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Wednesday, 16 Oct 2019

Written Answers Nos. 51-75

Energy Efficiency

Questions (51)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

51. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to address the significant deficit in funding to the SEAI for the deep retrofit of homes here in the context of 2030 climate action targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41404/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Deep Retrofit Pilot Scheme was launched in 2017 as a time bound pilot to investigate the challenges and opportunities of deep retrofit in Ireland. The scheme, which is funded by my Department and operated by the SEAI, closed for applications on 19 July. The total budget for the scheme this year is €10 million – double the amount spent on the scheme last year. Almost €2 million has been paid in grants under the scheme so far this year. All applications received in advance of the July 19 deadline are being evaluated and honoured in line with the scheme terms and conditions.

While the Deep Retrofit Pilot is now closed to new applications, a number of other grants for energy efficiency works remain available. Information on these grants is available from the SEAI website. Since 2000, over 400,000 homeowners have received direct support under these schemes to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. This year €100 million has been allocated to these schemes.

The Government’s Climate Action Plan sets an ambitious target of 500,000 energy efficiency retrofits by 2030. Achievement of this target will be supported by the Project Ireland 2040 allocation of €3.7 billion as well as the range of measures identified in the Plan.

Budget 2020 has allocated €146 million for retrofitting homes and businesses. This will support the upgrade of 24,000 properties in 2020. This record level of investment is an important step towards realising the Government’s Climate Action Plan targets for building retrofits.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (52)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

52. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42299/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Since the Government decision in May to appoint NBI as the Preferred Bidder for the National Broadband Plan contract, work has continued on the due diligence necessary to conclude the contract. This process is progressing towards contract award, which is expected before the end of the year. The network deployment will commence shortly after that.

The Bidder has indicated that the network rollout 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, approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) will be deployed 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 premises passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

In parallel to the work of finalising the contract, I am considering the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Communications Committee report, which was published recently. I will bring my deliberations of the report to Government in due course.

My Department has also recently undertaken a mapping consultation to ensure that the State Intervention Area is up to date and reflects operators’ plans and the responses from householders and businesses with the outcome of this consultation informing the State Aid notification to the European Commission in relation to the NBP.

Air Quality

Questions (53)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

53. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number and location of existing and planned air quality monitoring stations in cities and towns; and the actions he will take to introduce a national clean air strategy in 2019. [42294/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Ambient air quality monitoring in Ireland is carried out in accordance with the requirements of the 2008 Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) Directive (Directive 2008/50/EC) and the Fourth Daughter Directive (Directive 2004/107/EC of 15 December 2004). These Directives include rules on how Member States should monitor, assess and manage ambient air quality. Under the Directives, EU Member States must designate "zones" for the purpose of managing air quality. For Ireland, four zones were defined in the Air Quality Standards Regulations, 2011. The zones in place in Ireland in 2017 are Zone A: the Dublin conurbation; Zone B: the Cork conurbation; Zone C: comprising 23 large towns in Ireland with a population of more than 15,000; and Zone D: the remaining area of Ireland. Ireland established a nationwide network of monitoring stations which measure levels of air pollutants in the four zones. This information is delivered to the public in near real-time at www.airquality.ie

Following a review by the Environmental Protection Agency of air quality monitoring and information provision in Ireland, a decision was taken to develop a new National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme which aims to enhance and build on current arrangements. The Monitoring Programme will more than double the capacity of ambient air quality monitoring in Ireland by 2022, and enhance the provision of real time air quality data to the public. My Department has committed funding of some €5 million over the lifetime of the programme.

There are currently 45 monitoring stations in the network from which data is reported to the Commission under the Directives, at the following locations:

Carlow Town

Clare - Ennis

Cork - Cobh

Cork - Heatherton Park

Cork - Institute of Technology (CIT)

