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Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 48-62

Air Quality

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 39.

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 34.

Questions (48)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

48. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the way he plans to improve air quality in Ireland; the projected investment in air quality measurement infrastructure over the coming years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53481/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The measures required to improve our air quality are set out in the National Air Pollution Control Plan and will also be detailed in the national Clean Air Strategy, currently being finalised by my Department.  The Strategy will identify and promote the integrated measures and actions across Government that are required to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air, while delivering on wider national objectives.

The National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme, operated by the Environmental Protection Agency, has undergone significant investment and expansion in recent years, with the number of monitoring stations increasing from 30 in 2017 to 96 today. The final expansion of the network in 2022 will include another 15 stations, giving a 110 station network, and serving to increase the evidential base required to inform the policy measures necessary to improve the quality of our air.

While Ireland has traditionally focused on measurements from monitoring stations to assess air quality, there is a need to provide more local air quality information throughout the country. The intention is that the information generated through monitoring, will be augmented by a newly developed modelling and forecasting capability, which will provide an ongoing air quality forecast service to the public.

This work is being developed as part of a new EU LIFE funded project called LIFE EMERALD, which commenced in January 2021. By 2024, this modelling project will deliver a national air quality forecast, a near real-time nowcast, historical modelled maps along with multiple awareness raising and citizen engagement elements.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 39.
Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 34.

Electricity Generation

Questions (51)

Verona Murphy

Question:

51. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to meet the forecasted increase in electrical demand across Ireland over the next number of years as Ireland transitions from fossil fuels to cleaner fuel sources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53711/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The revised National Development Plan 2021-2030 commits to increasing the share of renewable electricity up to 80% by 2030. To achieve this ambition, the state will adopt a multi-technology approach to increase our renewable energy production capacity and enhance our energy security by diversifying our sources of renewable energy.

Multiple technologies, including wind and solar will be supported via competitive auctions under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The first RESS auction was held last year and awarded supports to over 1 Gigawatt of new renewable generation. To put this figure in some perspective, onshore wind generation capacity in Ireland stood at 4.1 Gigawatts at the end of 2019.

Last week I published the final terms and conditions of the second RESS auction, RESS 2, along with an accelerated auction timetable. I also published the terms and conditions of the first offshore wind auction, ORESS 1, for consultation in October. At least two further offshore wind auctions are planned this decade to achieve our 2030 offshore targets.

In tandem with this grid-scale renewable electricity, my Department is finalising the design of the Micro-generation Support Scheme (MSS). It is expected that a proposal on the supports to be offered to citizens, groups, farms, schools and businesses under the MSS, will be submitted to Government later this year.

The Government is focused on strengthening the reliability of electricity supplies through investment in the electricity transmission and distribution grid and through further interconnection with other electricity markets, including the Celtic Interconnector to France and further interconnection to the UK. This will be complemented by measures such as investment in energy storage and the rollout of smart meters.

In addition to increased volumes of renewable generation and interconnection, the National Development Plan sets out the need for circa 2,000 MW of new conventional electricity generation capacity over the course of the coming decade with much of this needed by mid-decade. This generation, most of which will be gas-fired, is needed in order to support the operation of the electricity system and provide security of supply for when variable generation, principally wind and solar, is not sufficient to meet demand.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (52)

Brian Stanley

Question:

52. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications when a deposit and return scheme for drink containers will be introduced to counter the problem of littering. [52543/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy sets out a clear roadmap for the introduction of a Deposit and Return Scheme (DRS) for plastic bottles and aluminium cans in the third quarter of 2022. The legislative framework for the scheme will be published in the coming weeks.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (53)

Verona Murphy

Question:

53. Deputy Verona Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if his attention has been drawn to the economic impact of the carbon cuts his Department plans to implement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53707/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

On 25 October 2021, the Climate Change Advisory Council proposed a programme of three successive five-year carbon budgets. The proposed carbon budgets will now go to Government and then to the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas will be tasked with reviewing these carbon budgets within a 4-month period. Once these economy-wide carbon budgets are approved, the Government will divide the overall carbon budgets into sectoral emissions ceilings.

Meanwhile, the Government will publish Climate Action Plan 2021. This plan will set out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for all sectors. It will also set out the practical measures that we need to take to meet our climate targets. My Department has engaged proactively with the public, stakeholders and other Government Departments to deliver an ambitious, fair and achievable Climate Action Plan. This ambitious plan has been developed following a range of analyses conducted across all sectors of our economy.

There will be different targets for each sector, based on their respective starting points and the relative difficulty, cost, speed, and benefits of reducing emissions. All sectors will reduce emissions by an ambitious and achievable percentage, each playing a vital role in meeting our targets. Certain sectors will be impacted more than others and the need to ensure the transition happens in a fair and just manner will be crucial. Ireland will significantly benefit overall by reducing the impacts of climate change on our people, our land, and our livelihoods.

