Skip to main content
Normal View

Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 162-176

Climate Change Policy

Questions (162)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

162. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which his Department can look forward to achieving a higher than anticipated carbon reduction measures without negatively impacting on the economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61950/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Acts 2015 to 2021, commit Ireland to achieve a climate neutral economy by no later than 2050, and provide for a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2018 levels. The significantly strengthened legally binding framework under the Acts, with clear targets and commitments set in law, will help ensure that Ireland achieves its climate goals and obligations in the near and long-term.

To deliver upon the ambition set out in the Acts, the Government published Climate Action Plan 2021 in November. The 2021 Plan identifies the actions necessary to achieve our emissions reductions targets for each sector of the economy, based on their respective starting points, and the relative difficulty, costs, speed, and benefits, of reducing emissions. The recently announced €165 billion National Development Plan (NDP) has been designed to ensure it supports the Government's climate ambitions. For the first time in Ireland, climate and environmental assessment of the NDP measures has been undertaken, along with an assessment of the alignment of the NDP as a whole with the principle of a green recovery.

Far from negatively impacting the economy, embracing and properly managing this necessary transition, including in the areas the retrofitting and renewable energy sector, the circular economy, clean mobility, green and blue infrastructure, sustainable agriculture and the bio-economy, will create high quality employment opportunities that will be a source of significant employment growth over the coming decades, as well as supporting a stable tax base.

In fact the reality we face is that failure to rapidly move to a carbon-neutral economic model will have far reaching negative impacts on the economy and the public finances; undermine the long-term, sustainable competitiveness of the economy; and lock Ireland into a redundant fossil-fuel based economic model. This will cause the most significant disruptions to the Irish economy that have ever been experienced, and will certainly strain all of our Governmental and societal structures, resulting in significant cost and inequitable outcomes.

Energy Production

Questions (163)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

163. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which waste to energy enterprises are currently in operation and are anticipated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61951/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

There are currently 2 waste to energy plants in operation in Ireland. In addition, three cement kilns accept solid recovered fuel (SRF) derived from waste for co-incineration at their plants. Further details are available from the Environmental Protection Agency at the following link:

National waste statistics | Environmental Protection Agency (epa.ie)

I understand that a number of other facilities are in the process of seeking planning and licensing approval from the relevant statutory authorities.

Renewable Energy Generation

Questions (164)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

164. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent of wind-driven electricity generation to develop to the level anticipated in the course of the next ten years; if this is to include on or offshore proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61953/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

Currently, over 4.5 GW of renewable generation is connected to the electricity grid. The Government's ambition to deliver renewable electricity is set out in the recently published Climate Action Plan.

The indicative electricity capacity targets outlined in the Plan envisage up to 8 GW of onshore wind (including the already installed capacity), at least 5 GW of offshore wind and between 1.5 – 2.5 solar PV capacity by 2030. This will be achieved primarily through regular competitive auctions under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The second onshore auction is already underway and a consultation on the terms and conditions for the first offshore auction under the Scheme closed last week.

Telecommunications Services

Questions (165)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

165. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which all areas throughout the country can expect to rely on a modern and or updated mobile telephone service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61954/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

The provision of telecommunication services, including mobile phone and broadband services, is a matter for the relevant service providers operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communication Regulation (ComReg), as independent Regulator.

Obligations in relation to mobile coverage are set out in licences granted by ComReg to the mobile operators and ComReg advises that the current minimum coverage obligations are being exceeded considerably by all operators. ComReg is currently managing the next spectrum award process for wireless broadband services and commissioned studies and technical reports to inform its approach to the award process and the consideration of appropriate coverage and rollout obligations in that context. These studies are available at www.comreg.ie.

In relation to mobile coverage, ComReg has developed a national outdoor coverage map (available at this link), which can help consumers choose the network provider that best meets their needs for where they live, work and travel. ComReg has also published the results of tests carried out on mobile/smartphone handsets currently available in Ireland (available at this link). These findings will further allow consumers to make informed decisions based on the handsets which best address their needs.