Cork - Macroom

Cork - South Link Road

Cork - University College Cork

Donegal - Malin Head

Donegal - Letterkenny

Dublin - Ballyfermot

Dublin - Blanchardstown

Dublin - Clonskeagh

Dublin - Davitt Road

Dublin - Dun Laoghaire

Dublin - Finglas

Dublin - Marino

Dublin - Phoenix Park

Dublin - Rathmines

Dublin - Ringsend

Dublin - Rosemount

Dublin - St Anne's Park

Dublin - St John's Road West

Dublin - Swords

Dublin - Tallaght

Dublin - Winetavern St

Galway - Mace Head

Galway - Rahoon Road

Kerry - Valentia

Kilkenny - Seville

Laois - Emo

Laois - Portlaoise

Limerick - Peoples Park

Limerick - Shannon Estuary

Longford - Longford Town

Louth - Dundalk

Mayo-Castlebar

Mayo-Claremorris

Monaghan - Kilkitt

Roscommon Town

Tipperary Town

Waterford City

Wexford - Carnsore Point

Wexford - Enniscorthy

Wicklow-Bray

In addition, a further 26 monitoring stations are planned under the Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme for the following locations:

Cavan Town

Cork - Cobh Carrig Hse

Cork - Mallow

Cork City - Traffic

Dublin - Balbriggan

Dublin - Pearse St

Dublin Airport

Dublin Port

Galway City - Traffic

Galway - Ballinasloe

Galway - Suburban Traffic

Kerry - Tralee

Kerry - Listowell

Kildare - Leixlip

Kildare - Naas

Leitrim - Carrick-on-Shannon

Limerick City - Traffic

Louth - Drogheda

Meath - Navan

Offaly - Birr

Offaly-Edenderry

Sligo Town

Tipperary - Clonmel

Waterford City - Traffic

Wexford Town

Wicklow-Greystones

The criteria for the location of monitoring equipment for each pollutant are set out in the Directives.

This monitoring network is augmented by a number of other monitoring stations operated by local authorities which do not meet the criteria set out in the Directives but which provide additional useful information on local air quality conditions.

In relation to the Clean Air Strategy, I refer the Deputy to the reply to Question No 450 of 1 October 2019. The position is unchanged.

Post Office Network

Questions (54)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

54. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to ensure the future of the post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42297/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

An Post is a commercial State body with a mandate to deliver a postal delivery service and a viable post office network.

In November 2017, Government was presented with a future for An Post and the post office network that was uncertain and extremely bleak with a very real possibility that the company would go under. The potential for a complete shutdown of postal services with the loss of thousands of jobs was undeniable. Immediate action was needed to ensure the survival of An Post and the post office network.

As a result of the actions taken by Government, An Post has been able to construct and begin implementing a strategic plan for a sustainable future. Government remains fully committed to a sustainable post office network which is a key piece of economic and social infrastructure for both rural and urban areas. Reflecting its commitment to sustaining a nationwide post office network and daily mails service, a €30 million loan was provided by the Government to An Post to support the required transformation programme.

The An Post strategic plan includes measures such as investing €50 million in growing and modernising the post office network; splitting the company into two distinct business units, namely, An Post Mails and Parcels and An Post Retail; relaunching its parcel business following a breakthrough labour agreement; and diversifying and growing its financial service products.

Decisions relating to the Post Office Network, including plans for individual post offices, are an operational matter for the Board and management of An Post and I have no statutory function in relation to these issues.

An Post has been diversifying and growing the financial services products it provides for individuals and SMEs to include loans, credit cards and more foreign exchange products; local banking in association with the major banks and a full range of State Savings products.

An Post recently launched two new dedicated sub-brands:

An Post Money offers an expanded range of financial services including credit cards, personal loans, current account (debit card) and multi-currency FX card across its network and through the website.

An Post Commerce provides expert e-commerce, mails and mail media solutions for domestic and international businesses.

Government business is the backbone of the post office network. In April 2018 the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection renewed her Department’s contract with An Post to provide pensions, child benefit and other social welfare payments at post offices.

As part of its consideration of the financial position of An Post, the Government agreed that further opportunities for Government business through the Post Office Network, including the payment of motor tax, should be explored.

Renewable Energy Generation

Questions (55)

John Curran

Question:

55. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps being taken to minimise the time period to connect renewable generators to the grid in view of the fact there is a wait of over eight years for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42158/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The connection of renewable generators to the grid is an operational matter for the Commission for Regulation of Utilities in conjunction with EirGrid and ESB Networks and one in which I have no function.

