contributing to the development and promulgation of appropriate sustainability indicators.

As part of this work the SEAI publishes an annual “Energy in Ireland ” Report which presents national energy statistics on energy production and consumption over a set period. The latest available Report is the 2017 Report which covers the period 1990-2016. The 2018 Report, covering 1990-2017, is expected to be published in December this year.

The Report shows that Ireland has a high import dependence on oil and gas and is essentially a price taker on these commodities. However in 2016 Ireland’s energy import bill fell by €1.2 billion because of a reduction in fossil fuel imports. While most of this reduction in fossil fuel imports was due to a reduction in natural gas imports, thanks to the Corrib gas field reaching full production, the contribution of renewables avoided 3.9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and saved €342 million in fossil fuel imports.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (201)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

201. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures he has taken or plans to take to address the issues identified by climatologists as being the most relevant and necessary to address in the short to medium term; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41501/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I understand from the Deputy’s question that “the issues identified by climatologists” are those referring to the impacts of climate change. This week’s publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on the Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5°C confirms that impacts due to past and current emissions are inevitable and we must prepare for them. The report states that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes.

The impacts for Ireland are in line what we are seeing globally. In 2017 the EPA published its second “State of Knowledge” report on climate change impacts for Ireland. While uncertainties remain on the exact scale of the impacts, it is becoming apparent that trends in the temperature and precipitation records as well as those relating to sea level and ecosystems are a cause for concern and that these trends are set to continue.

In January of this year I published Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework (NAF) which represents our national policy response to the challenges posed by the impacts of climate change. The Framework sets out the context to ensure local authorities, regions and sectors can assess the key risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, implement climate resilience actions, and ensure climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into all local, regional and national policy making.

Under the Framework, seven Government Departments with responsibility for twelve priority sectors are required to prepare sectoral adaptation plans in line with the requirements of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. The deadline for the submission of sectoral adaptation plans to Government for approval is 30 September 2019.

Local understanding is also crucial to getting adaptation right and my Department has made a funding commitment of €10 million over five years to establish four local authority Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs). These offices will underpin a risk-based approach to climate action at the local and regional level and will provide a coordinated response to climate change, both in terms of adaptation and mitigation. Local authorities are also required to have local authority adaptation strategies in place by 30 September next year. To assist these key sectors with their respective planning processes I published “Sectoral Planning Guidelines for Climate Change Adaptation” in May of this year and later this year I intend to publish revised climate adaptation planning guidance for local authorities.

Adaptation planning is an iterative process, with the National Adaptation Framework to be reviewed at least once every five years in line with the 2015 Climate Act. This will ensure that we adopt a dynamic approach to adaptation planning which is informed by the latest scientific evidence thus enabling Departments, Agencies and local authorities to modify or escalate adaptation actions as appropriate as climate projections are updated.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (202, 203)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

202. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he remains satisfied in regard to the programme to deliver high quality high-speed broadband on par with the best available internationally through all areas throughout the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41502/18]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

203. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of households provided with adequate broadband facilities throughout the country; his plans to extend services to current or anticipated black spots; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41503/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 202 and 203 together.

The Government's National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. The NBP is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment and a State intervention.

Over the past 5 years, the NBP has driven commercial investment in the upgrade and expansion of networks to the tune of some €2.75 billion. When this Government came into office in 2016 just over 5 out of 10 premises in Ireland had access to a high speed broadband service. Today over 7 out of 10 premises can access this service.

In Kildare 84% of premises now have access to a high speed broadband service in comparison with 75% in 2016. This number will rise in the coming months as an ongoing commercial deployment by eir continues.

For those premises that will not be served commercially, the State is in the process of engaging a company to build a high speed broadband network. The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage.

Evaluation of the final tender submission is ongoing and will be allowed the time required.  On conclusion of the evaluation, my Department will make a recommendation to me on whether to appoint the bidder as preferred bidder and I will bring the matter to Government for decision.

The Intervention Strategy for the NBP sets out minimum required speeds in line with the Digital Agenda for Europe 2020.  I understand from my Department that the NBP State intervention network is likely to be a predominantly fibre network, meaning most premises can expect a basic introductory offering of up to 150 megabits per second download, with higher speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second download also available.

