Questions Nos. 1 to 5, inclusive, answered orally.

Better Energy Homes Scheme

Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (6)

Joan Collins

Question:

6. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on a report (details supplied) that nearly 2 million homes need to be refitted; and his plans to fund and target these homes as part of the Climate Action Plan 2019. [28584/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I welcome the publication of the Engineers Ireland review of housing and infrastructure in Ireland. This report includes recommendations on a range of issues related to the housing stock, including the development and implementation of a national renovation strategy.

As noted in the Report, the recently published Climate Action Plan sets a target of retrofitting 500,000 houses to BER B2, cost optimal equivalent or carbon equivalent by 2030. This will help us to meet our 2030 targets for emissions reductions. Achieving our 2050 targets will require a further step up and many more houses will have to be retrofitted in the decades to come.

Project Ireland 2040 has provided €3bn for the period to 2027 to support the achievement of the 2030 target. While this is clearly a substantial amount of Government financial support, Exchequer funding alone will not be enough to meet the level of activity required. In this regard, the Plan commits to providing easier access to tailored finance for residential energy efficiency investment in addition to optimising Government funding and grant schemes.

The Plan also incorporates a range of other measures that will be used to achieve this target. This includes the development and implementation of a new delivery model that groups retrofits together to achieve economies of scale, leverage private finance, and ensure easy pay-back methods. This area-based approach will seek to capitalise on critical mass, leveraging economies of scale that will benefit both householders and the supply chain. The savings on electricity bills from using less energy can help fund this, while homes will be warmer and produce fewer emissions.

Questions Nos. 7 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (11)

Willie Penrose

Question:

11. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the discussions he has had with regard to the proposed regional gatherings as part of the national dialogue on climate action; the regional gatherings undertaken or planned since its commencement; the events proposed for 2019 and beyond; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22798/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government established a National Dialogue on Climate Action in 2017. The primary objectives of the National Dialogue are to engage and empower citizens and communities to take local action, to ensure an inclusive progress of engagement and feedback, and to develop the capacity for individuals and communities to act and bring about the transformation of our society to a low carbon and climate-resilient future.

A range of initiatives are taking place under the National Dialogue, which is being delivered by my Department and the EPA. These include regional gatherings, a climate action and awareness programme delivered by Green Schools, a special Tidy Towns Air Quality and Climate award, a climate lecture series delivered by the EPA, and support for the development of online and broadcast media content.

Two regional gatherings have taken place to date, in Athlone in June 2018 and in Tralee in November 2018. These were free, professionally facilitated workshop-style events, which sought to explore the specific challenges and opportunities involved in moving Ireland to a low-carbon, climate-resilient society in the regions concerned. Further details of each event, including a facilitator’s summary, is available on my Department’s website. I intend that further regional gatherings take place later in 2019, with a view to ensuring an even geographical spread of events throughout Ireland.

The Government’s Climate Action Plan, published last month, envisages that the National Dialogue on Climate Action will be further developed as a model of citizen engagement, deliberation and action on climate change, building on the process employed by the Citizens' Assembly. In particular, the National Dialogue has potential to drive action at community level, through harnessing existing networks and helping to build new ones, supporting better communication, and providing more focused deliberation leading to effective action.

As part of this wider dialogue, I am separately undertaking a series of nationwide consultative meetings, to explain the approach, hear views and take on ideas from members of the public on the implementation of the Climate Action Plan. The first of these events took place in University College Cork on 21 June and a second event will take place this coming Friday in Thurles, County Tipperary. This is a free event, which is open to members of the public, and details of the event have been advertised in local media. Further meetings are being planned for Galway, the Midlands, Dublin and Donegal before the end of July.

Warmer Homes Scheme

Questions (12)

Joan Collins

Question:

12. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if SEAI payments to contractors will be investigated in view of information from a company (details supplied) that payments for contracts are not being paid for up to 12 to 16 weeks after the job has been completed. [28583/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Warmer Homes Scheme provides free energy efficiency upgrades to the homes of people living in or at risk of energy poverty. The scheme is delivered through a panel of contractors, appointed through a competitive tendering process. There are currently 39 contractors on the panel. Works that are completed must be audited and in some cases further inspected before SEAI can request an invoice and make a payment to the contractor. Audits are carried out by a managing agent on behalf of the SEAI.

