Flexible Work Practices

Questions (66)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Question:

66. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the additional measures he is considering in order to facilitate long-term working from home in addition to legislating for the right to work from home; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6690/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government’s strategy on remote working “Making Remote Work – National Remote Work Strategy” was published  last month. The Strategy recognises the significant advantages that remote working can bring such as less commuting, more time for family and leisure, fewer transport greenhouse gas emissions, new job opportunities for people who want to live in Rural Ireland and new investment in small towns and villages.

Among the Strategy’s main actions are:

- Mandating that home and remote work should be the norm for 20% of public sector employment;

- Mapping and investing in a network of remote working hubs across Ireland; and 

- Doing what we can to accelerate the provision of high-speed broadband to all parts of Ireland

The Programme for Government commits to seek to accelerate the roll out of the National Broadband Plan. In this regard, my Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of this rollout to establish the possibility of bringing forward premises which are currently scheduled in years 6 and 7 of the current plan to an earlier date.

My Department is also involved in the work led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to produce guidance which will assist civil service organisations in developing long term remote working policies.

The Remote Work Strategy also includes an action to legislate for the right to request remote working which will be taken forward by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (67)

Eoghan Murphy

Question:

67. Deputy Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if reports of reduced quality or availability of Internet connectivity due to increased demand since March 2020 have been brought to his attention. [6712/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The provision of telecommunications services is a matter for the relevant service providers operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), as independent Regulator.

I recognise how vital telecommunications services are to citizens for so many aspects of their daily lives, including remote working, studying and staying in touch with family members during the Covid-19 crisis. In April of last year, all major telecommunications providers in Ireland committed to a number of measures to help people stay in touch and work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, a number of operators have implemented further supports for consumers, such as for students in education, who require a high data usage package, by increasing data limits on many existing packages and by the introduction of new packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings. As a result, the market for mobile packages with very high, or unlimited data offerings, is becoming increasingly competitive, which is a positive development for consumers.

In January of this year, ComReg published a market research survey on the impact of Covid-19 on consumer usage and satisfaction of telecommunications in Ireland for 2020 since Covid-19 restrictions were introduced. Despite increased usage, no significant drop in the quality of either home broadband or mobile services were reported by consumers. 77% of users felt that their current home broadband was adequate to meet the needs of their household. The findings also confirmed that in general, those using various technology services for work related activities at home are satisfied. The full report is available on ComReg's website: https://www.comreg.ie/study-on-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-home-broadband-and-mobile-service-usage/

National Broadband Plan

Questions (68)

Marian Harkin

Question:

68. Deputy Marian Harkin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the timeline for an area (details supplied) in County Leitrim to be connected to broadband as part of the roll-out of the national broadband plan. [6748/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Question refers to an area located in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map which is available on my Department's website www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER area represents the area to be served by the network to be deployed under the NBP State led intervention.

I appreciate people's frustration when they are living so close to a fibre network but cannot get a connection to that network, particularly given the heightened importance of connectivity during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NBP will ensure that in all such cases a future proofed high speed broadband network will be built to serve these premises and work to deliver on this is underway. 

I am advised by National Broadband Ireland that, as of 26 January 2021, over 166,000 premises across all counties have been surveyed. Surveying is the first step towards delivering the new fibre network and involves physically walking the routes and documenting images, notes and measurements of the poles, cables and underground ducts in each area. This informs design solutions for provision of the fibre network to each and every premises in the surveyed area and leads to detailed designs. Surveys in County Leitrim have been completed around Carrick-on Shannon. Further details are available on specific areas within County Leitrim through the NBI website which provides a facility for any premises within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates through its website www.nbi.ie. Individuals who register with this facility will receive regular updates on progress by NBI on delivering the network and specific updates related to their own premises as works commence. I am advised that NBI is working to provide more detail on its website, with a rolling update on network build plans. NBI also has a dedicated email address, reps@nbi.ie, which can be used by Oireachtas members for specific queries.

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are a key element of the NBP providing high speed broadband in every county in advance of the roll out of the fibre to the home network. As of 30 January, 260 BCP sites have been installed by NBI and the high speed broadband service will be switched on in these locations through service provider contracts managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development for publicly accessible sites and by the Department of Education for school BCPs. BCPs are installed at Gortlettragh Community Centre, Donaghmore Workhouse and Famine Museum and Glencar Waterfall. The BCP site at Aghanlish Community Centre is installed and connected. Further details can be found at https://nbi.ie/bcp-locations/. 

Aughawillan National School and Saint Michael's Primary School have been connected for educational access as part of this initiative. My Department continues to work with the Department of Education to prioritise schools with no high speed broadband, within the Intervention Area, for connection over the term of the NBP. In this regard, an acceleration of this aspect of the National Broadband Plan was announced in December which will see some 679 primary schools connected to high speed broadband by 2022, well ahead of the original target delivery timeframe of 2026. Further details are available on the NBI website at https://nbi.ie/primary-schools-list/.