The State intervention network, when complete, will push Ireland to the forefront of connectivity, both on an EU and an international level.

Mobile Telephony Services

Questions (204, 205)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

204. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if directly or through the aegis of the regulator he can identify or audit particular areas throughout the country that do not have adequate mobile telephone coverage or quality; his plans to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41504/18]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

205. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason mobile telephone customers in all areas throughout the country cannot have a service on par to the quality service in Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41505/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 together.

Providing telecommunications services, including mobile phone services, is a matter for the relevant service providers operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), as independent Regulator. I do not have statutory authority to require commercial companies to rollout services and make specific investments in particular locations. The ComReg consumer helpline is accessible at consumerline@comreg.ie and I would urge consumers who feel they have not received an appropriate response from service providers to make contact with the Regulator.

With respect to the quality of mobile telephony service in other countries, comparisons between Member States and within regions can be problematic for many reasons, including the fact that the technical characteristics of mobile phone networks that determine coverage and capacity will vary between operators and locations. Other factors would include the characteristics of individual markets, including topography, population density, frequencies used etc.

Notwithstanding ComReg’s independence, I recognise the frustration felt by Irish consumers where telecommunications networks are not always delivering the services people expect. Accordingly, I specifically included in the Programme for Government a commitment to a Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce. The Taskforce worked with key stakeholders to produce a report in December 2016, available on my Department’s website, which contained 40 actions to alleviate some of the deficits. The Implementation Group I co-chair with Minister Kyne is overseeing implementation of the actions and comprises all key stakeholders responsible for delivery. This includes ComReg, which attends as both an action owner, and in an observer capacity in its role as the independent Regulator.

Minister Kyne and I published the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce Implementation Review 2017 on 21 February 2018, which comprehensively outlines the progress made in 2017 on the actions identified by the Taskforce. Of the 40 actions, 29 have been completed, with work on the remaining 11 carrying into the 2018 Work Programme. Following close engagement with stakeholders at the National Stakeholder Forum, an additional 23 new measures have been identified for delivery in 2018, that will lead to improvements for consumers across Ireland.

With respect to identifying the areas across the country that do not have adequate coverage, both my Department and the Department of Rural and Community Development have worked with a pilot group of local authorities to identify the issues associated with mapping local blackspots. This pilot exercise has been completed, with all local authorities having been asked to map local blackspots and identify infrastructure that could potentially be used to provide additional coverage on an economic basis. This exercise is ongoing, and has been included in the 2018 Taskforce Work Programme.

In terms of addressing mobile coverage blackspots, various other initiatives are under way:

- Both Departments have worked to achieve a greater consensus around site selection for telecoms infrastructure and therefore improve mobile phone coverage.

- A focus group was established to provide guidance with respect to categories of location where high quality reliable mobile coverage should be made available as a priority. The report of the focus group was published on my Department’s website on 31 August 2018. It is anticipated that the output of the focus group should influence the actions of the mobile network operators in their work to reduce mobile phone blackspots. It will also inform future policy in my Department with regards to priorities for mobile phone services.

- A working group has been established with the remit of investigating the feasibility of developing standardised policy for accessing and utilising State  and publicly-owned assets for the deployment of telecommunications infrastructure.

- ComReg is delivering a composite national coverage map, which will, in tandem with its work on handset testing and activities to raise consumer awareness, allow people across Ireland to optimise the services available to them.

- Following a consultation process ComReg has developed a licensing scheme which will enable households and businesses to use mobile phone repeaters to boost signals into their premises and bring immediate improvements in mobile coverage.

All of these initiatives should assist in enhancing the quality of mobile phone and data services, particularly in rural areas.

In tandem with the work of the Taskforce, the release by ComReg of the 3.6GHz radio spectrum band, which has been identified at EU level as a primary band suitable for the introduction of 5G, will also contribute to addressing increasing mobile data demands and improve mobile coverage. Mobile operators’ commercial investment has also resulted in improved services, following ComReg's 2012 multi-band spectrum auction. At least one operator now has in excess of 90% 4G population coverage.