The SEAI have informed my officials that they are aware that delays in the auditing process are currently being experienced. This is due to:

- the increased volume of homes being completed;

- the fact that many of these homes have had deeper measures implemented which require a greater depth of audit examination given the public monies involved; and

- some capacity constraints in the managing agent that carries out the audits.

The SEAI are working to address these delays. Steps taken to date include:

- introducing additional temporary resources to help manage the immediate issue;

- increased monitoring and reporting on the status of homes to be audited;

- working with the managing agent to increase their delivery speed and ensure that the homes that have been waiting the longest are audited first;

- ensuring that auditing resources are balanced across all 39 contractors to ensure that no contractor is experiencing longer wait times than others; and

- an increase in the frequency in which SEAI make payments to contractors has been implemented.

The SEAI is aware of the importance of prompt payment consistent with ensuring public monies are properly expended, and ensuring wait times for contractors are to the greatest extent possible minimised. If the measures implemented to date do not result in the required improvement in turnaround-time, further steps will be taken within the limits of the SEAI’s governance requirements and an affordable Service Level Agreement with the managing agent.

Offshore Exploration Licences

Question No. 14 answered orally.

Questions (13)

Bríd Smith

Question:

13. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if all rental acreage fees paid to his Department fall due to be paid at the same time; if not, if this depends on the date of issue of the licence; and if the fees are paid in advance for the coming period or retrospectively. [28536/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Licensing Terms for Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Development and Production 2007 provide that acreage rental fees in respect of petroleum authorisations are payable on the date of issue of an authorisation for a period of one year and thereafter on the annual anniversary date of the issue of that authorisation. As such acreage rental fees are paid in advance and fall due at different times of the year depending on the original date of issue of each authorisation.

Question No. 14 answered orally.

Alternative Energy Projects

Questions Nos. 16 to 18, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions (15)

Robert Troy

Question:

15. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the grants available to support the construction of solar energy farms; his plans to introduce further grant aid; and the terms and conditions which apply for a solar energy farm to supply energy to the national grid. [28458/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

On 17 June, I launched the Climate Action Plan which includes a suite of actions to decarbonise the electricity sector and boost the quantity of renewable generation in order to meet our target of 70% of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2030.

In order to deliver on the ambition set out in the Plan, my Department is developing the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The RESS has been designed within a competitive auction-based, cost effective framework and the scheme will provide for a renewable electricity (RES-E) ambition of 70% by 2030.

Technology diversity, including solar PV and offshore wind, will occur naturally as the scheme matures and certain intervention levers may be used within each auction round to promote certain policy objectives such as community participation, community ownership and diversifying the renewable energy mix. Globally, the costs of renewable technologies are falling rapidly with solar PV showing the most rapid decrease in prices in recent years.

I am targeting the delivery of indicative volumes of up to 1.5 GW of grid scale solar by 2030. Grid scale solar energy farms will be critical to diversifying the renewable technology mix and to deliver gains through connecting hybrid renewable technologies.

The terms and conditions of the RESS auctions will set out the process by which all competing technologies including grid scale solar farms connect and receive support for supplying energy to the national grid. The first RESS auction is expected to open for applications in late 2019. In addition corporate power purchase agreements will provide a route to market for solar PV and will be key to meeting our 70% RES-E target.

Questions Nos. 16 to 18, inclusive, answered orally.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Questions (19)

Brian Stanley

Question:

19. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the projected spend on carbon credits between 2021 and 2030. [28307/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I published the Government's Climate Action Plan 2019 on 17 June. The plan sets out, for the first time, how Ireland can reach its 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also put Ireland on the right trajectory towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The step-up in ambition in each of the sectors covered by the plan will require investment across the entire economy. Overall, through the mix of technologies and measures identified, the plan sets out the pathway that represents the least-cost burden to the economy as a whole.

A significant portion of the technologies and measures set out in the plan will result also in net lifetime cost savings to the economy as a whole.

In terms of costs to the Exchequer and other public funding, the plan will be funded through Project Ireland 2040 which provides €30 billion for low carbon and sustainable mobility investments in the period to 2027.

