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Thursday, 4 Nov 2021

Written Answers Nos. 63-81

Illegal Dumping

Questions (63)

Brian Stanley

Question:

63. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications when legislation will be introduced to permit local authorities to use CCTV to prevent illegal dumping. [52542/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department published the General Scheme of the Circular Economy Bill 2021 on 15 June 2021. It is my intention under the Bill to facilitate not only the use of CCTV, but also the use of a broad range of Audio Visual Recording (AVR) equipment in order to assist local authorities in their efforts to combat illegal dumping. Drafting of the Bill is well advanced, as is, I understand, the pre-legislative scrutiny process before the Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action. The Bill will be published and enacted as soon as possible after pre-legislative scrutiny has been completed and I have considered the Report of the Committee. I look forward to receiving the Committee's recommendations.

A combination of legislation and guidance will help to ensure that the processing of personal data, obtained through the use of CCTV and AVR equipment, may be carried out by local authorities tasked with enforcing both litter and waste legislation, thus providing an important deterrent in order to protect our environment from the scourge of illegal dumping, while at the same time respecting the privacy rights of citizens. The Bill can also facilitate consideration of the use of Fixed Penalty Notices for waste enforcement purposes.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (64)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

64. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the engagement he has had with National Broadband Ireland with regard to the roll-out of high speed fibre broadband in Galway city, county, the Aran Islands and Inisbofin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53506/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

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 some 699 schools. My Department as the contracting authority manages all of the elements of contract governance and engages with NBI on an ongoing basis across all elements of the programme to deliver the new high speed broadband network.

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.

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 272,000 premises surveyed across 26 counties and retail service providers 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 as of 30 October.

I am advised by National Broadband Ireland that, as of 30 October 2021, over 21,000 premises in the areas of Galway city, Ballinasloe, Gort, Athenry, Loughrea, Inverin, Gurteen, Kilkerrin, Duniry and Lettermore have been surveyed. Build work is complete in areas around Galway and Ballinasloe and I understand that over 5,000 premises are passed and available for connection.

Further details are available on specific areas within County Galway 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. NBI 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. I am advised that BCPs have been connected with high speed broadband on Inis Mor, Inisbofin and Inis Oirr. 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 connected in County Galway at Clonbern Community Enterprise Centre (Ballinasloe), Comhar Na nOileán (Inis Oirr), Cortoon Community Centre (Tuam), Glenamaddy Community Development Company, Inisbofin Community Centre, Kilronan Library (Inis Mór), Lettermullen Community Centre and Leitrim Community Centre (Loughrea).

Saint Joseph's National School (Barna), Briarhill National School (Castlegar), Mweenish National School (Carna), St. Mary’s National School (Clonberne), Ballinlass National School (Dunmore), Scoil Naomh Caomháin (Inis Oirr), Ballinakill National School (Kylebrack) and Brownsgrove National School (Tuam) are connected 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.

Fuel Sales

Questions (65)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

65. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the way the sale and supply of domestic solid fuels will be deterred in circumstances in which that fuel does not meet the new regulations and standards to be introduced in advance of winter heating season 2022 in particular in circumstances in which that fuel is sold in large quantities through online sales or advertisements and in which the fuel is sold from outside Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53480/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The new solid fuel regulations are currently being drafted, so it would not be appropriate to provide a detailed account of the legal mechanisms that are being considered regarding sale and supply.

The same enforcement procedures will apply to all solid fuels regardless of how they have been placed on the market in Ireland, including through online sales or other forms of advertising. It is worth noting, however, that the main marketplace websites in Ireland have policies which prohibit the advertising of illegal goods.

Local Authorities will be responsible for enforcing the provisions of the new enhanced solid fuel regulations within their functional areas, and will have significant powers available to enable them do so effectively.

The Programme for Government also includes a commitment to develop a regional approach to air quality enforcement and an increase in multi-agency operations in order to clamp down on the sale of non-compliant solid fuels imported from other jurisdictions, with Local Authorities and the Revenue Commissioners involved. Given the links between burning of solid fuels and the health effects of air pollution, as well as the potential for market distortion for businesses properly adhering to the regulations, increased multi-agency enforcement and inspections of cross-border fuel movements will be required.

Discussions with the Local Authority sector have commenced with the intention of establishing dedicated resources within regional lead authorities to provide co-ordination, expertise and advice to support consistent enforcement of the new regulations across the country. My Department is fully committed to supporting Local Authorities in this regard, including through the provision of additional supports for the most effective model of enforcement.

Departmental Strategies

Questions (66)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

66. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will prepare a national hydrogen strategy given the role this fuel can play in Ireland's decarbonisation effort; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53681/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department currently provides funding to the Loughs Agency, one of the two constituent agencies of the Foyle Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission. The table below details the 2021 allocation and the provisional 2022 allocation which will be finalised in the Revised Estimates Volume in December. The 2023 figures will be decided as part of the 2023 Budgetary Estimates Process.

