Broadband Service Provision

Questions (230)

Michael Healy-Rae

Question:

230. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a person (details supplied) will receive a broadband connection; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14353/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The premises referred to by the Deputy is in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP. This intervention is the subject of an ongoing procurement process.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage and I intend to bring a recommendation in relation to the NBP to Government in the coming weeks.

The Deputy makes reference to the premises' proximity to a commercial deployment of high speed broadband. This deployment is part of eir's commercial roll out of high speed broadband to 300,000 predominantly rural premises, in line with a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

eir’s rural investment in high speed broadband is an entirely commercial undertaking, and not part of the planned State Intervention network. Although the deployment is monitored under the terms of the Commitment Agreement, it is not funded by the State and it is not planned, designed or directed by my Department in any capacity.

Decisions made by private telecommunication operators relating to the roll out and siting of infrastructure to provide high speed broadband services throughout Ireland are undertaken on a commercial basis. I have no statutory role or function in such commercial decisions of private operators, and therefore cannot direct operators regarding infrastructure installation or delivery of services.

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 Local Authority Broadband Officers is continuing. 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.

River Basin Management Plans

Questions (231)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

231. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 358 of 13 March 2019, his plans to save the remainder of the Fermoy weir and fish pass (details supplied); the timeframe for works to commence; and the way in which he plans to address concerns outlined in correspondence. [14359/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ameliorative works to Fermoy weir are entirely the responsibility of Cork County Council as owners of the infrastructure. My Department and its agency Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) have no function in the issue of ameliorative works to Council owned property and have not been engaged in discussion with the Council in this regard.

For clarity I can confirm that my Department and IFI have liaised positively and consistently with the Council in an advisory capacity on the ancillary matter of how works to be undertaken by the Council may comply with the EU Habitats Directive and other environmental requirements, particularly as regards the issue of the free passage of fish. Engineers for the Department and the Council have also agreed the Council’s proposed solution to the secondary fish passage issue to assist in and advance the Council’s consideration of the substantive works.

The Council have consistently been advised that my Department and IFI have a regulatory function in relation only to the ancillary matter of fish passage and that consideration and funding of the required substantive works is entirely a matter for the Council. The Department and IFI are happy to continue liaison with the Council in this regulatory/advisory capacity.

The Council has also been advised that the Department and IFI, from our regulatory position, would support any bid the Council wishes to make for central funding for the substantive works and, in that regard, I have recently written to relevant Ministers.

Salmon Hardship Scheme

Question No. 233 answered with Question No. 228.

Questions (232)

Bobby Aylward

Question:

232. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if consideration has been given to a buy-out scheme for holders of salmon fishery licences ; if so, the position regarding same; if an option is available to offer licences for sale; if a compensation package will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14418/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I refer to reply to Question No. 246 of 6 March 2019. The position is unchanged.

Question No. 233 answered with Question No. 228.

Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Questions (234)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

234. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when he plans to publish his response to the BAI five-year review of public broadcasters received in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14434/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Under section 124 of the Broadcasting Act, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is required to carry out a review of the public funding of RTE and TG4 every five years which is brought to Government, and published along with a Government response.

The Working Group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting was set up by Government decision in July 2018 to examine options for the reform of TV licence collection. The Group's work is progressing and it is scheduled to report to me shortly.

Given their interrelated focus, it is my intention to bring both reports to Government when the Working Group has reported to me. Following consideration by Government, it is my intention to publish the BAI report along with the Government's response.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (235, 236, 242, 243)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

235. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he has identified the primary issues and actions required to address the issue of climate change with particular reference to the need to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, encourage the use of motor vehicles not dependent on fossil fuels and-or other measures likely to address the issues in the short to medium term and in line with EU targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14513/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

236. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, has identified the most likely and realistic actions to be taken to reduce carbon emissions in line with EU targets and without negatively affecting the agrifood sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14514/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

242. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the most obvious and important 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. [14520/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

243. 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. [14521/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235, 236, 242 and 243 together.

As the Deputy will be aware, I am currently preparing an All of Government Climate Plan which will set out the actions which must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. I am working with colleagues across Government to develop new initiatives in electricity, transport, heat, and agriculture, as well as a range of other sectors.