A key commitment in the Climate Action Plan is the regulatory streamlining of renewables and grid development. A comprehensive set of actions (Actions 16 to 24) have been published for delivery by a range of agencies and include ensuring that ESB Networks and EirGrid plan the network and deliver on connecting renewable energy sources to meet the 2030 70% RES-E target. Specifically, the facilitation of additional hybrid connections operating in the electricity market to increase our RES-E penetration is required. In addition, delivery of a fit for purpose renewables connection policy is critical to deliver on renewable energy targets with annual reporting on the timelines of grid connection.

Subsidy free renewable energy through corporate power purchase agreements provide a route to market for developers in the shorter term providing them with a real opportunity to boost Ireland's renewable energy capacity in advance of the commencement of RESS. The Climate Plan commits to a 15% target for the renewable industry to develop projects through power purchase agreements. It is critical that the industry takes early action to meet this target in contributing to both our 2020 and 2030 targets at minimum cost to consumers.

Online Safety

Questions (56)

Catherine Martin

Question:

56. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timeline for the introduction of legislation for a digital safety commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42274/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

On 4 March 2019 I announced proposals for an Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill to tackle the spread of harmful online content and launched a public consultation to gather feedback on the proposals.

The public consultation closed on 15 April 2019. A wide a varied range of responses were received to the consultation, from members of the public, NGOs, industry and government agencies. These responses were published on 27 June 2019 and form a vital input into the development of the Bill. Furthermore, a thematic analysis of the submissions identifying key themes and issues was published on 25 July 2019.

This Bill will set a clear expectation for online platforms to take robust steps to ensure the safety of the users of their service and will provide for the appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner as part of the regulatory structure overseeing the new system. It will also provide for the implementation of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive in Ireland, which sets out new EU rules for Video Sharing Platform Services.

My officials are currently pursuing an extensive programme of policy analysis to inform decision making around preparatory drafts of heads of the Bill. I intend to bring the draft heads to Government by end-2019.

While it would be impossible to protect people from every danger online this Bill will ensure, for the first time, that robust regulation is in place and end the era of self-regulation by online platforms.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (57)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

57. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which the plans to provide high quality, high speed broadband in all areas nationally are progressing; when work on the relevant contract will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42232/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Since the Government decision in May to appoint National Broadband Ireland as the Preferred Bidder for the National Broadband Plan contract, work has continued on the due diligence necessary to conclude the contract. This process is progressing towards contract award, which is expected before the end of the year. The Bidder will commence the deployment of the network shortly after that.

The Bidder has indicated that the network rollout 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, approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) will be deployed 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.

In parallel to the work of finalising the contract, I am considering the recommendations of the Joint Oireachtas Communications Committee report, which was published recently. I will bring my deliberations of the report to Government in due course.

My Department has also recently undertaken a mapping consultation to ensure that the State Intervention Area is up to date and reflects operators’ plans and the responses from householders and businesses, with the outcome of this consultation informing the continuing engagement by the Department with DG Competition of the European Commission as part of the compliance with State Aid rules.

Energy Policy

Questions (58)

James Browne

Question:

58. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding the introduction of a nationwide ban on smoky fuels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41406/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

Transitioning away from fossil fuels to more renewable, sustainable energy sources is at the heart of the Climate Action Plan.

Currently 40% of homes use coal and peat for heating (many in combination with other fossil fuel heating systems). By 2030, we will upgrade a third of all homes to at least a B2 energy standard, installing approximately 400,000 heat pumps. Currently over 99% of our vehicle fleet is powered by fossil fuels. By 2030, nearly a million fully electric or hybrid vehicles (35%-40%) will be on our roads. These measures will significantly improve air quality by reducing emissions of harmful pollutants.

Extending the ban on the use of smoky coal would have a positive impact on air quality, particularly in built up areas.

The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal, or ‘the smoky coal ban’ as it is commonly known, was first introduced in Dublin in 1990, and subsequently extended to our major cities.

Following a public consultation process, it was further extended in 2012, and now applies in 26 urban areas nationwide. The ban has proved very effective in reducing particulate matter and sulphur dioxide levels and has had the effect of significantly improving public health. Research indicates, for example, that the ban has resulted in over 350 fewer annual deaths in Dublin alone.

Regarding the proposed national extension of the smoky coal ban, a number of coal firms have indicated that they would challenge the proposal of two former Ministers to expand the smoky coal ban.

