National Broadband Plan

Questions (543)

Joan Burton

Question:

543. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of premises that will not be provided with fibre connections under the national broadband plan; and the alternatives that will be provided for these premises. [22000/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across the country, and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. Today, 74% of the 2.4 million premises in Ireland can access high speed broadband.

The National Broadband Plan intervention is the subject of the procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. Following rigorous evaluation by my Department, I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.

The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to the contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment will start as soon as the contract is signed and will take 7 years.

The network to be built will provide the majority of homes and businesses with a fibre connection. A small percentage (estimated at 2% of premises in the intervention area) of remote or difficult to connect premises may be connected with alternative technology such as fixed wireless, as long as the company meets the bandwidth and performance requirements of the contract.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (544)

Joan Burton

Question:

544. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he plans to disclose the names of shareholders, equity owners in companies and other ownership vehicles linked to the consortium appointed as a favoured bidder in the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22001/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Granahan McCourt Dublin (Ireland) Limited and Tetrad Corporation are the investors responsible for providing all of the equity, working capital, performance related security and project deliverables.

NBI Infrastructure Limited, trading as National Broadband Ireland (NBI) is a new entity established by Granahan McCourt for the purposes of delivering the NBP. It is this company that will be the signatory to the NBP Contract.

The equity of NBI will be invested in NBI via a holding company as would be typical for projects such as this. The holding company will be wholly owned by Granahan McCourt Dublin (Ireland) Limited, subject to the Minister’s special share in NBI.

The majority (in excess of 95%) Shareholders of Granahan McCourt Dublin (Ireland) Limited are David McCourt and Walter Scott Junior whose shareholdings are held through Granahan McCourt Dublin LLC, Tetrad McCourt Investors LLC and Tetrad Corporation.

Energy Infrastructure

Questions (545)

Robert Troy

Question:

545. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the power stations at Lanesboro and Shannonbridge. [22031/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Power stations are an operational matter for the owner and operator of the power station, in this instance the ESB, and one in which I do not have a function.

The 100 megawatt Lough Ree electricity generating station at Lanesboro, Co. Longford and the 150 megawatt West Offaly electricity generating station at Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly are both owned and operated by ESB. To date both have been fuelled with milled peat supplied by Bord na Móna. The plants have been supported by a Public Service Obligation since 2005 for security of supply purposes. This support comes to an end in December this year. The two plants have been granted support under the third Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff scheme (REFIT3) to use up to 30% biomass in the fuel mix up to 2030.

ESB has applied to Longford County Council in respect of the Lough Ree plant, and to An Bord Pleanála in respect of the West Offaly plant, for planning permission to co-fire with biomass and peat at both plants, and ultimately to move to 100% biomass by 2027. I understand the decisions on both applications are expected later this year.

Landfill Sites

Questions (546)

Brendan Ryan

Question:

546. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 160 of 10 April 2019, when tenders will be invited for the remediation project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22045/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

In December 2018, Kildare County Council, the contracting authority, invited tenders for expressions of interest in the remediation of Kerdiffstown landfill. The closing date for submissions was extended until 14 February 2019 on foot of requests for more time made on the eTenders procurement website.

This process of evaluation is still underway and Kildare County Council are currently reviewing clarifications sought from interested parties who have engaged in the tendering process with a view to awarding a successful tenderer by the end of this year. The procurement process is being managed by Kildare County Council in accordance with the Office of Public Procurement guidelines and regulatory framework.

Alternative Energy Projects

Questions (547)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

547. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if plans are in place to increase the use of wind energy as a means of meeting targets in line with decarbonisation requirements; the extent to which the major renewables can be utilised to mount an accelerated campaign to catch up with EU identified targets within a reasonable time; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22099/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I have recently set out a new ambition for Ireland, of reaching 70% renewable electricity by 2030, and details on how this will be delivered will be contained in the soon to be launched All of Government Climate Action Plan. The Plan will set out the necessary policy measures to help meet our 2030 target and will put Ireland on a clear pathway to meeting our 2050 objectives.

The EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC set Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy demand from renewable sources by 2020. Good progress has been made to date, with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) advising that approximately 11.3% of Ireland's overall energy requirements in 2018 were met from renewable sources.

My Department is developing the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), the primary objective of which will be to incentivise renewable electricity production (including from wind energy) to allow Ireland to deliver its 2030 renewable electricity contribution to EU wide targets and diversify the renewables portfolio on the system.

The RESS will be subject to an EU State Aid approval process in line with the 2014 EU State Aid Guidelines. The RESS will be characterised by a series of renewable electricity auctions, aligned with the ambition set out in Ireland's All of Government Climate Action Plan and final National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP). It is expected that the first RESS auction will open for applications by the end of 2019.

Furthermore, it is expected that corporate contracting of renewable energy sources will provide an important contribution to meeting Ireland's renewable energy targets. Corporate power purchase agreements also provide a route to market for project developers in the shorter term with real potential for boosting Ireland's renewable energy capacity in advance of the RESS, at no extra cost to the public and contributing to decarbonisation targets.

Electricity Generation

Questions (548)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

548. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount of electricity being generated from onshore wind, offshore wind, hydro and solar sources; the extent to which this can now form part of a reliable electricity grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22100/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

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%.

Provisional figures for 2018 show that renewables generated 32.5% of electricity with wind providing 27.6%, hydro 2.3%, solar 0.05% and biomass/other renewables 2.6% points of that. Electricity from natural gas in 2018 accounted for 52.5% of generation, coal accounted for 7%, peat 6.8%, wastes 1% and oil 0.5%.

EirGrid, as Transmission System Operator, ensure the power system remains stable through all grid conditions. EirGrid has 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.

The All of Government Climate Action Plan will be stepping up ambition in the renewable electricity sector with 70% of our electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2030. This will require significant changes to the operation and management of the electricity grid, so as to integrate wind and solar energy at scale.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Questions (549, 556, 564)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

549. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the degree to which potential signs for failure to meet carbon reduction targets can be set against the cost of providing extra renewable electricity generating capacity in view of the fact that the provision of extra generating capacity is more productive and better use of resources than payment of fines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22101/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

556. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans and vision for improved carbon reduction throughout industry; if he has had discussions with his ministerial colleagues with a view to strategic and selective afforestation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22108/19]

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John Curran

Question:

564. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the additional powers or funding that he may hold to fast-track projects on both the prevention, that is, energy efficiency, renewable generation and so on and adaptation, that is, flood defences and so on measures necessary in view of the fact that a climate emergency has been declared; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22123/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 549, 556 and 564 together.

The decision of the Dail to declare, on Thursday 9 May, a climate and biodiversity emergency in the context of endorsing the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action is a significant statement. It underlines the importance that all Parties in the Dail attach to taking urgent action on climate.

In response to this challenge, the All of Government Climate Plan will set out how this Government intends to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change by driving the delivery of policies to reduce emissions in all key sectors, including electricity, agriculture, transport, industry, buildings, waste management, and the public sector. The Plan will have a strong focus on implementation, including clear timelines and steps needed to achieve each action.

It will lead to a significant step-up in policy ambition and delivery, to ensure that we at least meet our 2030 targets and get on a clear pathway to meeting our 2050 objectives. I have already signalled the Government's commitment to meeting 70% of Ireland's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2030.

I have also welcomed the publication of the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action, and acknowledge the important work of the members and chair of the Committee in preparing this milestone report in relation to Ireland’s climate policy.

The final report of the Committee contains a detailed set of recommendations addressing polices and measures across a range of Government Departments and agencies. The recommendations are now being taken up by the Government in the context of the All of Government Climate Plan.

The Plan will build on the previous actions and framework put in place by both the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan, and is to be completed shortly.

Alternative Energy Projects

Questions (550)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

550. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the degree to which micro-generation accounts for reliable electricity generating capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22102/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

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 30.1% of Ireland's electricity in 2017, with the other main sources being gas at 51%, coal 12% and peat 7%.