Cross-Border Funding

 

 Funding Allocated in €m's 

Agency/Contract

2021

2022*

2023**

Loughs Agency

2.9

2.9

TBD

* Final figures at subhead level will be finalised in the REV in December.

** 2023 allocations will be decided as part of the 2023 Budgetary Estimates Process.

Under EU and national rules, the public procurement of goods and services contracts above certain thresholds must be awarded on the basis of objective and non-restrictive criteria. The aim of these European rules is to promote an open, competitive and non-discriminatory public procurement regime which delivers best value for money. My Department maintains records of all procured contracts based on the type of goods or services supplied, and not on a geographical basis. Therefore we are not in a position to collate the information in the manner requested.

Renewable Energy Generation

Questions (67)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Question:

67. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the steps he is taking to ensure that communities can develop their own renewable energy projects; if he has a target for the number of community projects to be supported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52963/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Community renewable energy projects will play an important role in delivering up to 80% renewable electricity on the grid by 2030. The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is the main Government support to help deliver on this target. RESS supports communities in a variety of ways including through a separate category for community projects and a mandatory community benefit fund for every project supported in the scheme.

The first RESS auction included a dedicated community category in which seven projects have been selected for support, five of which are collaborations with commercial developers. My aim is to ensure the delivery of some 100 community renewable electricity generation projects by 2030. In future onshore RESS auctions, there will be additional capacity allocated to the community category and I have decided that only fully community-owned projects will be eligible to apply as per the recently published RESS-2 terms and conditions.

In order to ensure an adequate pipeline of community renewable electricity projects I have allocated further capital funding in Budget 2022 for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to stimulate locally-owned community energy projects. The funding allocated will enable SEAI to deploy a range of capacity-building supports including an information warehouse, trusted intermediary and advisor services, and financial grant supports all of which are vital to support community owned RESS projects being developed.

My Department has established a RESS Communities Steering Board, made up of the key state players and several community advocates, to provide strategic guidance on how best to maximise community involvement in RESS.

RESS will be supplemented by the new Micro-Generation Support Scheme which will provide local communities even more opportunity to participate in the transition to renewable energy.

EU Programmes

Questions (68)

Ivana Bacik

Question:

68. Deputy Ivana Bacik asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his views on the right to repair measures set out in the European Commission Circular Economy Action Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53536/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

In March 2020, the European Commission adopted its new Circular Economy Action Plan. The Plan aims to establish a strong and coherent product policy framework that will make sustainable products, services and business models the norm across the EU, and transform European consumption patterns so that no waste is produced in the first place. As part of this process the Commission intends to embed a “right to repair” in the EU consumer and product policies. I fully support this intention. The recent public consultation on the forthcoming Whole-of-Government Circular Economy Strategy identified product repair as one of the key activities needed to achieve a circular transition. A comprehensive ‘right-to-repair’ will both empower consumers and create a market for repairable products and repair services.

Given the scale of changes to product design and manufacture needed to allow for improved repairability, and the size of Ireland’s economy relative to the wider Single Market, I believe that harmonised action at EU level is necessary in order to introduce a ‘right-to-repair’ and will support ambitious proposals from the European Commission in this regard.

Exploration Industry

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 41.

Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 57.

Questions (69)

Pauline Tully

Question:

69. Deputy Pauline Tully asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the timetable for the final policy statement on mineral exploration and mining to be submitted to Government for consideration; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53702/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

On 30 July 2021 my Department published a Draft Policy Statement on Mineral Exploration and Mining and associated Strategic Environmental Assessment Environmental Report and Appropriate Assessment Natura Impact Statement for public consultation. The deadline for making submissions was 15 October 2021. A number of submissions were received and these are now being considered by my Department before a final Policy Statement is prepared for the Government's consideration early next year.

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 41.
Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 57.

Renewable Energy Generation

Questions (72)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

72. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the analysis his Department has carried out with regard to international best practice in the area of community-led and community-owned renewable energy projects, particularly in relation to the development of the renewable energy support scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53509/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) supports communities in a variety of ways including a separate category for community projects and a mandatory community benefit fund for every project supported in the scheme.

These supports were developed following a comprehensive research report by Ricardo Environmental Consultancy published in 2017 as an evidence base to support the development of RESS. The report ‘Assessment of models to support community ownership of renewable energy in Ireland’, evaluated international best practice in community energy and helped inform the high level design of RESS which was publicly consulted on through the development of the terms and conditions of the RESS auctions.

The first RESS auction included a dedicated community projects category in which seven projects have been selected for support, five of which are collaborations with commercial developers. In future onshore RESS auctions, there will be additional capacity allocated to the community category and I have decided that only fully community-owned projects will be eligible to apply as per the recently published RESS-2 terms and conditions.