Many of the actions in the plan do not require public funding. The actions contained in this plan fall broadly into four categories:

- public funding provided in the annual estimates process and in Project Ireland 2040

- measures such as setting a long-term trajectory for the carbon tax, in order to change long-term behaviour and decisions to encourage investment in more sustainable choices

- new regulations to end certain practices (e.g. phasing out oil and gas boilers in homes or introducing low emission zones in cities)

- actions to promote public and community engagement and participation in reducing our emissions.

For the first time, a decarbonisation target has been set for each sector. Each Government Department must now determine the optimum approach to utilising the funding available to it to support the policies necessary to meet the targets proposed for each sector. The exact costs will be determined from the detailed policy design work which will consist of a mix of regulations, taxes, and subsidies which the Government may choose to deploy to achieve the target abatement range in each sector.

There would be a very significant costs to the Exchequer from not implementing any policies to achieve compliance with our 2030 targets, which would not only lock Ireland into a high carbon trajectory that would be unsustainable in the long-run but would require significant compliance costs to meet our legally binding EU targets. This could result in a cost to the Exchequer of up to €1.75 billion over the next decade. Full implementation of the Climate Action Plan would mean that Ireland would avoid incurring such costs.

Better Energy Homes Scheme

Questions (20)

Bríd Smith

Question:

20. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the budget for SEAI grants for improvements in home energy efficiency; and his plans to expand the budget in 2020. [28537/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government currently funds a number of schemes, administered by the SEAI, to assist homeowners in upgrading the energy efficiency of their properties. These include:

- free upgrades for households in energy poverty;

- fixed grants for a defined list of energy efficiency measures, covering approximately 30% of the total cost; and

- 50% grants for people who want to upgrade to an A3 rating.

Since the year 2000, over 400,000 homes have received direct support under these schemes to carry out work such as installing insulation, heating controls or solar panels to heat their water. In 2018 alone, 21,350 households and 37 community groups received support to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. This year, I have allocated €85m funding for these schemes.

The Government’s Climate Action Plan has set a target of 500,000 retrofits to a BER B2 as well as the installation of 400,000 heat pumps in existing homes over the period to 2030. To achieve this, a new retrofitting delivery model is being developed that will group retrofits together to realise economies of scale, leverage private finance, and ensure easy pay-back methods. The Climate Action Plan commits to publishing a plan by Q3 2020 to ensure that the Government grant schemes, new finance models and delivery system are effectively integrated.

Decisions in relation to funding allocations for the residential retrofit programme in 2020 will be made in the context of:

- the ambitious programme of building energy efficiency upgrades set out in the Climate Action Plan;

- the annual Estimates processes; and

- the €3.7 billion funding identified in Project Ireland 2040 to support residential energy efficiency upgrades and the installation of heat pumps and solar PV for the period 2018-2027.

Electricity Generation

Questions (21, 26)

John Curran

Question:

21. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will take the necessary steps to allow domestic and community groups that engage in microgeneration to supply the surplus electricity generated to the national grid rather than having to store surplus power in batteries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28531/19]

View answer

Martin Heydon

Question:

26. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress on the development of a new micro-generation scheme to allow homeowners to generate their own electricity and sell the excess back to the national grid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28555/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 26 together.

The Climate Action Plan launched last month sets out Ireland's 2030 climate ambitions which is consistent with a trajectory to meet net zero emissions by 2050.

Action 30 of the Plan sets out the steps necessary and timelines for the delivery of an enabling framework for micro-generation. The objective is that a support payment for excess electricity generated on site and exported to the grid will be available to all micro-generators by 2021. ESB Networks and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities will assess potential implications for the distribution network of higher penetrations of micro-generation by the end of 2019. My Department will establish a working group which will set policy objectives which will in turn lead to the detailed design of the support scheme.

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

The pilot scheme launched last year and administered by the SEAI is being reviewed and the costs of installation being assessed. The data gathered during the pilot scheme will inform potential future phases of support for micro generation in Ireland that may be appropriate, as we align with the ambition of the recast Renewable Energy Directive which recognises the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable communities and self-consumers.