The SEAI estimates that there were 15.7 MW of installed solar PV capacity in Ireland at the end of 2017: 11.9 MW in the residential sector and 3.8 MW in the commercial/industrial sector. The SEAI further estimates that 11 GWh of electricity was generated from solar PV in 2017, representing 0.1% of renewable electricity or 0.04% of electricity gross final consumption.

I have recently set out a new ambition for Ireland, of reaching 70% renewable electricity by 2030, and details on how this will be delivered will be contained in the soon to be launched All of Government Climate Action Plan. The Plan will set out the necessary policy measures to help meet our 2030 target and will put Ireland on a clear pathway to meeting our 2050 objectives. This will require both public and private investment, and large societal shifts in technology, attitude and behaviour. It will also involve a shift in which renewable technologies we support and a shift towards a more distributed generation system, including community participation and a focus on micro generation and the energy ‘prosumer’.

In July 2018, my Department launched a new micro-generation scheme to support domestic customers who install solar photovoltaic panels in their homes. The pilot scheme, which is administered by the SEAI, will be subject to a review in the coming months at which time the costs of installation will be assessed and further opportunities to broaden this scheme to other groups and other technologies will be explored. Potential future phases of support for micro-generation in Ireland may include a tariff, as we align with the ambition of the recast Renewable Energy Directive which recognises the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable self-consumers.

To date, over 3,000 applicants have expressed an interest and approximately 275 rebate claims are in process for payment by the SEAI who are administering the scheme on behalf of my Department.

Energy Production

Questions (551)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

551. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the way in which the cost of producing electricity here compares with other countries throughout Europe with particular reference to maintaining competitiveness throughout industry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22103/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Overall electricity costs in Ireland are influenced by various drivers, including global gas prices, the costs of capital, exchange rate fluctuations, and the small size of the Irish market, geographical location and low population density. Data for electricity and gas retail price statistics are collected by Eurostat for European Union Member States including Ireland and these statistics are published regularly. These Eurostat data do not include measures of comparative electricity generation costs and have only recently started to provide indicators on the disaggregated components that make up business retail electricity prices. The SEAI publishes biannual reports on Irish retail electricity and gas price statistics, which present these Eurostat electricity and gas price statistics for Ireland and European Union Member States. The most recent such report is available on the SEAI website at the following link: www.seai.ie/resources/publications/Electricity-and-gas-price-in-Ireland-1st-semester-2018.pdf.

The primary driver of electricity price rises over the previous two years has been the sharp increase in international gas prices, which has pushed up the cost of wholesale gas and wholesale electricity for Irish energy suppliers. Ireland is particularly exposed to volatile international gas prices, which can be the price setting fuel in Ireland’s all-island Single Electricity Market (SEM). Indeed, natural gas accounted for 50% of Irish gross electricity generation in 2016 versus the 19% EU average.

The Government believes that competition is a critical means of exerting downward pressure on electricity prices and also towards ensuring diversity of energy supply to reduce our exposure to high and volatile external energy prices. Additionally our heavy dependence on gas in the electricity mix underlines the need to maintain the focus on the limited controllable cost factors. Among the actions being taken are to increase the penetration of indigenous secure renewables in the Irish electricity system and promote energy efficiency in businesses.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (552, 558, 559)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

552. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the degree to which he expects broadband to meet the requirements of industry and the domestic sector over the next ten years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22104/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

558. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which best practice and efficient and effective delivery of high-speed, high-quality broadband nationally will derive from the recently announced national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22110/19]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

559. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which the cost of providing broadband internationally is increasing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22111/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 552, 558 and 559 together.

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. Following rigorous evaluation by my Department, I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.

The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to the contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that. The Bidder has indicated that the NBP State intervention will take an estimated 7 years from the beginning of deployment.

In the first year of this roll out, the Bidder will deploy approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations. A deployment plan will be made available by the bidder once the contract is signed. The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by end of the second year of the overall deployment, with 70,000 to 100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out to the 540,000 is completed.

Roll out of the National Broadband Plan State intervention to the approximately 44,000 businesses in the intervention area will take place against the backdrop of a significant and rapid transformation in the structure of global and national economies.