In order to ensure an adequate pipeline of community renewable electricity projects I have allocated further capital funding in Budget 2022 for the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to stimulate locally-owned community energy projects. he funding allocated will enable SEAI to deploy a range of capacity-building supports including information dissemination, trusted intermediary and advisor services and financial grant supports, all of which are vitally important to support community owned RESS project development.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (73)

Michael Ring

Question:

73. Deputy Michael Ring asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the additional funding and resources that have been provided to expand the capacity of the SEAI to deliver the better energy warmer homes scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53447/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low-income households vulnerable to energy poverty. To date, over 143,000 homes have received free upgrades under the scheme. In the first six months of 2021, the average value of the energy efficiency measures provided per household was approximately €17,100.

There are currently just over 7,000 homeowners on the Warmer Homes Scheme work programme. The SEAI has advised me that the average wait times for works under the scheme have increased significantly in 2021 due to the extensive COVID-19 related restrictions on construction activity in place between January and mid-April when the scheme was fully paused in line with Government guidelines. This added to the longer wait times that had already arisen due to other COVID-19 related restrictions last year. Wait times have also been negatively impacted by challenges associated with availability and longer lead times for materials.

Budget 2022 has allocated €202 million for residential and community retrofit next year. Over half of this (€109 million) will be used to provide free energy efficiency upgrades to households that are in, or at risk of, energy poverty. It is estimated that over 4,500 upgrades will be provided under SEAI Energy Poverty schemes in 2022.

I have also secured additional resources this year to expand the capacity of the SEAI to deliver the scheme. Overall, SEAI received an additional €2.9 million in budget 2021 which delivered an increase of 30 staff across the organisation and Budget 2022 is providing €3.1m for 30 additional staff in SEAI next year. In addition, delivery capacity in the supply chain has increased due to a new, broader contractor panel that commenced at the end of 2020. Every effort is being made to maximise output since construction activity in the residential sector recommenced in mid-April.

Climate Change Policy

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 57.

Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 33.

Questions (74)

Richard Bruton

Question:

74. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the way in which Ireland’s climate targets for respective sectors relate to the evolving policy agenda at EU level such as expanding the scope of the emission trading mechanisms. [53625/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021 was signed into law in July of this year and commits Ireland to reach a legally-binding target of net-zero emissions no later than 2050, and a cut of 51% by 2030 (compared to 2018 levels).

Further to the enactment of the Climate Act, the Climate Change Advisory Council has recently advised proposed economy-wide carbon budgets for the periods 2021-2025 and 2026-2030, and a provisional budget for 2031-2035. When the carbon budgets are approved in accordance with section 9 of the Act, the Government will publish final sectoral emissions ceilings within those budgets.

To ensure that climate action continues at pace, the Government will shortly publish Climate Action Plan 2021. This plan will set out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for all sectors.

The European Commission under it’s Fit for 55 Package has proposed a number of changes to the structure of the EU climate framework, including:

- The inclusion of maritime transport in the ETS;

- A phase out free emissions allowances for aviation and to align with the global CORSIA scheme;

- A redesign of the land use accounting system from 2026 onwards;

- A separate new EU ETS is proposed to be set up for the road transport and buildings sectors.

Ireland will engage through the Council of Ministers on these proposals as they move through the legislative process.

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 57.
Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 33.

Environmental Schemes

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 22.

Questions (77)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

77. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he has examined and discussed alternative models of finance for climate action at a local level such as the local climate bonds piloted in two local authority areas in England in 2020 with his colleague the Minister for Finance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53685/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Local Authority finance falls under the remit of the Department for Housing, Local Government and Heritage and the Local Authorities themselves. I have had no engagement with Minister Donohoe on Local Climate Bonds.

However, since 2018, my Department has made a five year financial commitment totaling €10 million to establish and operate four Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs). My Department engages with the four CAROs on a regular basis, in particular through participation in the National Local Authority Climate Action Steering Group. Under the National Adaptation Framework, each Local Authority has developed a Local Adaptation Strategy. These strategies are now being implemented, and each CARO is working with the Local Authorities in its region to both facilitate and monitor implementation of the local climate adaptation actions within the strategies.

The Climate Action and Low Carbon (Amendment) Act, 2021, further strengthens the role of Local Authorities in climate action. It sets out legislative requirements for each Local Authority to prepare a Climate Action Plan, which will include both mitigation and adaptation measures and be updated every five years. These plans will have to be consistent with national climate plans and strategies, and Local Authorities will have to liaise with each other in the preparation of these plans.

To build the necessary capacity, my Department is also providing funding and engaging with the CAROs in relation to the implementation of a new Local Authority climate action training programme. This programme is increasing knowledge of climate change and the need for action among all Local Authority staff, and will facilitate both climate mitigation and adaptation at local level.