The measures which will be set out in the Climate Action Plan will require fundamental changes across many aspects of Irish life. Nonetheless, these challenges will present us with opportunities to create a cleaner, greener economy and a society which cuts emissions, while creating jobs and protecting our people and the planet.

Departmental Strategies

Questions (54)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

54. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he plans to update Ireland’s long-term renovation strategy in view of the recent publication of Housing for All and the reviewed National Development Plan. [53648/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Energy Efficiency Directive requires each EU Member State to publish a Long Term Renovation Strategy every three years. In 2020, Ireland published its third Long Term Renovation Strategy setting out the policies and measures that will encourage and support the achievement of a highly energy-efficient and decarbonised building stock in Ireland by 2050. These policies and measures included all those set out in the 2019 Climate Action Plan.

Ireland's next Long Term Renovation Strategy will be developed and submitted to the European Commission in 2023. It will encompass all the additional policies and measures set out in Housing for All, the National Development Plan and the Climate Action Plan.

Data Centres

Questions (55)

Bríd Smith

Question:

55. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the way the carbon budget plan for emission cuts of 4.8% each year on 2018 levels to 2025 is compatible with the Government's support for continued data centre expansion and building given these centres’ high energy consumption; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53666/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act provides, inter alia, for a maximum amount of emissions to be permitted in different sectors of the economy during a carbon budget period, referred to as ‘sectoral emissions ceilings’. All sectors of the economy will have sectoral emissions ceilings and emissions from data centres will be accounted for within the relevant sectoral emissions ceiling.

The Climate Action Plan 2021 will bring forward policies and measures to support the delivery of the 51% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030, and put us on a pathway to climate neutrality no later than 2050. The Plan will include specific actions for large energy users, including data centres.

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is committed to reviewing the 2018 'Government Statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland's Enterprise Strategy' to align with our renewable energy targets, sectoral emissions and climate priorities.This is part of a suite of actions to ensure that Ireland is planning appropriately for new energy demand in the context of our electrification and decarbonisation ambitions, while facilitating growth in digitalisation and our technology sector.

Government is working with the relevant state agencies to ensure that there is a plan-led, regionally balanced approach to large developments such as data centres in future taking into account existing grid availability and the opportunity to co-locate significant renewable energy opportunities.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (56)

James O'Connor

Question:

56. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the status of the National Broadband Ireland roll-out project for the Youghal and Killeagh area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53710/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Question refers to areas 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 27 October 2021, almost 26,000 premises in County Cork have been surveyed. In total, over 272,000 premises in the Intervention Area across all counties have been surveyed, with over 115,000 premises under construction across 30 Deployment areas. Retail service providers are actively selling on the NBI network with over 30,000 premises available to order and pre-order in Counties Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Monaghan, Roscommon, Tipperary, and Wicklow. This includes over 4,500 premises in County Cork.

Surveys are also complete in County Cork in the Deployment Areas of Carrigaline, Midleton, Youghal, Templemartin and Tallow. Main build work are currently underway in Midleton and Youghal and are complete in Carrigaline. There are 3,500 premises in the Youghal Deployment area which includes Kileagh and NBI anticipates premises will be passed and available for connection in Youghal in H1, 2022. Further details are available on specific areas within County Cork through the NBI website which provides a facility for people living within the intervention area to register their interest in being provided with deployment updates at www.nbi.ie.

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 27 October, 386 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 the Department of Education for school BCPs. BCPs are installed in County Cork at Ballydaly Community Hall, Aubane Community Centre, Mealagh Valley Community Centre, Courtbrack Community Centre, Laharn Heritage Centre, Ballindangan Community Centre, Clogagh Community Hall, Aghabullogue Community Centre, Castletownkenneigh Community Centre, The Old Schoolhouse, Bere Island Heritage Centre, Coláiste Phobal Cléire, Lissavard Community Centre, Whitechurch Community Centre, Glash Community Centre, T.O. Park Labbamollaga and Sherkin Island Community Hall.

Templebrady National School, Ballycroneen National School, Clogagh National School, Educate Together Carrigaline, Ringaskiddy Lower Harbour National School, Scoil Naomh Fionan Na Reanna, Ballygarvan National School and Shanbally National School have been installed by NBI for educational access. 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.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 27.

Questions (57, 71, 75)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

57. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he is satisfied with the pace of the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan; the number of homes expected to have the service available and the actual number achieved at the end of 2020 and to date; the steps he plans to take to increase the pace of the roll-out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53644/21]

View answer

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

71. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the status of the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53699/21]

View answer

Claire Kerrane

Question:

75. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to ensure that the National Broadband Plan can catch up and meet its targets for 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53686/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Question Nos 57, 71 and 75  together.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led Intervention will be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI) under a contract to roll out a high speed and future proofed broadband network within the Intervention Area which covers 1.1 million people living and working in the over 544,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with some 699 schools.