This is particularly disappointing, given the impact poor air quality can have on human health and the environment and the emphasis the Government is putting on transitioning to a low carbon society.

The basis of their challenge is that a nationwide smoky coal ban cannot be introduced without a nationwide ban on the burning of peat, turf and wet wood because these products produce similar levels of pollution. The legal threat is not only to take down any new nationwide ban, but to remove the existing ban which is currently in place in cities and many towns around the country.

The Attorney General has provided legal advice on this matter. I am working with the Attorney General to finalise a legally robust plan, which will improve air quality by reducing air pollution, without jeopardising the existing ban.

I also intend to publish a Clean Air Strategy, which will set out a number of policies to improve air quality nationwide in the coming months.

My Department is also funding the Environmental Protection Agency’s roll-out of the Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (AAMP), which will greatly improve the data available on air pollution in Ireland, facilitating the design and targeting of appropriate policy measures to tackle it.

Electric Vehicles

Questions (59, 64)

Willie Penrose

Question:

59. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has considered the implications for rural areas of the target of 1 million electric cars by 2030; if so, if it is planned to offer a range of additional incentives, particularly aimed at rural communities, to encourage motorists towards electric vehicle ownership as recommended by the Citizens’ Assembly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30435/19]

View answer

Bríd Smith

Question:

64. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to enhance fast charging points for electric vehicles in counties Cavan and Monaghan; the grants available to owners of service stations nationally to enable them to develop high speed 100 kWh electric car fast charging points at their service stations; the grant supports in place for persons who wish to introduce a charge point at their home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42251/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 59 and 64 together.

The Climate Action Plan, which set a target of 936,000 electric vehicles on the road in Ireland by 2030, includes a range of actions to support the uptake of electric vehicles.

Budget 2020 provided €30 million in funding to my Department to support the uptake of electric vehicles through the purchase grants. In addition, €4 million was provided to support the installation of home chargers (including chargers in apartment blocks from early 2020) and €2 million to support the rollout of on-street chargers across the country via Local Authorities.

There is a the wide range of supports already available to incentivise the uptake of electric vehicles including purchase grants, tax reliefs, home charger grants, accelerated capital allowances for businesses, low motor tax and discounted tolls. Budget 2020 extended the benefit-in-kind tax relief for battery electric vehicles to 2022 and the vehicle registration tax relief of up to €2,500 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to 2020.

In August, I announced funding to support the rollout of up to 1,000 on-street public charge points for electric vehicles over the next 5 years. With the additional funding provided in Budget 2020, support is available for up to 400 on-street chargers in 2020. All Local Authorities can now apply for funding to the SEAI for this support to develop on-street charging infrastructure.

In addition, I approved funding of up to €10 million from the Climate Action Fund to support ESB ecars to develop a nationwide, state-of-the-art electric vehicle fast charging network. This project includes the installation of 90 high-power chargers each of which will be capable of charging two vehicles simultaneously, upgrading 50 existing standard chargers to fast chargers and replacing over 250 existing standard chargers with next generation high reliability models. This is a multi-annual project that will see investment across the country and is expected to be fully completed by 2022.

Businesses, including service stations, can already avail of accelerated capital allowances for the purchase and installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This enables businesses to invest in energy efficient equipment, including electric charging infrastructure, and write down the cost of such equipment in the year of purchase rather than over 8 years.

Home charging is the primary method of charging for the majority of electric vehicles both internationally and in Ireland. Charging at home at night is the most cost-effective and eco-friendly way to charge an electric vehicle. With a high proportion of homes, both in rural and urban areas, with driveways and dedicated parking spaces, Ireland has greater capacity for home charging than many other countries. 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.

North-South Interconnector

Questions (60, 70)

Brendan Smith

Question:

60. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has had discussions recently with his counterparts in Northern Ireland on the proposed North South interconnector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42272/19]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

70. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the planning application in Northern Ireland in respect of the proposed North South interconnector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42273/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 70 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. It will also help us to move towards 70% renewable electricity. 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.

As I understand the situation in Northern Ireland, in January 2018 full planning permission was granted for the section of the line that lies there. Legal proceedings were taken against the planning permission and in February 2019 the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland asked the High Court to quash the planning permission given so the planning application could be re-determined under new legislation introduced by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in November 2018. On 24 July SONI/EirGrid submitted an addendum to the Environmental Statement to the Department for Infrastructure. That Department subsequently carried out a consultation process in Northern Ireland to provide members of the public with the opportunity to review and comment on the addendum and is now reviewing the submissions received.