Funding the transition to a low carbon economy at a national and local level will be greatly assisted by the €165 billion in capital funding to 2030 recently agreed by Government as part of the National Development Plan (NDP) Review. In addition, other funding through the Climate Action Fund and the Just Transition Fund is also being made available.

Question No. 78 answered with Question No. 22.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (79)

Brendan Smith

Question:

79. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the position regarding the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan throughout Cavan and Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53589/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

There are over 16,000 premises in County Cavan and over 15,000 premises in County Monaghan in the National Broadband Plan (NBP) Intervention Area that will receive access to high speed broadband under the State led intervention to be delivered by National Broadband Ireland (NBI).

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 that as of 27 October, over 10,000 premises in both County Cavan and County Monaghan have been surveyed. In Cavan, surveying is underway in the Deployment Area of Cootehill, surveys are complete in the Deployment Area of Kilnaleck and network build is complete in the Deployment Area of Cavan. Over 3,500 premises are passed and available for connection in County Cavan. In Monaghan, surveying is completed in the Deployment Areas of Emyvale, Clones and Carrickmacross, with network build underway in the Deployment Area of Monaghan. Over 4,000 premises are available to order or pre-order connections in County Monaghan.

Further details are available on specific areas within Counties Cavan and Monaghan 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. NBI 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 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.

In County Cavan, BCPs are installed at Castlerahan Community Centre, Cornafean Community Centre, Glengevlin Community Hall, Drumavaddy Community Centre, Castle Saunderson Scout Centre, Bunnoe Community Centre, Killenkere Leisure Centre, Mullahoran Community Centre, Templeport Community Centre and Kildallan Parish Hall. In County Monaghan, BCPs are installed at Mullyash Community Centre, St. Patrick’s Accommodation Centre, Monaghan GAA Centre of Excellence, Latton Resource Centre, Corcaghan Community Centre, Corduff Community Centre, Tannagh Outdoor Education Centre, Geraldines GAA Club, Tullycorbet Parish Hall, Carn Resource Centre, Saint Alphonsus Community Hall, Ceremartin Community Hall, Ballybay Wetlands and Latton O'Rahilly Gaelic Football Club. Further details can be found at nbi.ie/bcp-locations/.

In County Cavan, Killoughter National School, Corlis National School, Kilmore National School, Lackan National School, Dromaili S N, Saint Patrick's School, Kildallan National School, Greaghrahan National School, Laragh National School and Corlea National School have been installed. In County Monaghan, Drumcorrin National School, Drumacrutten National School, Saint Mary's School, Saint Brigid’s National School, Annalitten National School, Connons National School, Saint Michael's National School, Latnamard National School and Drumgossatt 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. Further details are available on the NBI website at nbi.ie/primary-schools-list/.

Environmental Policy

Questions (80)

Bríd Smith

Question:

80. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his views on the recent UN Environment Programme report finding that many of the national net zero by 2050 goals are ambiguous and vague; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53667/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The recently published UN Emissions Gap Report 2021 includes a chapter examining net-zero emissions targets. The report notes that the increase in net-zero pledges needs to be treated with caution, because as they have become more widely adopted, they have varied in robustness. The UNEP Report states that the scope and convergence of net-zero targets; the existence of implementation plans, transparency and reporting to track progress; the alignment between near-term actions and long-term net zero targets; and the robustness of carbon offsets, are critical to credible net-zero targets. Ireland has introduced its objective to be a climate neutral economy by 2050 in a robust fashion through primary legislation. The commitment has been placed on a statutory footing through the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021.

The Act identifies the specific mechanisms, plans and strategies that will be used by Government to achieve the national climate objective. These are:

- a series of carbon budgets and the associated sectoral emission ceilings;

- annual revisions to the Climate Action Plan;

- a National Long Term Climate Action Strategy; and

- a National Adaptation Framework.

The Act also provides for a set of principles which the Minister and Government will take into account when preparing, approving or adopting any of the statutory plans, strategies and sectoral emission ceilings referred to. This will ensure the transformation to decarbonise our economy is a fair and just transition leaving no one behind.

Electricity Generation

Questions (81)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

81. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if ESB Moneypoint will be utilised on an increased capacity basis over the next 12 months to ensure that Ireland generates enough electricity to meet domestic demand levels. [53436/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Operational decisions pertaining to the power station referred to are a matter for the ESB and I have no function in the matter.

The quantity of electricity produced by any individual power station is determined primarily through the operation of the wholesale electricity market for Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM), which is governed by the SEM Committee. Accordingly, the utilisation of the power station referred to over the next 12 months will be determined by a range of factors including the cost of fossil fuel inputs, Emissions Trading System (ETS) permits, interconnector flows and the availability of renewable generation.

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