Electricity Generation

Question No. 207 answered with Question No. 197.

Questions (206)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

206. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the combined electricity generating capacity of solar energy farms for which planning permission has been granted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41506/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The question regarding planning permission is a matter for the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and I have no function in this area. Planning applications for solar farms are generally made to the relevant local planning authority with a right of appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

However, from a grid connection application perspective, the most recent data indicates that at present, there are 682 solar applications at the distributional level (DSO) and 36 solar applications at the transmission level (TSO), at various stages in the grid connection application process. These applications amount to 4,770 Megawatts and 2,110 Megawatts respectively or 6,880 Megawatts in total. These would be at various stages of the planning application process.

Question No. 207 answered with Question No. 197.

Energy Policy

Questions (208)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

208. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to ensure security of electricity supply in a switch from fossil fuels to alternative energy without increased dependency on imports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41508/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland’s energy policy is fully aligned with the EU’s climate and energy objectives on the transition to decarbonisation, which includes continuous and on-going review of policies to reduce harmful emissions, improve energy efficiency, incentivise efficient and sustainable infrastructure investment, integrate markets, and promote research and innovation while ensuring our energy security of supply is maintained and enhanced.  As Ireland develops its indigenous renewable energy sources, our reliance on imports will decrease and this contributes to enhancing our energy security.

The 2015 Energy White Paper Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future sets out a road-map for Ireland to reduce its Greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050. The strategy is clear that non-renewable energy sources will make a significant – though progressively smaller – contribution to our energy mix over the course of the energy transition. The National Mitigation Plan, which I published in July 2017, restates the Government’s commitment to move from a fossil fuel-based electricity system to a low-carbon power system. Investment in further renewable generation will be incentivised.

During this transition, some fossil fuels such as natural gas will continue to play a role in terms of enhanced security of supply. Natural gas also has the potential to play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the power generation, industrial and commercial, residential and transport sectors by replacing more CO2-intensive fossil fuels.  In Ireland gas powered generation provides an important back-up for intermittent renewable wind generation.

Electricity Generation

Questions (209)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

209. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which the economic benefits accruing to the economy from a switch to home based alternative electricity generation have been identified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41509/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

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. As part of their 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. The use of renewables in electricity generation in 2016 avoided €192 million in fossil fuel imports with the provisional saving for 2017 at €276 million.

THE SEAI have also modelled the impact that meeting our renewable electricity targets will have on the Irish economy. Their analysis presents the net new direct jobs (from technology installations), indirect jobs (created in supply chains), induced jobs (from increased consumption), and jobs linked to increased investment in capital stock in the year 2020. Their analysis identified that renewable electricity generation (primarily onshore wind) has a positive impact on the Irish economy and net employment by 2020 with a total of 4,400 net jobs created in 2020. These include over 2,000 direct jobs in construction related to onshore wind with over 500 ongoing direct jobs in operations and maintenance. The remaining jobs are in the supply chain and as a result of higher expenditure in the wider economy. The analysis further suggests that GDP could increase by between €305-€585 million as a result of building new wind farms and the expansion of the electricity grid, by 2020.

Environmental Policy

Questions (210)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

210. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a means can be found to incentivise a reduction in the use of plastic wrappings and containers that are non-biodegradable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41510/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland uses the Extended Producer Responsibility model for dealing with waste packaging.  Repak, the national producer responsibility scheme for packaging, is a not for profit organisation which charges fees to its members in accordance with the amount and type of packaging they place on the Irish market. These fees are used to subsidise the collection and recovery of waste packaging through registered recovery operators across Ireland. Because Repak members pay fees based on the amount of packaging they place on the market, this incentivises them to reduce packaging where possible and in so doing to reduce their fees. To assist members to optimise their packaging, Repak employ packaging technologists who work with their member companies.

In addition to the above, I am working closely with the EU Commission and other Member States to develop an EU wide legislative package for dealing with single-use plastic products. While we continue to work on the detail of the measures to be introduced, the following are the core elements:

- A ban on certain plastic products

- Targets for reducing the use of certain plastics and

- Obligations for producers to cover the costs of waste management and clean up.