A growing number of businesses and industries, particularly digitally intensive enterprises, will need Gigabit connectivity to create new applications and business models to produce, distribute and sell their goods and services more competitively. From manufacturing systems to ordering and delivery processes, from data storage and analytics to internal and external communications, their future competitiveness requires cost-effective access to such connectivity. The State intervention will provide this connectivity to businesses from day one of connection.

One of the key elements of the NBP Intervention Strategy is a requirement to put forward specific speeds and connection times to meet the best practice needs of the business community. The predominantly fibre solution proposed by the Preferred Bidder in the NBP will facilitate and support these types of business services and the network to be built will provide that confidence and assurance to all businesses in the Intervention Area.

The cost of providing high speed broadband internationally is dependent on a range of factors including the cost of labour and materials, the governance and regulatory regime in place and the preferred technology selected by operators and policy makers. It is therefore not possible to state whether the cost of broadband is increasing internationally. However, while each country may have a different approach Ireland is not alone in pursuing fibre as a solution for provision of high speed broadband in rural areas. While the procurement process did not specify a preferred technology all bidders in the process proposed fibre as the best solution. My Department considered other technologies such as 4G and 5G or fixed wireless. It agreed with the national and international expertise in this area that a fibre-based solution was the most cost-effective way to address all premises with a future proofed solution over the 25 years of the contract. This is in line with the approach being adopted in other EU countries and internationally.

Fibre can meet the requirements and additional capacity can be added over time at low additional cost to network operators. Fibre can deliver up to 10 Gbps of speed with no major upgrades required, ensuring that the solution is future proofed and has a low running cost, making it an extremely efficient solution.

Post Office Network

Questions (553)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

553. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the postal services, including counter services and the network of offices nationally, can be utilised to deliver other services compatible with those provided by An Post and the retention of the maximum number of jobs in the postal sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22105/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The provision of postal services and counter services is an operational matter for An Post and not one in which I, as Minister, have a function.

Waste Management

Questions (554)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

554. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he can encourage an accelerated programme to discourage the use of single-use plastics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22106/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I am fully committed to discouraging the use of single use plastics as evidenced by the fact that I secured Government approval in January this year to ban the purchase of some commonly used single use plastic items by Government Departments and all public bodies and state agencies under the aegis of Ministers.

I am awaiting the final adoption of a Directive from the EU which will enable me to take more concrete measures to ban certain single use plastics and make the producers of others responsible for some waste management and clean up costs.

I firmly believe that education is an essential tool in preventing the use of unnecessary plastic and managing the waste arising from it. To assist in the provision of information to the public, my Department, in conjunction with the Regional Waste Management Planning Offices, launched a new website in November 2018, www.mywaste.ie . This website provides consumers with a single information resource on all aspects of domestic waste management in Ireland and in particular it focuses on the provision of advice on managing waste more responsibly and efficiently. In addition, I provide funding to the EPA for the National Waste Prevention Programme which supports a Local Authority Prevention Network (LAPN). The LAPN is provided with grant aid and technical support to deliver local prevention initiatives, thereby raising awareness and delivering behavioural change at local level. Many LAPN initiatives have focussed on plastic waste prevention, through working with businesses, community groups, schools, public authorities and event management companies.

Mobile Telephony Services

Question No. 556 answered with Question No. 549.

Questions (555)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

555. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which mobile telephony services can be upgraded to ensure the availability of improved coverage and quality of sound in view of the fact that several areas nationally can only rely on a very basic service which is not in keeping with best international standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22107/19]

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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.

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. 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 addressed over 60 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.

- 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 black spots. 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 3.6 GHz 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.

Question No. 556 answered with Question No. 549.

Bioenergy Strategy

Questions Nos. 558 and 559 answered with Question No. 552.

Questions (557)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

557. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the degree to which anaerobic digesters contribute to energy production and carbon reduction; the extent to which this can be improved in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22109/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Biogas produced from anaerobic digestion has the potential to play an important role in Ireland's transition to a low carbon future. In addition to helping decarbonise the energy sector by replacing fossil fuels, the production of biogas can also reduce emissions in the agriculture and waste sectors.