In addition to the challenges to the delivery of the NBP due to the Covid-19 pandemic, NBI has faced a range of other challenges due to the sheer scale and complexity of rolling out fibre to the home in a rural environment. These include significant tree trimming to ensure cable can be placed on overhead poles, remediation of ducting that has been in place for many decades, the co-ordination of hundreds of contracting crews and addressing the many issues arising week on week which could not have been foreseen until the build crews commenced work on the ground. My Department has worked closely with NBI to put in place a remedial plan under the Contract. This plan addresses delays experienced by NBI, primarily arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and re-baselines milestones for 2021. In line with the remedial plan for 2021, NBI is targeting to have almost 60,000 premises passed and available for connection by the end of 2021. Work is underway to re-baseline milestones for 2022 and beyond.

NBI has implemented a number of measures to help lessen the impact that these challenges have had on the rollout including:

- Increasing the rate of pole replacement and duct remediation per month;

- Bringing in additional NBI resources;

- Earlier procurement of material used in the build stages; and

- Bringing in additional subcontractors

Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, National Broadband Ireland has made steady progress on delivery of the new high speed fibre broadband network under the National Broadband Plan with over 30,000 premises available to order and pre-order across 11 counties (Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Monaghan, Roscommon, Tipperary and Wicklow). In total, over 272,000 premises in the Intervention Area across all counties have been surveyed, with over 115,000 premises under construction across 30 Deployment areas.

It remains the ambition of the Government to rollout the National Broadband Plan as quickly as possible. My Department continues to engage with NBI to explore the feasibility of accelerating aspects of the NBP 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. However, the primary focus must be on addressing the delays which have arisen and ensuring that the National Broadband Ireland build programme gets back on track and is building momentum month on month.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 27.

Climate Change Policy

Questions (59)

Thomas Gould

Question:

59. Deputy Thomas Gould asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if the attention of his Department was drawn to the fact that Ireland’s carbon budget would fall short of UN recommendations prior to the publication of the Climate Change Advisory Council’s carbon budget. [53614/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, enacted in July 2021, commits Ireland to achieve a climate neutral economy by no later than 2050, and provides for a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2018 levels. The Act also significantly strengthens the overarching climate governance framework and embeds a process of carbon budgeting, including sectoral emission ceilings. The plans and strategies established on a statutory footing under the Act will require that policies are put in place to ensure carbon budget ceilings are not breached. Putting these requirements in legislation places a clear obligation on this and future governments for sustained climate action.

In accordance with the Act, the Climate Change Advisory Council must carry out their functions, including the proposal of carbon budgets in a manner which takes account of amongst other things, relevant scientific advice and consistent with the ultimate objective specified in Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention.

Regulatory Bodies

Questions (60)

Brendan Smith

Question:

60. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the proposals there are to give greater powers of enforcement to ComReg; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53590/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

ComReg currently has a suite of enforcement and sanctioning powers available to it in regulating the telecommunications sector. As committed to in the Programme for Government 2020, my Department, in collaboration with ComReg, is currently developing proposals to further strengthen ComReg's enforcement regime in primary legislation and to provide for an administrative sanctioning regime for the electronic communications sector. Considerable work has been done to date by my Department in this regard and it is my intention for bring forward legislative proposals on this in the coming period.

These legislative proposals will also give effect to the enforcement provisions of the European Electronic Communications Code, a new European regulatory framework for the electronic communications sector, which is currently being transposed by my Department. When enacted, the European Electronic Communications Code will provide for new rules for the electronic communications sector around consumer protection, access to infrastructure, spectrum management and universal service obligations, amongst others.

Climate Change Policy

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 27.

Questions (61)

Bríd Smith

Question:

61. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his views on the recent UN Environment Programme report finding that many national determined plans fall short of the Paris targets and are expected to lead to a temperature increase of 2.7 degrees; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53668/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Ireland is committed to concerted global actions to address the climate crisis and engages in negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement through its membership of the European Union (EU). Ireland has actively engaged with EU partners in preparation for the 26th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP26) in Glasgow which commenced on 31 October and will conclude on 12 November 2021. I will lead Ireland’s National Delegation for the continuation of the high-level segment during the second week of COP26.

Ireland is committed to playing an active and constructive role at the COP this year, particularly on issues linked to our climate priorities and with the intention of illustrating greater strategic coherency between our international climate agenda and our domestic climate ambition.

The scientific evidence demonstrates that the atmosphere is warming and the climate is changing with each passing year. These changes will cause extensive direct and indirect harm to Ireland and its people, as well as to other countries more exposed and less able than we are to withstand the associated impacts. This year’s COP is crucial in ensuring that climate action is taken in a manner that balances considerations of fairness, cost effectiveness and solidarity, ensuring that no one is left behind.

Question No. 62 answered with Question No. 27.
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