Since the suspension of Stormont the office of the Minister for the Economy is vacant. However my officials have regular engagement with their counterparts on a range of North South issues.

Just Transition Fund

Questions (61, 69, 72)

Robert Troy

Question:

61. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the transitional projects that are envisaged by the budget 2020 announcement of special funding for the midland region under the decarbonisation plan; and the additional supports that will be put in place (details supplied). [42301/19]

View answer

Martin Heydon

Question:

69. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the outline of just transition plans for Bord na Móna workers in County Kildare following the announcement of the new fund as part of budget 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42279/19]

View answer

Denis Naughten

Question:

72. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is taking to protect employment in the midlands in view of the ceasing of the PSO on West Offaly and Lough Ree power stations in December 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41799/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 61, 69 and 72 together.

Ireland’s necessary transition away from carbon-intensive sources of energy, towards more sustainable, renewable energy sources, will have a significant impact on the workers in these carbon-intensive sectors, their families, and the Midlands as a whole. Government has committed to delivering a whole of Government approach, and to working with local stakeholders, to ensuring that a just transition is provided to those impacted by the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Further details of this comprehensive whole of Government response to support the region through the transition will be announced shortly. Budget 2020 includes a number of measures that form part of this response. These include:

- €6 million for a Just Transition Fund;

- €5 million for bog restoration and rehabilitation; and

- €20 million to deliver a new model to group housing upgrades.

The Just Transition Fund will be initially targeted at the Midlands and will support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses in the Midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition. There will be further engagement with local stakeholders, including the Midlands Transition Team, on the application of the funding.

The bog restoration and rehabilitation fund will support the National Parks and Wildlife Service to restore to their natural habitat 1,800 hectares of bog. This restoration will return these bogs to carbon sinks once more, which, over the next 5 years, will result in 28 million tonnes of carbon being stored. 70 jobs will be created in Year One, rising to 100 as the programme develops.

The delivery of a new model to group housing upgrades together is set out in the Climate Action Plan. the €20m allocated in the budget will be targeted at the Midlands and will support an estimated 400 jobs directly and indirectly, as well as significantly upgrading the social housing stock in the region during 2020.

I have also announced that a Just Transition Commissioner will be appointed. This Commissioner will engage with all relevant stakeholders in the Midlands, including Bord na Móna, the Midland Regional Transition Team, Trade Unions as well as the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). This appointment will be part of the Government’s Just Transition Plan, which is currently being led by the Department of An Taoiseach. Further details on this role will be provided as part of an announcement on the All-of-Government response to support the Midlands region through the transition.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (62)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

62. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the implications for his Department of the recent UN Climate Action Summit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42164/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The UN Climate Action Summit, which took place on 23 September, was convened by the UN Secretary General to build momentum towards enhanced climate ambition by Parties to the Paris Agreement. This was preceded on Saturday, 21 September, by the Youth Climate Summit which I attended along with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. Ireland’s national statement to the Climate Action Summit, delivered by the Taoiseach, confirmed that the Government would accept and act upon the advice from the Climate Change Advisory Council in relation to the future of oil and natural gas offshore exploration and recovery. In this regard, it was accepted that the exploration for, and the recovery of, new offshore oil reserves is not compatible with a low carbon transition, and that the exploration for, and extraction of new offshore gas reserves, can be consistent with this transition. I will shortly bring proposals to Government to set out the next steps in terms of how this advice is to be implemented.

Ireland also announced that all new revenue raised from the carbon tax will be ring-fenced to fund additional climate action, with a particular emphasis on protecting the vulnerable and ensuring a just transition, including protecting those most exposed to higher fuel and energy costs, and providing alternative opportunities for displaced workers. Specific details on how the additional carbon tax revenue will be used, and the specific schemes identified, were announced by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform in the Budget.

As part of the preparation for the summit on Youth Engagement and Public Mobilisation, Ireland and the Marshall Irelands jointly sponsored the preparation of the 'Kwon Gesh' (or "Solemn Duty") climate pledge, which invites its signatories to give the younger generation a greater voice in creating climate policy.