Anaerobic digestion plants can utilise a wide variety of feedstocks ranging from food wastes, to animal slurries to specifically grown energy crops, including silage, in order to produce biogas (a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide). This biogas can be combusted in boilers to produce heat, or in combined heat and power plants to produce both heat and electricity.

The REFIT3 support scheme, which is funded by the public service obligation paid by electricity consumers, has supported the development of anaerobic digestion facilities via a high-efficiency combined heat and power tariff. This scheme closed for new applications on 31 December 2015.

The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat has been developed to financially support the adoption of renewable heating systems by commercial, industrial, agricultural, district heating and other non-domestic heat users not covered by the EU Emissions Trading System. The first phase of the scheme, an installation grant for heat pumps, opened for applications in September 2018. The second phase of the scheme, an operational support for biomass boilers and anaerobic digestion heating systems, was approved under State aid rules last month. The completion of the State aid approval process is a key step and I expect to be in a position to announce the opening of the second phase of the scheme in the near future.

Under Project Ireland 2040, the National Development Plan sets out an allocation of €300 million for the rollout of the SSRH for the period up to 2027.

Electricity output from anaerobic digesters will also be eligible to compete for support under the forthcoming Renewable Electricity Support Scheme. The high level design of this scheme was approved by Government in July 2018 and will also require State aid approval.

Biogas can also be purified by removing the carbon dioxide to produce biomethane and then injected into the gas grid. The draft National Energy and Climate Plan, published last December, includes the potential for 1.6 million MWh of biomethane grid injection by 2030.

A key enabler for biomethane grid injection is the development of grid injection points. Gas Networks Ireland is currently developing Ireland's first injection point and the development of a second will be supported by the Climate Action Fund.

The principal barrier to the development of biomethane grid injection is the significant cost differential between natural gas and biomethane. My Department continues to examine potential options to support biomethane grid injection including how to fund this cost differential.

Questions Nos. 558 and 559 answered with Question No. 552.

Waste Management

Questions (560)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

560. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which reliance on landfill waste disposal facilities continues to be monitored with particular reference to the utilisation of best practice in terms of reduce, reuse and recycle; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22112/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

European, national and regional waste management policy is predicated on the waste hierarchy as set out in Article 4 of the 2008 Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), whereby the prevention, preparing for reuse, recycling and other recovery of waste are preferred options to the disposal or landfilling of waste. 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 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. 26% of managed municipal waste by weight was sent to landfill in 2016, compared to 41% in 2012 and 92% in 1995. Furthermore, 74% of managed municipal waste was recovered in 2016, compared to 59% in 2012. Significantly more residual waste is now used as a fuel (energy recovery) than disposed to landfill. Further information is available at www.epa.ie/nationalwastestatistics/municipal/ .

New waste management targets agreed by the European Council include a provision that Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that by 2035 the amount of municipal waste landfilled is reduced to 10% or less of the total amount of municipal waste generated by weight.

The continued implementation of national and regional waste management policy to manage waste in line with the waste hierarchy will help ensure that Ireland is well placed to meet this new target.

Renewable Energy Incentives

Questions (561)

John Curran

Question:

561. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the additional resources put in place to implement the renewable electricity support scheme in view of it being three years late; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22119/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The High Level Design of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) was approved by government in July 2018. The RESS will be characterised by a series of renewable electricity auctions, aligned with the ambition set out in Ireland's All of Government Climate Action Plan and final National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP).

The RESS is a significant and ambitious policy measure in providing a route to market for eligible renewable energy projects and contributing to the ambition of 70% of electricity to be generated from renewable electricity sources by 2030. The RESS is now in the detailed design and implementation phase and my Department is progressing the RESS project across a number of key work streams including the EU State Aid approval process; the development of an Enabling Framework for Community Participation; and the design of the first RESS auctions.

A working group and steering group have been established with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities and EirGrid to oversee the implementation of the RESS auctions and harness existing expertise in this area. The RESS is a complex project with several work programmes being managed in parallel. It is expected that the first RESS auction will open for applications by the end of 2019. Engagement with relevant stakeholders including the European Commission’s Directorate General (DG) for Competition, will continue in the coming months.