I will be encouraging the Commission and other Member States to expedite the introduction of these measures so that we can introduce meaningful measures to tackle these difficult waste streams.

Waste Disposal

Questions (211)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

211. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which landfill sites are being replaced with alternative means of waste disposal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41511/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

European, national and regional waste policy are all predicated on the management of waste in line with the waste hierarchy, whereby the prevention, preparation for re-use, recycling and other recovery of waste are preferred (in that order) to the disposal of waste. For instance, collectors of waste must conduct their activities in accordance with the relevant legislation and the conditions of their waste collection permits which, inter alia, require that waste is managed in line with the waste hierarchy.

Waste management planning, including infrastructure provision, is the responsibility of local authorities under Part II of the Waste Management Act, 1996. The three Waste Management Planning Lead Authorities monitor on an on-going basis the generation and management nationally of municipal solid waste and other waste streams. Under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance, in specific cases, by a local authority of their statutory functions under the Act.

The Government's policy of increasing the landfill levy to its current level of €75 per tonne has provided a real financial incentive for waste operators to divert as much material as possible from being disposed of at landfill. The success of the above and many other policy and legislative measures, including the National Waste Prevention Programme and the phasing-out of flat rate fees for household waste collection, which encourage waste prevention, preparation for re-use, recycling and other recovery, has meant that more waste can be put to environmentally sustainable and productive use as opposed to being buried in the ground.

Up until November 2017, different household waste collectors accepted different items for recycling, which lead to some confusion on which items go in which bin. Now, however, following co-operation between my Department, the regulatory authorities, the waste industry, Repak and environmental NGOs, we have a single, standard national list of items and materials that can be placed in the recycling bin.  Removing confusion will play an important role in improving the quality of the waste presented for recycling. This will help to ensure that these items are actually recycled, as opposed to being contaminated accidentally by householders and sent to landfill. Supporting householders in terms of recycling is important. Householders are also being supported through a number of awareness and education initiatives such as the Recycling Ambassadors Programme and recyclinglistireland.ie.

Statistics compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency show that we have come a long way in a relatively short period of time in terms of improving our recycling and recovery rates and reducing our reliance on landfill. In this regard, National Waste Statistics are available to download at https://www.epa.ie/nationalwastestatistics/, including the State's progress in meeting targets under EU waste legislation including the Waste Framework Directive; the Landfill Directive; and the Producer Responsibility Directives (Packaging, End-of-Life Vehicles, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, Batteries and Accumulators).

Of particular note is the reduction in the disposal (landfill) rate of managed Municipal Solid Waste, which fell from 41% in 2012 to 21% in 2014. Furthermore, 79% of managed municipal waste was recovered in 2014 (compared to 59% in 2012). Recovery includes treatment processes such as recycling or use as a fuel (e.g. incineration which converts waste to energy or co-incineration, including the use of solid recovered fuel as part of the cement manufacturing process).

Cycling Policy

Questions (212)

John Lahart

Question:

212. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the spending on cycling in each of the years 2015 to 2017 and to date in 2018 as a proportion of spending on transport in general. [41399/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As the Deputy is aware, over the period 2018 to 2021, we will invest €110 million specifically for Cycling/Walking investment in our major cities, together with €135 million for Sustainable Urban Transport, a programme which encompasses a range of initiatives to improve urban transport including for cyclists and pedestrians. Alongside this, our considerable planned investment in the bus system through the new BusConnects programme - initially in Dublin and then followed by other cities - will also support the construction of, where possible, segregated cycle lanes along the improved bus corridors; the aim in Dublin is to deliver around 200 kilometres of quality cycling facilities as part of the bus upgrade. Beyond these urban initiatives, the Deputy will be aware that I have also allocated €53 million to support the development of new Greenways in line with the recently published Greenways Strategy.