Postal Services

Questions (22)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

22. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his most recent interaction with An Post in relation to Brexit. [28575/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government’s Contingency Action Plan, published on 19 December 2018, sets out comprehensive, cross-Government preparations that have been in place since even before the Brexit vote. The Government will publish an updated Action Plan later this month, outlining the work that has taken since the publication of December Action Plan, and further actions to be taken before the end of October.

My officials are in regular contact with An Post on Brexit and other issues. An Post has carried out its own Brexit analysis and has completed detailed contingency planning for its business for all Brexit scenarios.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (23)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

23. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the options proposed by Eir will be considered for the roll-out of fibre to the national broadband area by means other than the draft concession agreement. [28479/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I would like in the first instance to clarify that eir has made no formal proposal to Government to replace or supersede the National Broadband Plan. At its appearance at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, eir's CEO outlined eir's view on the value for money of the NBP. eir's CEO made certain observations with regard to eir's own model for delivery of rural broadband, which could only be delivered outside of the current procurement process. My Department requested a detailed outline from eir setting out the assumptions made and the financial model underpinning eir’s assumptions. eir provided further information to my Department at close of business on Friday 28 June and my Department and its NBP advisers are currently analysing this information.

Exploration Licences Data

Questions (24)

Bríd Smith

Question:

24. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the applications for petroleum leases, undertakings and licences refused by his Department since 1995 to date; and if application fees were returned to the unsuccessful applicants. [28534/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Since the introduction of the Integrated Petroleum Affairs System database in 2007, twenty three applications for petroleum authorisations have been considered and declined. It has not been possible to review manual records for the period 1995 to 2006 in the timeframe available. As regards these 23 applications, no refund of application fees has been made.

In general terms, it is not practice to return application fees for a petroleum authorisation where the Minister is in a position to consider an application and consequently grant or refuse the application.

Exploration Licences Applications

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 21.

Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 25.

Questions (25, 27)

Bríd Smith

Question:

25. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when a decision will be made on outstanding applications for petroleum licences, leases and undertakings; and if in the event of refusal to grant a licence, it is practice to return application fees. [28533/19]

View answer

Bríd Smith

Question:

27. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason one application in relation to applications for lease undertakings is outstanding for a number of years; the reason for a such delay; and when a decision will be made. [28535/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 27 together.

Applications received for a petroleum authorisation are considered against the criteria outlined in article 3 of the Licensing Terms for Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Development and Production 2007. In particular, applicants must demonstrate that the work programme proposed in their application will progress understanding of the petroleum prospectivity of the Irish Offshore and that the applicant(s) have the financial and technical capability to undertake the proposed work programme. It should be noted that an application may be made by a joint venture comprising a number of parties. In that regard the consideration of applications is a complex process, which as in the case of some current applications can take some time to bring to conclusion.

Section 57 of the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act, 1960 requires the Minister to lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas every six months a report detailing all petroleum exploration authorisations granted during the period of the report. The last such report laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas was in respect of the six-month period ending 31 December 2018. In addition, a report on the status of all petroleum authorisations is published on a quarterly basis on my Department's website. The most recent such report was published on 31 March 2019. Applications not granted are not published.

In the event of a decision not to grant an application for a petroleum authorisation, such decision having been made following due consideration of the application, it is not practice to refund the application fee.

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 21.
Question No. 27 answered with Question No. 25.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Questions (28)

Michael Moynihan

Question:

28. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has discussed climate change with his UK counterpart recently; his plans to bring forward legislation similar to that being proposed in the UK on achieving a net zero carbon target by 2050; and if there has been discussions regarding the implications of same both north and south. [25188/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I attended the Environment Council meeting in Luxembourg on 26 June 2019 where, together with my environment ministerial colleagues, including Therese Coffey, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, we discussed the EU Long Term Strategy and EU ambition for carbon neutrality. At this meeting I confirmed Ireland’s support for increased climate ambition and the adoption of a net zero target by 2050 at EU level, including in the context of the importance of the EU reaffirming its role as a global leader in relation to ambitious climate action, and also in view of the upcoming UN Climate Summit in September 2019.