Fishing Industry

Questions Nos. 70 to 78, inclusive, answered with Question No. 52.

Questions (69)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

69. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the details of schemes available to enhance fishing access for fishermen on private farmlands which have a river source; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6764/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Access to rivers on private lands is a matter for the landowner. While there is no general right of access, where the fishing rights appurtenant to the land are held by a third party (usually the State, an individual or an angling club), there is a right for such holder (or their assignees) to have reasonable access across private land to the fishery in order to exercise the right to fish.

I am advised by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) that in the case of a river, this usually means defined access and egress across private land at either end of a fishery usually by prior agreement with the landowner and unrestricted access along the river bank for which the fishing right exists for those persons entitled to exercise the right.

My Department, via IFI, manage  schemes which are focused on habitat enhancement but not funding schemes to enhance fishing access for fishermen on private lands.  I am advised that there may be schemes under the remit of the National Parks and Wildlife Service which could be explored further.

Questions Nos. 70 to 78, inclusive, answered with Question No. 52.

Electricity Generation

Questions (79)

Patricia Ryan

Question:

79. Deputy Patricia Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications when the new micro-generation scheme will be introduced; the form it will take; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6811/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

A Micro-Generation working group, chaired by my Department, is developing an enabling framework for micro-generation which tackles existing barriers and establishes suitable supports within relevant market segments. The proposed support mechanism is outlined in a public consultation on the Department’s website at www.gov.ie  which is open for submissions until 18 February 2021.

Micro-generators will primarily serve their own home electricity consumption needs, but will be able to receive a payment for excess electricity exported back to the grid. The proposal is to offer a minimum Clean Export Guarantee tariff based on the average wholesale Day Ahead Market (DAM) price to all existing micro-generators. It is proposed that an additional Clean Export Premium tariff will be offered for 15 years to support deployment of new micro-generation installations under the scheme, subject to a maximum export volume of 30% of what they generate. The tariff amounts will be differentiated by sector based on their viability gaps (i.e. the difference between the installation and operating costs and the savings from self-consumption). The average DAM over the year is estimated to be between €0.04 and €0.06/kWh.

The Programme for Government commits to prioritising the development of micro-generation of electricity primarily for self-consumption, and a suitable payment for excess electricity generated on site and exported to the grid will be available to all micro-generators in 2021 in line with Articles 21 and 22 of the recast Renewable Energy Directive. It is intended that all relevant provisions of the Directive will be transposed into Irish law prior to the transposition deadline of 30 June 2021.

Exploration Licences

Questions (80, 81, 82, 83)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

80. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of applications for open area exploration licences and licensing options received by his Department over the past five years; and the decision by his Department regarding each application in tabular form. [6819/21]

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Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

81. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of offshore oil and gas exploration licences that are currently open by the date each application was received in tabular form. [6820/21]

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Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

82. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of applications for extension to offshore oil and gas licensing terms received in his Department by month that the application was received and the decision by his Department in tabular form. [6821/21]

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Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

83. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to make details regarding applications for oil and gas exploration public on his Department’s website; and if it will be updated monthly. [6822/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 80 to 83, inclusive, together.

My Department does not publish information on individual licence applications. However, information in relation to applications for activities proposed to be carried out under a petroleum authorisation that are subject to assessment of compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, is published by my Department as part of individual consultation processes.

In addition, Section 57 of the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development Act 1960 requires that I lay before the Houses of the Oireachtas every six months a report detailing all exploration activities, including 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 2020. A report on the status of all petroleum authorisations is also published on a quarterly basis on gov.ie (https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/10d43-acreage-reports-and-concession-maps/). The most recent such report was published in respect of the three month period ending 31 December 2020.

The tables below contain the information sought in relation to the numbers of:

- applications for open area exploration licences in the last 5 years;

- applications for licensing options in the last 5 years;

- live exploration licences; and,

- current applications for extensions.

Exploration Licence Applications - Open Areas (Celtic Sea and Irish Sea)

Year Received

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Under consideration

0

0

0

1

0

Granted

0

0

0

0

0

Received but subsequently Withdrawn

0

0

0

2

0

Total Applications Received

0

0

0

3

0

Licensing Option Applications - Open Areas (Celtic Sea and Irish Sea)

Year Received

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Under consideration

0

1

0

0

0

Granted

3

2

0

0

0

Refused

0

1

0

0

0

Received but subsequently Withdrawn

0

1

0

0

0

Total Applications Received

3

5

0

0

0

Current Exploration Licences

Year of Application

2004

2005

2006

2007

2011

2013

2017

2018

2019

Total

No. of Applications

2

1

3

1

1

4

1

4

2

19

Current Extensions Applications

Date Received

December 2012

January 2018

No. of Applications

1

2

A comparison of recent acreage reports will show the impact of recent regulatory changes.