Parties to the summit were invited to make new commitments under a number of different themes, include climate mitigation; resilience and adaptation; climate finance and carbon pricing; social and political drivers; energy transition; nature-based solutions; infrastructure, cities and local government; industry; and youth engagement and public mobilisation. Ireland has confirmed support for a number of initiatives under following themes set out as follows.

1. Mitigation Strategy Coalition

Ireland was included on a list of countries and non-Party stakeholders that demonstrated genuine leadership either by having developed plans to achieve net zero CO emissions by 2050, by having identified this target as a long-term national goal or by advancing consultations on a long-term strategy for climate-neutrality in line with the Paris Agreement.

2. Resilience and Adaptation Coalition

- Call for Action: Raising Ambition for Climate Ambition

- InsuResilience Initiative

- Global Commission on Adaptation Agriculture Food Security Initiative

- Africa Adaptation Initiative

- LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR)

3. Social and Political Drivers Coalition

- Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Climate Action Initiative

- Health as a Political Driver for increased Climate Ambition on Climate Change

- Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change on Culture and Natural Heritage

- Just Transition and the Creation of Green Jobs for All

4. Energy Transition Coalition

- Decarbonising Shipping: Getting to Zero Coalition

- Three Percent Club for Energy Efficiency

5. Nature-Based Solutions Coalition

- Nature Based Coalition

6. Industry Coalition

- Leadership Group for Industry Transition

7. Youth Engagement and Public Mobilisation Coalition.

A full list of the announcements and commitments made at the Climate Summit can be found at UN climate website at www.un.org/climatechange.

Hydraulic Fracturing

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 59.

Questions (63)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

63. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on whether the evidence that fracked gas is significantly worse for the environment, particularly in respect of methane emissions and other types of fossil fuels, and that actions or decisions by the Government that would allow the use of fracked gas here directly contravenes and undermines meaningful action on climate change. [42275/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

I am aware of concerns in relation to some oil and gas exploration and production technologies, such as hydraulic fracturing, including unintentional methane gas leaks and venting or flaring of gas. In this regard, I instructed my officials to enquire from the EU Commission at the PCI selection process High Level Decision Making Body meeting in Brussels on 4 October whether the implications of importing LNG to the European Union, from conventional and unconventional fracked sources, have been examined in terms of a sustainable, secure and competitive European energy policy. The Commission advised that it had launched a study on methane emissions and agreed with the need to link gas imports to the objective of a climate neutral economy.

The Government has a fundamental duty to protect Ireland’s energy security. As we move towards the target set out in the Climate Action Plan of 70% renewable electricity by 2030, natural gas will continue to be an important fuel in the transition away from coal, peat and oil to more sustainable sources of energy.

I have initiated a comprehensive energy security review that will consider the electricity generation mix including the role for gas powered back up generation, battery storage and interconnection (both gas and electricity), and other ways to back up our power supply. The review will also consider, in a scientific way, how and from where fossil fuels are sourced during the transition to a carbon neutral economy once completed, I will publish the review and would welcome the consideration of the Dail and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 59.

Climate Action Fund

Questions (65)

Robert Troy

Question:

65. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the next round of climate action fund will go ahead in 2019 as planned and outlined under the National Development Plan 2018-2027 tranche of Project 2040; and if it will be open to all organisations and not just public organisations, in view of the fact that the 2018 funding allocation was exclusively provided to public organisations. [42302/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Climate Action Fund is one of four funds established under the National Development Plan 2018-2027 as part of Project Ireland 2040. The fund supports initiatives that contribute to the achievement of Ireland's climate and energy targets in a cost effective manner. It also offers the potential for innovative interventions which, in the absence of support from the Fund, would not otherwise be developed.

The specific focus of the first call for applications under the Climate Action Fund was to provide grant funding to larger scale projects that are scheduled to commence development in 2019 or 2020. That call was open to applications from the public and private sectors.

Support from the Climate Action Fund is provided via a competitive process and all applications received by the deadline were put through the same assessment process. An Advisory Board was convened to oversee the project assessment and recommend projects to be eligible for support to the Fund to myself, as Minister, for approval. The Advisory Board is chaired by my Department, and includes representatives from other relevant departments and independent expert members.

The Climate Action Plan sets out that the next round of the Climate Action Fund will open in Q4 2019.