I recently published the Climate Action Plan 2019 which sets out for the first time how Ireland will reach its 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and put Ireland on the right trajectory towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The transition to climate neutral economy will present both challenges and opportunities, and require additional changes across all sectors of the economy. Under the new Climate Action Plan I have committed to evaluate in detail the changes that would be necessary in pursuit of this objective at a national level.

Under the Plan, I have also committed to bring forward a new Climate Action (Amendment) Bill which will make the adoption of carbon budgets a legal requirement, require the Government to set a decarbonisation target range for each sector over five year periods, and establish a 2050 target in law.

Recycling Policy

Questions (29)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

29. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the Galway cash for cans initiative; the reason for its suspension; when it will be reinstated; his plans to roll out the initiative nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28579/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The 'cash for cans' initiative was implemented by Galway City Council and my Department has no role in its operation. I understand that the initiative is currently under review by the Council and a report on the continuation of the scheme is due to be provided to the elected members of Galway City Council on 8 July.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (30, 47)

Tom Neville

Question:

30. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the impact the provision of high speed broadband in rural areas will have vis-à-vis remote working and flexible working arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28556/19]

View answer

Tom Neville

Question:

47. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the anticipated expansion of the digital economy in future years; the role which broadband will play in allowing Ireland, particularly in rural areas, to take full advantage of the opportunities of the digital economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28557/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 30 and 47 together.

The purpose of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is to ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens in rural Ireland have the same opportunity to participate in the digital society as citizens living in urban areas. This will bring significant benefits including in areas such as e-Health, e-Education, smart farming, regional development and tourism.

The NBP aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. 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.

The Government decision of 7 May 2019 means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to the Preferred Bidder. This award is subject to contract close, including finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

This plan will ensure that rural Ireland will have the same opportunities as urban Ireland. Digital participation helps small and medium businesses to compete successfully on a global scale, accessing more customers and enabling businesses to streamline their efficiencies to provide for cloud computing, back-up and recovery and e-commerce services.

In addition, the provision of high speed broadband in rural Ireland is of critical importance in areas such as flexible and remote working. Remote or home-working is becoming an increasingly prevalent employment model, including amongst overseas firms that continue to invest in Ireland. This area of the economy is projected to double over the next 5 years. It will also afford national and international employers better access to a wider catchment of skilled workers, even where offices and businesses are located within more rural areas.

The efficient and timely provision of a high speed broadband network across Ireland will also enable agricultural businesses to move into smarter farming which will increase output while reducing administrative costs. Smart farming can improve Ireland's competitiveness on the international scale through efficiencies delivered via remote monitoring of livestock, increased crop output, data driven crop and herd management and enabling quality software that supports efficient farm management and profitability.

The National Broadband Plan highlights the importance of remote working opportunities to regenerate, revitalise and re-establish regional and rural Ireland as an attractive place to live and work. In turn this will help bridge the rural\urban divide and create equality of employment opportunity across Ireland.

Renewable Energy Incentives

Questions (31)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

31. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which it can be illustrated that the replacement of a specific amount of fossil fuel generated electricity with renewable energy can demonstrate a reduction in carbon emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28580/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Thirty per cent of electricity was produced from renewable sources in 2017 with a target of reaching 40% by 2020. While emissions from the sector were on a downward trend between 2005 and 2011, they have stayed relatively static since, as a result of rising demand for power outstripping our increased generation from renewable sources. Nevertheless in 2017 the use of renewables in electricity generation reduced CO2 emissions by 3.3 Mt and avoided €278 million in fossil fuel imports. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) estimate displacement of emissions through the use of renewable energy in electricity generation in the Energy in Ireland 2018 report (section 3.1.4). The methodology used is detailed in the 2019 Renewable Energy report – see appendix 2. The 2019 report is based on previous research by SEAI titled Quantifying Ireland’s Fuel and CO2 Emissions Savings from Renewable Electricity in 2012 which compare electricity generation without the use of renewables with the actual outcome in 2012 when renewables were in use. This analysis shows real and substantial emissions reductions resulting from the use of renewables.

In the recently launched Climate Action Plan, I have set out a target of reducing CO2 emissions from the electricity to 4-5 Mt in 2030.