The Deputy may be aware that investment in cycling infrastructure over the period 2015 to 2017 was actually delivered under a number of different programmes and schemes, namely the Smarter Travel Programme, Sustainable Transport Measures Grants (STMG) Programme and the Regional Cities Programme.

Projects funded under the Smarter Travel Programme involved integrated initiatives across a number of aspects of active/smarter travel and incorporated measures such as investment in cycle lanes, bike parking, footpaths, traffic calming measures, shared streets and other interventions that encourage and support modal shift to walking and cycling.

In addition since 2010 my Department has also provided funding to the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the Sustainable Transport Measures Grants (STMG) Programme and the Regional Cities Programme to implement sustainable transport projects, including providing cycling infrastructure, in the Greater Dublin Area and the regional cities of Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford.

Given the overarching scope of these programmes, it is not possible to isolate specific expenditure on cycling infrastructure over the period in question.

Public Transport

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Questions (213)

John Lahart

Question:

213. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if all of the new Luas trams which have been delivered are in use and on the line on which they are used. [41432/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Transdev and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Public Transport

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Questions (214)

John Lahart

Question:

214. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the six Luas trams which were transferred from the Red to the Green line have been replaced in view of the fact that commuters along the Red line report significant overcrowding at some Red line Luas stops. [41433/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The issue raised is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) in conjunction with Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Transdev and I have forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Public Transport

Questions (215)

John Lahart

Question:

215. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the progress that has been made with regard to the initiation of dedicated transport police; and his views on whether such transport police ought to be a unit of An Garda Síochána or similar to the Airport Police. [41434/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

The safety and security of passengers and staff, including arrangements to deal with anti-social behaviour, are matters first and foremost for the individual public transport transport companies in conjunction with, as appropriate, An Garda Síochána.

While the vast majority of public transport passenger journeys occur without incident, I am concerned to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place to ensure the safety of all passengers and staff travelling and working on our rail network. Therefore, following representations from the National Bus and Rail Union who called for the establishment of a dedicated police force for public transport, I wrote to Irish Rail and the Railway Safety Advisory Council (RSAC) to seek their views on the issue of anti-social behaviour on the rail network.

In its response, Irish Rail outlined a number of measures that the company has taken in an effort to safeguard the security of passengers and staff. These measures have included the allocation of additional security and supervisory operatives, particularly at night and in certain areas, as well as more resources for centralised CCTV monitoring stations. The company also stated that it works closely with An Garda Síochána on anti-social behaviour in general and receives the full support of the Gardaí. The RSAC, in its response, recommended the establishment of a dedicated unit of An Garda Síochána to police our rail network on occasions when the possibility of anti-social behaviour is high.

Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus were also contacted for their views and both companies responded that the level of anti-social behaviour is relatively low and noted a declining trend which is very positive. Both companies also stressed the strong and close working relationships with An Garda Síochána.

Following engagement with the public transport companies and the RSAC, I wrote to the Minister for Justice to seek his views as to how we might best address the issue of anti-social behaviour on our transport system, in particular on the Irish Rail network. I have asked that the Minister consider this issue in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, given that the allocation of all Garda resources, including the manner in which Garda personnel are deployed, is solely a decision for the Garda Commissioner and his management team.

Public Transport

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Questions (216, 217, 219, 220, 221)

John Lahart

Question:

216. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport when the next BusConnects public consultation will commence; and the timeframe for the NTA to deal with the first phase of consultation. [41435/18]

View answer

John Lahart

Question:

217. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the spend for Bus Rapid Transit; and the outcome of same. [41436/18]

View answer

John Lahart

Question:

219. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if a consultant (details supplied) was the sole consultant considered for the BusConnects design project. [41438/18]

View answer

John Lahart

Question:

220. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the tender process in advance of the appointment of a person (details supplied) as a consultant on the BusConnects project. [41439/18]

View answer

John Lahart

Question:

221. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the role of Dublin Bus in terms of the design of the proposed BusConnects changes to bus services in Dublin city. [41440/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 216, 217 and 219 to 221, inclusive, together.

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has responsibility for ensuring the development and delivery of public transport infrastructure, including the BusConnects programme.