My officials are working with the office of Parliamentary Counsel to finalise the text of legislation which will repurpose the NORA levy.

Capital Expenditure Programme Implementation

Questions (66)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

66. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the details of each State infrastructure project that is in development or is due for completion in 2019 in which it is in excess of the budget assigned to the project for its current stage to date. [39522/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

Capital expenditure by my Department comprises in the main grant funding for the sustainable energy programmes administered by the SEAI, energy research, geoscience mapping projects, operational funding for the Department and Agencies under its remit and grant funding to Local Authorities under the landfill remediation scheme.

There are no infrastructure projects in development or due for completion in 2019 that are in excess of the budget currently assigned to the project by my Department.

The Department will request the relevant bodies to reply directly to the Deputy with the information requested in respect of their organisations in relation to this request.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Questions (67)

Eamon Ryan

Question:

67. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the mechanisms he is considering to develop private finance models in support of the deep retrofit of residential buildings; and the way in which such financing might be expected to operate with respect to the length of loans, interest rates and so on. [42276/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government’s Climate Action Plan sets an ambitious target of 500,000 energy efficiency retrofits by 2030. Achievement of this target will be supported by the the range of measures identified in the Plan as well as the Project Ireland 2040 allocation of €3.7 billion. While this is clearly a substantial level of Government financial support, Exchequer investment alone will not be enough to meet the level of retrofit required. The overall targets could only be achieved by individuals making the decision to play their part in addressing climate change by investing their own money in upgrading their homes.

Actions 53 and 54 of the Climate Action Plan set out the high level steps that will be taken over the next year to identify and develop the appropriate financing schemes to enable people to invest in the energy efficiency of their properties. As mentioned in the Plan, a number of options will be explored including salary incentive schemes, green mortgages, on-bill financing, energy performance contracting, pay as you save schemes and low cost loans.

I recently announced the establishment of a Retrofit Taskforce that will oversee the development of a new national delivery model which will group homes together, create easy pay back mechanisms and develop financing options. Development of the new model will be informed by the experience from existing schemes in Ireland as well as best practice in other jurisdictions. The first meeting of the Taskforce took place on 30 September.

Illegal Dumping

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 61.

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 60.

Questions (68)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

68. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the funding his Department is making available to help county councils deal with incidents of illegal dumping and fly tipping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42252/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

My Department has introduced a range of measures to target illegal dumping and strengthen waste enforcement generally. These include:

- The provision of an annual waste enforcement grant of €7.4 million to support the recruitment and retention of 150 local authority waste enforcement personnel across the country;

- The establishment of Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities to support and co-ordinate local authority action at a cost of €1 million per annum;

- The establishment of a National Waste Enforcement Steering Committee, which facilitates the deployment of co-ordinated multi agency responses to illegal waste activity across the regions.

In addition, my Department has developed the Anti-Dumping Initiative to encourage local authorities to work in partnership with community organisations to identify high-risk or problem areas, develop appropriate enforcement responses and carry out necessary clean-up operations. Since 2017, funding of €3.3 million has been made available which has supported more than 400 projects across all 31 local authority areas, remediating blackspots, while equipping local authority waste enforcement officers with the latest technologies available to tackle this problem.

I allocated a further €3 million for the 2019 Anti-Dumping Initiative, an increase of 50% on last year, in order to continue to support communities around the country in their efforts. This funding is supporting over 280 projects, many of an innovative nature. Funds will be distributed to local authorities shortly and details of this year's allocations and the projects funded during 2017 and 2018 can be accessed on my Department's website at: www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/environment/topics/waste/enforcement/anti-dumping-initiative/Pages/AntiDumpingInitiative.aspx.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 61.
Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 60.

Climate Change Policy

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 61.

Questions (71)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

71. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which Ireland plans to address the issue of climate change; the main pillars of the proposal, with particular reference to the extent to which the country can become less reliant on fossil fuel energy; the degree to which electricity generation can depend on alternatives such as wind, solar and hydro power; the percentage of total requirements now being met by such means; his projections for the future in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42233/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The recently published Climate Action Plan 2019 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.