Reaching a 70% share of renewable electricity would require 50-55% emissions reduction by 2030 relative to pre-NDP 2030 projections, as set out in Chapter 7 of the Plan.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Questions (32)

Pat Deering

Question:

32. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the climate action fund; when a further call for applications will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28560/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Climate Action Plan includes a commitment to developing the scope of a new call in Q3 2019 and launching a new call in Q4 2019. Under the first call for applications seven projects were approved. These projects will be provided with up to €77 million in support which will leverage a total investment of €300 million.

The projects span a range of sectors supporting the rollout of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, the development of two district heating projects, the installation of energy-efficient public lighting, the development of renewable gas infrastructure, the installation of energy-efficient hybrid-drive systems in inter-city trains, and the use of information technology to reduce emissions in heavy goods vehicles.

Having completed the assessment stage, the validation process on these projects is currently underway which includes detailed due diligence and agreement of project outputs and timelines.

Waste Disposal Charges

Questions (33)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

33. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when a bin waiver will be introduced for persons with incontinence and disabilities; and the GDPR concerns that have been addressed since he last addressed Dáil Éireann on the issue. [28566/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Since mid-2017, a range of charging options have been operated, which encourage householders to reduce and separate their waste, and provides flexibility to waste collectors to develop various service-price offerings that suit different household circumstances. Mandatory per kilogramme 'pay by weight' charging was not introduced in 2017. A Price Monitoring Group (PMG) was established in mid-2017 to monitor the on-going cost of residential waste collection to homeowners across Ireland as the ‘flat-rate structure’ was being phased out. While fluctuations in prices and service offerings have been observed, the overall trend has been relative price stability. My Department has engaged with relevant stakeholders, including representative organisations and public bodies, in an effort to see how best to provide a financial support to persons with long-term incontinence with respect to the disposal of medical incontinence wear.

Notwithstanding the complex issues at play, which are understandable given the sensitive nature of the medical data in question, I would like assure the Deputy that I continue to be committed to addressing this issue.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Questions (34)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

34. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when local authorities will complete their climate adaption plans; and his role in scrutinising such plans. [28567/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework, published in January 2018, sets out the context to ensure Local Authorities, regions and key sectors can assess the main risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, implement climate resilience actions and ensure climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into policy making. Under the National Adaptation Framework, each Local Authority is required to develop a Local Adaptation Strategy in line with “Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines,” which were launched by Minister of State Canney on 3 December 2018 and are available on www.dccae.gov.ie. Local Authorities have been set a deadline for the completion of local strategies by 30 September 2019.

In January 2018, my Department also entered into a funding commitment of €10 million over 5 years to establish four Climate Action Regional Offices. This recognises the significant obligation which has been placed on local government to develop and implement its own climate action measures - both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

A key priority for the Climate Action Regional Offices in 2019 will be to support the Local Authorities within their region to develop their Local Adaptation Strategies and ensure they align with national adaptation policy and sectoral priorities. Work is underway across all Local Authorities on the preparation of Local Adaptation Strategies in line with the five-step methodology set out in the Guidelines, and with a view to meeting the 30 September deadline. The development and approval of the strategies themselves remains the responsibility of each individual Local Authority.

My Department is working closely with local government in supporting the adaptation planning process and will monitor overall progress on the development of Local Adaptation Strategies at Local Authority level via the National Adaptation Steering Committee, as well as through the implementation of the Climate Action Plan 2019.

North-South Interconnector

Questions (35, 57)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

35. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the expected timeline for the development of the north-South interconnector; and the expected progress of the project. [28480/19]

View answer

Thomas Byrne

Question:

57. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the North-South interconnector project. [28296/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 57 together.

The North South Interconnector is critical to improving the efficient operation of the Single Electricity Market and increasing security of electricity supply across the island of Ireland. A resilient and well connected energy infrastructure is vital for Ireland’s economic wellbeing and the ability to respond to the future needs of energy consumers. Greater inter-connection is also necessary if we are to ensure 70% of electricity is renewable by 2030.

In December 2016 An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the project in Ireland, while in January 2018 full planning permission was granted for the section of the line that lies in Northern Ireland. Both of the planning decisions have been subject to legal proceedings in each jurisdiction. In Ireland a Supreme Court appeal of the planning permission was dismissed on 19 February 2019.

