Energy Policy

Questions (31)

Mick Wallace

Question:

31. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the way in which the development of a liquefied natural gas facility here would be compatible with the State's commitment to tackling climate change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41175/18]

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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.

The development of an LNG facility would further enhance Ireland’s gas security of supply by increasing import route diversity and would be compatible with the State’s commitments to tackle climate change. 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, gas has the potential to deliver significant and sustained benefits, particularly in terms of enhanced security of supply. Natural Gas 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.

Waste Management

Questions (32, 36, 37, 38, 40, 42, 45)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

32. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department has considered a different model of household waste collection. [41137/18]

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Timmy Dooley

Question:

36. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase the speed of the roll-out of brown bins for organic waste in view of a recent Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41207/18]

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John Brady

Question:

37. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the studies his Department has conducted on alternative collection models for household waste here. [41127/18]

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John Brady

Question:

38. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department has reviewed the current unique model of collection here in view of the difficulties outlined in a recent report by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, on household waste collection. [41126/18]

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Brian Stanley

Question:

40. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to establish a different model of collection for household waste in view of the report from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, on the household waste collection market. [41191/18]

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Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

42. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the problems of the current household waste market structure here in view of a report by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, CCPC, recently. [41138/18]

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Clare Daly

Question:

45. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a policy review of waste management here will be conducted in view of the publication of the recommendations of the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's report into the operation of household waste collection. [41062/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 36 to 38, inclusive, 40, 42 and 45 together.

I welcome the publication of the report by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) on the operation of the household waste market in Ireland, which was published on 27 September 2018.

With respect to organic waste, household & commercial waste management compliance has been a National Waste Enforcement Priority for 2017 and 2018. During this period, the focus of this priority for the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities (WERLAs) has been the roll out of the household food waste bin. From their inception in 2016, the WERLAs have coordinated local authority actions by way of compliance assistance and enforcement to support the effective roll out of the household food waste bin in the required agglomerations in accordance with the legislation, and this work is on-going. The provision of a brown bin collection service, where it is technically and environmentally practical to do so, continues to be monitored by my Department, together with the regulatory authorities and industry representatives.

With respect to the household collection model and structure, the CCPC, in its report, acknowledged the work of the Price Monitoring Group (PMG), which I established in July 2017, to monitor prices for consumers offered by the waste sector as flat fees were being phased out. It has confirmed that consumers have seen price stability across the sector over the last 12 months with no evidence of price gouging.

The findings of this report also support the approach that I have taken to introduce an incentivised pricing model, rather than a blanket pay-by-kilogramme system as previously proposed. The report shows that household waste collection costs are on average between 63 and 77 cents per day.

The CCPC does not call for a one-size-fits-all type of regulatory approach. In fact, it advises that, based on data collection and consultation, different competition models can be introduced for different geographic areas. The CCPC’s findings also state that the current regulatory system needs to be developed to address market structure, customer needs, and environmental targets.

The nature of the market is complex, as both the CCPC and the PMG have identified. Therefore, the findings of this CCPC report must be studied with care and diligence to ensure that consumer wellbeing is protected and that our environmental goals are met. This will require extensive work to be done in relation to data gathering and analysis before any decisions are made in relation to changes to the market structures. This may be a role for a national regulatory authority, as suggested in the CCPC report. The hybrid model suggested could also help to extend the coverage of door-to-door collections nationwide, while ensuring better value for money for the householder and providing certainty for investment by the waste sector.

This report, combined with the on-going work of the PMG, and the finalisation of the European Circular Economy waste legislation framework, will inform the development of a future waste management policy, including our environmental goals, regulatory and market structures, and policy instruments and tools.

Copyright Infringement

Questions (33)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

33. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to publish a task force on digital piracy. [41226/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Deputy will appreciate that I have no function in relation to digital piracy, which is a matter for the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (34, 39)

Bríd Smith

Question:

34. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the formal or informal discussions he has had with representatives of the remaining consortium competing for the national broadband plan. [41214/18]

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Seán Sherlock

Question:

39. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the meetings he has had with potential bidders to the National Broadband Plan within the past two months; when the meetings took place; and the topics discussed at the meetings. [41225/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 39 together.

In my capacity as Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment I regularly meet with a range of representatives from the telecommunications and other sectors. Details of my diary have been placed on the record of the House in response to Question No [41201/18] on today's Order Paper.

Renewable Energy Projects

Questions Nos. 36 to 38, inclusive, answered with Question No. 32.

Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 34.

Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 32.