In relation to the electricity generation sector, the Plan sets a target to achieve a 70% share of renewable electricity by 2030 and includes a number of actions to deliver this target, such as regulatory streamlining of renewables and grid development, development of the offshore renewables sector, implementation of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme, and development of an enabling framework for micro-generation. The Plan also commits Ireland to fully exit from peat and coal for electricity generation in the next decade.

According to Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland data, the renewable electricity share of gross final consumption of electricity in 2018 was 33.3%, an increase from the figure of 30.1% in 2017. Wind contributed 28.2% of this share.

Budget 2020 provides additional funding in 2020 for programmes delivered by my Department to support the development and deployment of a range of renewable energy technologies:

- €3.7m to support installation of solar panels on homes

- €9.7m to support emerging technologies which harness the power of the Ireland's ocean resources and research into how we can move away from fossil fuels, while ensuring energy security

- €5m to support the uptake of alternative fuels such as biomass in the heat sector.

Question No. 72 answered with Question No. 61.

Sustainable Development Goals

Questions (73)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

73. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a disability advocacy group will be considered as one of the listed SDG champions to drive forward SDGs in view of the number of persons living with disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42281/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

I would be more than happy to see a disability advocacy group take up a role as an SDG Champion. An important principle of the Sustainable Development Goals is that no one in society should be left behind or excluded, and the SDG Champions Programme should, therefore, be as representative as possible.

I launched an open call for expressions of interest to take part in Ireland's first SDG Champions Programme in January of this year, and in September I was delighted to announce the 12 organisations which have been selected as Ireland's 2019/2020 SDG Champions.

The call for expressions of interest was open to all organisations in Ireland, including civil society groups and NGOs, and the 12 selected organisations represent a diverse group from the public, private and voluntary sectors who are all engaged with Sustainable Development initiatives.

The term for the 2019/2020 SDG Champions will run until September 2020, and I plan to announce a new group of Champions for 2020/2021 at that time.

I intend to announce a call for expressions of interest in the 2020/21 SDG Champions Programme in early 2020, in order to give organisations sufficient time to apply. That call will again be an open one, to which all organisations will be eligible to apply. I would encourage disability advocacy groups to apply under that call and I will instruct my officials to engage proactively with such organisations to facilitate applications.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Questions (74)

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Question:

74. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to sign the contract for the complete roll-out of fibre to the home; and the timeline for delivering the plan to rural areas such as County Donegal (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42157/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Government Decision of 7 May 2019 means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to the final Bidder. This award is subject to contract close. The finalisation of financial closure and legal requirements are progressing towards contract award before the end of year.

The Bidder has indicated that the rollout of the NBP network will take an estimated 7 years to complete. The Bidder will publish a deployment plan after the contract is signed.

In the first year of roll out, approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) will be deployed across all counties and between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide a community based high speed broadband service, 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 70,000 - 100,000 passed each year thereafter until roll out is completed.

With reference to County Donegal specifically, the following table indicates the most up to date statistics for the county (Q2 2019):

County Name

Premises within the NBP Intervention Area

Premises within Commercial Operator’s Area

Premises within eir planned rural deployment

Donegal

34,180 (33.48%)

66,800 (65.44%)

1,085 (1.06%)

The Deputy refers to premises in Donegal that are in proximity to eir’s high speed broadband deployment and that cannot avail of a service. This deployment is part of eir’s investment in high speed broadband to 300,000 largely rural premises, under a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in 2017.

While eir’s rural investment in high speed broadband services is an entirely commercial decision, in which I have no function, I fully understand the frustration of householders that are waiting for a quality broadband service. This underlines the need to start rollout of the National Broadband Plan’s broadband network as quickly as possible, so that all businesses and citizens can avail of the benefits of a high speed broadband service.

Energy Policy

Questions (75)

Timmy Dooley

Question:

75. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when a review of security of energy supply will be undertaken; and his plans to ensure that this assessment is carried out independently and transparently. [42295/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

As I previously advised the House, I have initiated the process of commissioning a comprehensive independent energy security review in the context of the transition to a carbon neutral economy. The review, which will be completed during 2020, will examinethe fuel mix necessary, including the role of gas in electricity generation, interconnection and battery storage as back-up for renewables, to ensure security of supply. The review will also consider, in a scientific way, how and from where fossil fuels are sourced during the transition to a carbon neutral economy. Once completed, I will publish the review and would welcome the consideration of the Dail and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action.

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