In Northern Ireland, on 8 February 2019, the Department for Infrastructure asked the High Court to quash the planning permission given so the planning application can be re-determined under new legislation introduced by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in November 2018.

There are currently a number of on-going procurements in relation to the project being undertaken and managed by ESB Networks. In June 2019 ESB Networks awarded a framework contract for the design, test and supply of steelwork in relation to the project. However under this framework there will be no supply of materials until the planning process in Northern Ireland is complete.

The earliest possible date for construction to commence is early 2020.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (36)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

36. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress made to date in appointing a bidder to deliver the national broadband scheme; when it is expected that final contracts will be signed; when the successful bidder is expected to give a detailed time and location schedule in relation to the roll-out of broadband under the scheme; when it is expected that the roll out under the scheme will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28298/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the National Broadband Plan (NBP) procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May. This is an important step towards achieving the overarching goal of the National Broadband Plan, which is to provide access to high speed broadband to every home, farm, school and business in Ireland, no matter where they are located.

The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland (NBI), subject to contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. A period of final due diligence on all elements of the contract is part of the normal conclusion of a procurement process.

NBI will be supported by a number of experienced subcontractors and is currently tasked with finalising negotiations on contracts with approximately 40 subcontractors to assist in the delivery of the NBP. In order to support deployment it is anticipated that a subset of approximately 15 to 20 of these subcontracts will be required prior to contract close. The State Aid notification in relation to the NBP will also be submitted to the European Commission.

It is anticipated these elements will require a number of months, with contract close expected later this year and deployment commencing shortly after that.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (37)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

37. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the national broadband plan. [28568/19]

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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. I recently brought a recommendation to the Government to confer preferred bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process, and the Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.

This is an important step towards achieving the overarching goal of the plan, which is to provide access to high-speed broadband to every home, farm, school and business in Ireland, no matter where they are located.

The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. A period of final due diligence on all elements of the contract is part of the normal conclusion of a procurement process.

National Broadband Ireland will be supported by a number of experienced subcontractors and is currently tasked with finalising negotiations on contracts with approximately 40 subcontractors to assist in the delivery of the NBP. It is anticipated that a subset of approximately 15 to 20 of these subcontracts will be required prior to contract close to support deployment. The state aid notification relating to the NBP will also be submitted to the European Commission.

It is anticipated these elements will require a number of months, with contract close expected later this year and deployment commencing shortly after that.

National Broadband Plan Data

Questions (38)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

38. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of homes in County Louth that are in the intervention area under the national broadband plan; when the roll-out of high speed broadband will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28562/19]

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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, 75% of the 2.4 million premises in Ireland can access high speed broadband.

Since December 2015, the number of premises with access to high-speed broadband in Louth has increased by 6,990. In total, the number of premises in Louth with access to high speed broadband is now 52,098, which equates to 85% of all premises in the county. Another 376 will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment of high speed broadband, which is nearing completion.

The remaining 8,699 homes, schools and businesses in Louth will receive access to high speed broadband under the Government’s National Broadband Plan State intervention.

The Government decision on 7 May 2019 means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to 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. A deployment plan will be made available by the Bidder once the contract is signed.

In the first year of 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.

The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

The National Broadband Plan investment in providing high speed broadband to Louth over the duration of the plan will be in the order of €30 million.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions (39)

Thomas Byrne

Question:

39. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to improve broadband quality in County Meath. [28297/19]

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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, 75% of the 2.4 million premises in Ireland can access high speed broadband.

Since December 2015, the number of premises with access to high-speed broadband in Meath has increased by 13,097. In total, the number of premises in Meath with access to high speed broadband is now 64,281 which equates to 74% of all premises in the county. Another 1,741 will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment of high speed broadband, which is nearing completion.

The remaining 20,400 homes, schools and businesses in Meath will receive access to high speed broadband under the Government’s National Broadband Plan State intervention.

The goal of the National Broadband Plan intervention is to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. 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.

The Government decision on 7 May 2019 means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to 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. A deployment plan will be made available by the Bidder once the contract is signed.

In the first year of 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.

The Bidder is aiming to pass 133,000 premises by the end of the second year, with 70-100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.