The new plan will have a strong focus on implementation, including actions with specific timelines and steps needed to achieve each action, assigning clear lines of responsibility for delivery. The new plan will also be informed by successful approaches in other countries.

The Plan will build on the policy framework, measures and actions set out in both the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan and is to be completed in April.

My Department is working closely with the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Transport, Tourism and Sport in preparing the Plan.

The Plan will emphasise the significant and positive contribution that agriculture can make to climate mitigation, including through measures to reduce emissions on-farm, the promotion of sequestration through increase rates of afforestation, and the substitution of fossil fuels through the production of renewable energy feedstock.

A number of steps have already been taken to promote the development of low carbon transport alternatives, including a comprehensive support package to promote the uptake of electric vehicles, increasing the rate of the biofuels obligation, and support from the Climate Action Fund of up to €10 million to continue the rollout of the electric vehicle charging network and a further €8.5 million to support the development of renewable gas infrastructure and vehicles. Identification of additional measures to further decarbonise the transport sector is being considered as part of the All of Government Plan. The Plan will prioritise further ambition in these areas as well as placing emphasis on the role of modal shift measures in reducing transport emissions.

Mobile Telephony Services

Questions (237)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

237. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps that continue to be taken to ensure an improvement in mobile phone telephone coverage nationally, with particular reference to the areas experiencing a low level of service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14515/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

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.

Notwithstanding ComReg's independence, I recognise the frustration felt by Irish consumers where telecommunications networks are not always delivering the services people expect. The Mobile Phone and Broadband 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 coverage deficits across the country. An Implementation Group is overseeing the implementation of the actions and comprises all key stakeholders responsible for delivery. The Implementation Group meets on a quarterly basis and publishes quarterly progress reports on the implementation status of actions.

Now in its third year of operation, the Taskforce has been addressing a total of 63 actions and continues to focus on issues that are negatively impacting upon the rollout of essential telecommunications infrastructure in rural areas. The outcome of discussions at the second Annual National Stakeholder Forum held in October 2018 informed preparation of the 2018 Annual Review Report, which was published on 21 February 2019 together with the 2019 Work Programme. Over 30 new actions are contained in the 2019 Work Programme for delivery this year.

Some of the Taskforce’s achievements to date include:

- My Department and the Department of Rural and Community Development have worked to achieve a greater consensus around site selection for telecoms infrastructure and therefore improve mobile phone coverage.

- Both Departments also 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.

- 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 has published a composite national outdoor 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.

- 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.

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 5G rollout, 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

All of these initiatives should help enhance the quality of mobile phone and data services, particularly in areas currently experiencing a low level of service.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (238)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

238. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which progress continues in respect of the provision of high-quality and high-speed broadband nationally; if action is progressing on the areas between the existing service area in which only a short distance separates consumers from areas receiving full service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14516/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.

The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of all 2.4 million Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. When this Government came into office, this had risen to 52%. Today, 74% of premises can access high speed broadband.

In April 2017 my Department published an updated version of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map. This is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. The 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. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/Eircode:

· The AMBER area represents the parts of the country where commercial operators have no plans to build high speed broadband networks. Premises in the AMBER area will be provided with high Speed Broadband through a State Intervention.

· The BLUE area represents those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services.

· The LIGHT BLUE area represents eir's commercial rural deployment plans to rollout high speed broadband to 300,000 premises as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I intend to bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

Under a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017, eir is in the process of passing 300,000 predominantly rural homes with high speed broadband. According to data for Q4 2018 submitted by eir to my Department the company has passed almost 225,000 premises nationwide as part of its ongoing deployment.

Information on eir's rural deployment is available on that company’s website, http://fibrerollout.ie/Eircode-lookup/. A copy of the Commitment Agreement is available on my Department’s website, www.dccae.gov.ie.

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 Local Authority Broadband Officers is continuing. 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.

Renewable Energy Generation Targets

Questions (239)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

239. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which the switch to indigenous alternative non-fossil fuels for electricity generation is progressing, with particular reference to the need to meet international deadlines and move to electric cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14517/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The most recent Energy in Ireland report was published in December 2018 by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Details of the proportions of electricity generated from oil, gas, coal, wind, solar or other renewable sources are available in Table 8 “Growth rates, quantities and shares of electricity generated by fuel”on page 29 of the report.

The EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC set Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. Ireland is committed to achieving this target through meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heat and 10% of transport from renewable sources of energy. The SEAI analysis states that 10.6% of Ireland's overall energy requirements in 2017 were met from renewable sources. This avoided 4.1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and €439 million of fossil fuel imports. Overall, Ireland achieved 30.1% of electricity, 6.9% of heat and 7.4% of transport energy requirements using renewable energy sources in 2017.

Electric vehicles have a number of significant benefits, not least the fact that they have zero tail pipe emissions and are more efficient in terms of their energy use when compared with conventional vehicles. There is also a significant added benefit for Ireland in that their use can displace imported oil products with clean renewable electricity produced from indigenous resources.

Decarbonising our electricity supply is a crucial part of reducing our overall emissions. We are stepping up our ambition on renewable energy - by 2030, I have committed to 70% of our electricity being generated from renewable sources.

Electric Vehicles

Questions (240)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

240. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to provide an adequate number of charging stations to facilitate the growing electric car sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14518/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Providing adequate charging infrastructure is critical to ensure continued growth in electric vehicles.

Home charging is the most cost-effective way to charge an electric vehicle and is the primary method of charging for the majority of electric vehicles both internationally and in Ireland. A Government grant of up to €600 is available, via the SEAI, to the purchasers of new and second-hand electric vehicles to support the installation of home chargers.

There are currently over 650 standard public charge points and 78 fast chargers as a part of the ESB eCars network. In addition there are public chargers provided by local authorities, retail outlets and private companies.

Under the first call for applications from the Climate Action Fund, I approved funding of up to €10 million to support ESB eCars to develop a nationwide, state-of-the-art electric vehicle fast charging network. The project includes the installation of 90 high-power chargers, upgrading 50 existing standard chargers to fast chargers and replacing over 250 existing standard chargers with next generation high reliability models.

At the end of 2018, there were over 7,600 electric vehicles on the road in Ireland – a doubling of the total from the previous year. It is estimated that the implementation of the ESB eCars project will provide the necessary fast charging infrastructure to support at least 40,000 electric vehicles.

Electricity Generation

Questions Nos. 242 and 243 answered with Question No. 235.

Questions (241, 248)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

241. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount of electricity generated from oil, coal, gas, biomass, solar, wind or wave generation; the extent to which this is expected to change within the next five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14519/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

248. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which wind energy, hydro or other non-fossil fuel generated electricity is available to EirGrid; the extent to which this can be reflected as a percentage of total requirements at maximum load times; his plans to address the deficit within a reasonable period of time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14526/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 241 and 248 together.

The most recent Energy in Ireland report which covered the period up to end 2017 was published in December 2018 by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Renewables, including wind (25%) generated around 30% of Ireland's electricity in 2017, with the other main sources being gas at 51%, coal 12% and peat 7%.

EirGrid as Transmission System Operator ensure the power system remains stable through all grid conditions. They have indicated that wind and hydro accounted for 34% of electricity consumption during maximum load periods (5pm to 7pm) during the winter months from November 2018 to February 2019.

In 2010, EirGrid launched the Delivering a Secure, Sustainable Power System (DS3) programme which allows increasing levels of wind and solar generation on the grid while maintaining grid security. The DS3 Programme now allows for two thirds of electricity at any one time being generated on the island of Ireland to come from wind, solar generation, hydro and other non-fossil fuel, with the goal of increasing this level to 75% in 2020.

We are stepping up our ambition on renewable energy - by 2030, I have committed to 70% of our electricity being generated from renewable sources.

Questions Nos. 242 and 243 answered with Question No. 235.

Electricity Generation

Questions (244)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

244. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he has identified the economic benefits accruing to the economy from a switch to home-based alternative electricity generation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14522/19]

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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 2018 Report which covers the period 1990-2017 and was published in December 2018.

The reports shows that in 2017, approximately €439 million in fossil fuel imports were avoided by the use of renewables, of which €226 million was avoided by wind generation.

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 on-going 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.