Questions (35)

Paul Murphy

Question:

35. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the Citizens' Assembly recommendation that there should be community or public ownership of future renewable energy projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41224/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Recommendation 6 of the Third Report of the Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change calls for the State to act to ensure the greatest possible levels of community ownership in all future renewable energy projects, by encouraging communities to develop their own projects and by requiring that developer-led projects make share offers to communities to encourage greater local involvement and ownership. To avoid confusion, recommendation 6 refers to ownership of projects by communities and citizens and not public or state ownership. This recommendation is largely reflective of the ambition laid out in the 2015 Energy White Paper, the development of which revealed a strong citizen and community desire to be consulted on, and participate in, Ireland’s energy transition and the development of energy-related projects.

Recommendation 6 also aligns with the policy objectives which have shaped the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), the high level design for which was approved by Government in July. As well as delivering Ireland’s contributions to an EU-wide binding renewable energy target of 32% by 2030, broadening the mix of renewable technologies and enhancing security of energy supply, the new RESS will deliver on the commitment to increase community and citizen participation in, and benefit from, renewable electricity projects.

Communities have been designed into the fabric of the new scheme, and key to the delivery of this ambition will be the development of an enabling framework for community participation. Two specific measures to be developed as part of the implementation of RESS include: mandatory investment opportunities for communities and citizens in developer-led projects; and financial and technical support for community-led projects including delivery of key capacity building measures. This broadly aligns with the Citizens Assembly recommendations.

Questions Nos. 36 to 38, inclusive, answered with Question No. 32.
Question No. 39 answered with Question No. 34.
Question No. 40 answered with Question No. 32.

Broadband Service Provision

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 32.

Questions (41)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

41. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent of the progress to date in the provision of high quality, high-speed broadband throughout the country; the progress in respect of the linking up of coverage and elimination of black spots; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41205/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

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.  Today, over 7 out of 10 premises in Ireland have access to high speed broadband.

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.  

There are just over 91,000 premises in Co Kildare.  Commercial operators are providing, or have indicated plans to provide high speed broadband to approximately 76,000 of these premises.  eir has plans to deliver access to high speed broadband to a further 1,400 premises in Kildare as part of  its ongoing rural fibre deployment.

The remaining approximately 13,600 premises, some 15% of all premises in Kildare, will be included in the network to be built under the National Broadband Plan State led intervention.

When this Government came into office in 2016, 75% of premises in Kildare had access to a high speed broadband service. Today, 84% of premises in Kildare have access to a high speed broadband service and this is set to increase in the months ahead.

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

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 32.

North-South Interconnector

Questions (43)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

43. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the findings of two independent studies in relation to the North-South interconnector project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40942/18]

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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 last week 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.

Energy Prices

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 32.

Questions (44)

Brian Stanley

Question:

44. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to use his powers under the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 to issue a policy direction to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities regarding energy supply markets and its resultant effect on prices for householders. [41192/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government, or I as Minister, have no statutory function in the monitoring or setting of electricity prices.

Responsibility for the regulation of the gas or electricity markets is a matter for the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). It is an independent statutory body, and solely accountable to a committee of the Oireachtas for the performance of its functions. Under the current Oireachtas Committee formations, the CRU is responsible to the Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment where these matters are discussed as the Committee sees fit.

Consistent with European energy policy, the electricity and gas markets in Ireland are commercial, liberalised, and competitive. The position of successive Governments has been that competitive energy markets result in greater choice for consumers and businesses, in terms of suppliers, products and prices. Competition exerts downward pressure on suppliers’ prices.

One of Commission’s statutory functions is to carry out market monitoring to ensure that competition continues to develop and that customers benefit from competition. As part of its market monitoring work, CRU last year concluded that Irish energy markets are competitive.

Recent announcements regarding electricity price increases reflect that since the final quarter of 2016, average international natural gas prices have increased sharply. They have, more or less, continued to rise through 2017 and on to Quarter 3 2018, with day ahead prices in August  being 50% higher than 12 months earlier. Consistent with the upward international gas price trend, average wholesale electricity prices have increased in like manner. After an initial delay, the effect of this protracted rise in the wholesale electricity price since end 2016 has been observed in the retail market, with all significant Irish electricity suppliers announcing household customer price increases.

Section 10A of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999, as amended, sets out the procedure under which I, as Minister, may give “general policy directions”. The legislation sets out details on the tasks and inter-alia restrictions, timelines and consultation requirements with the independent regulator and Oireachtas. Energy markets in Ireland operate within a European regulatory regime in which Member States must guarantee the independence of National Regulatory Authorities, which are expressively forbidden from taking direct instructions from government, or any public body. The regime also restricts policy directions in the form of general policy guidelines in certain areas that are prescribed regulatory duties and powers in the EU Third Energy Package.  A policy direction in this matter is therefore not being considered.

Question No. 45 answered with Question No. 32.