In light of the NTA's statutory responsibility in this area, I have referred the Deputy's question to theNTA for a more detailed reply on the various issues raised. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Bus Éireann Fleet

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A

Questions Nos. 219 to 221, inclusive, answered with Question No. 216.

Questions (218)

John Lahart

Question:

218. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the net increase in the fleet of Dublin Bus since 2015. [41437/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport. The National Transport Authority (NTA) has responsibility for ensuring the development and delivery of public transport infrastructure, including the provision of bus fleet for Dublin Bus.

In light of the NTA's responsibility in this area, I have referred the Deputy's question to the Authority for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

A referred reply was forwarded to the Deputy under Standing Order 42A
Questions Nos. 219 to 221, inclusive, answered with Question No. 216.

State Airports

Questions (222)

James Browne

Question:

222. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the action being taken by Shannon Airport DAC to fill the known equipment and service void and to avoid aisle chair transfer; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41463/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Transport)

Shannon Airport Authority holds statutory responsibility for the management, operation and development of Shannon Airport.

The use of a specific piece of equipment at airports in Ireland is an operational matter for the airports themselves. I understand that Shannon Airport Authority has previously been contacted on this matter and I can confirm that that remains the most appropriate channel through which to address queries regarding the use of specific equipment.

However, to be of assistance, enquiries have been made of Shannon Airport Authority on this issue and they have informed my Department that there is no existing equipment and service void, nor has there been at any time with its present PRM (Persons with Reduced Mobility) service, which is provided under contract. The PRM service also includes the provision of suitable lifting equipment including aisle seats. Shannon Airport Authority have confirmed that there have been no complaints from any PRM passengers to date in relation to aisle seat transfers.

Shannon Airport's current PRM contract expires on 31 December 2018. A combined service tender, including the PRM service, went to tender on 26th June 2018 and the contract is currently in the award phase. The provision of equipment under this contract will be the responsibility of the service provider appointed.

Data Protection

Questions (223)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

223. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if the new GDPR regulations will impact on the ability of an adopted person in tracing their birth parents; the measures she is taking to reduce the impediment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41292/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

As the Deputy will of course be aware, GDPR has provided for significant sanctions for data controllers where personal data is improperly processed. I understand that GDPR is impacting on a number of sectors and services and this includes on the provision of a tracing service for adopted people.

My priority is to proceed with the enactment of the Adoption ( Information and Tracing ) Bill 2016 as quickly as possible. The Bill will place the information and tracing service on a statutory footing, and will provide for the transfer and custody of relevant records. My officials are currently reviewing the Bill's provisions to ensure that it addresses data protection concerns while providing an effective tracing service.

Child Abuse

Questions (224)

Clare Daly

Question:

224. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 517 of 2 October 2018 (details supplied), if guidance has been provided to social workers in regard to the threshold for a risk assessment, home visits, monitoring or other protective measures that should be taken if suspicions of abuse remain, if a child makes subsequent disclosures of abuse following a finding of unfounded and if the finding of unfounded only just meets the threshold for same. [41297/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Children)

I have asked the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, to supply me with the information requested by the Deputy and will revert directly when this has been received.

Child Abuse

Questions (225)

Clare Daly

Question:

225. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs further to Parliamentary Question No. 437 of 25 September 2018, if Tusla social workers will facilitate a parent or guardian in securing a second opinion following a finding of unfounded by an organisation (details supplied) in regard to an allegation of child sexual abuse. [41330/18]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Tusla have advised me that when their social workers seek a second opinion in relation to the findings of an assessment completed by an organisation such as St Clare’s Unit, it is general practice to seek a second opinion from a similar organisation, such as St Louise’s Unit. This is done to ensure the second opinion is independent and that the assessment process follows the same format.

In general social workers support a parent and/or a guardian securing a second opinion of an unfounded outcome in a situation where there were concerns that the original assessment was flawed and/or unreliable. All decisions made in relation to requests for a second opinion are based on the best interests of the child.