Since 2016, the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce has been a driving force for improving access to telecommunications services nationwide. It has completed over 70 targeted actions to alleviate connectivity barriers, and continues to tackle issues impeding the rollout of essential infrastructure. The Taskforce will continue its work in the context of its inclusion in the Programme for Government, in ensuring access to high quality telecommunications connectivity across Ireland to support social and economic development.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (166)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

166. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the efforts being made to ensure the provision of reliable high speed broadband to industrial hubs throughout the country in order to address communication deficiencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61955/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

As set out in the Programme for Government, ensuring access to high-quality internet connections for people across Ireland is essential to the development of all parts of our country, socially and economically. Facilitating remote working and innovation opportunities is essential for addressing climate change, adapting in an evolving economy, and competing internationally. A combination of commercial investment and the State led National Broadband Plan intervention will ensure access to high speed broadband in every part of the country no matter how remote.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 168 answered with Question No. 167.

Questions (167, 168)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

167. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of broadband connection points installed in County Kildare in the past two years to date; the number of installations planned over the next 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61956/21]

View answer

Bernard Durkan

Question:

168. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which broadband blackspots throughout County Kildare have been identified and remedied over the past two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61957/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 167 and 168 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 554,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along some 679 schools ensuring that no premises is left behind no matter how remote the location.

In July 2019, in order to finalise the mapping exercise required under the State Aid Guidelines on Broadband and to ensure the NBP High Speed Broadband Map was up to date, my Department conducted a consultation in relation to the High Speed Broadband Map. This consultation sought submissions from operators who wished to have their existing high speed broadband networks or plans to invest in high speed broadband networks over the following 7 years to be included on the Department’s High Speed Broadband Map. The Map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The High Speed Broadband Map is available at www.broadband.gov.ie and is colour coded and searchable by address and Eircode. The map indicates those premises that are in the AMBER area and will be served by the new high speed broadband network being delivered by NBI on behalf of the State and those in the BLUE area that will be served by commercial operators.

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 282,000 premises surveyed or with survey underway across all counties and almost 150,000 premises with build currently underway or complete. NBI has advised that almost 35,000 premises are available to order and pre-order across 13 counties as of 3 December. I am advised by NBI that, over 7,000 premises in County Kildare have now been surveyed. Surveys are complete in the Deployment Areas of Curragh Camp and Donedea covering areas including Suncroft, Kildare, Pollardstown, Rathbride, Martinstown, Johnstown, Curryhills, Allenwood North, Downings North and Brockagh. I am further advised that over 3,000 premises in County Kildare currently have build underway as part of the Blessington, Carlow and Dunboune/Clonee Deployment Areas.

Further details are available on specific areas within County Kildare 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. Given the scale and complexity of delivery of the new high speed broadband network under the NBP, I am advised that any dates provided by NBI on its website are based on the best available information at the time and may be subject to change.

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 3 December, 424 BCP sites have been installed by NBI across the country 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 schools. BCP locations in each county were selected in conjunction with the Broadband Officer in each Local Authority, in order to find the appropriate mix of locations to reap the maximum benefits. There are 3 BCP sites installed and connected in County Kildare at Crookstown Further Education and Training and Community Centre, Lullymore Heritage Park and Bigstone Community Hall. Further details can be found at nbi.ie/bcp-map. I am advised that no further public BCPs are planned for Co Kildare at this time but it is worth noting that Kildare already has a significant number of hubs that fall outside the Intervention Area.

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. Saint David's National School and Rathmore National School in County Kildare were included as part of this initiative and have since been connected. Scoil Náisiúnta Cill Cae, Scoil Náisiúnta Na Cloiche Moire, Killashee National School, Churchtown National School, Scoil Náisiúnta Naomh Iopseh, North Kildare Educate Together School, St Anne’s National School and Kilberry National School are due to be connected in the coming months. Further details are available on the NBI website at nbi.ie/primary-schools-list/

Question No. 168 answered with Question No. 167.

Electricity Generation

Questions (169)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

169. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the extent to which electricity generation and production costs here are in line with those in other EU member states; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61958/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

While this data is not routinely compiled by Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), I have asked them to engage with the Deputy on the matter.

Under the Electricity Regulation Act, the CRU is directly responsible for the performance of its functions to a Joint Committee of the Oireachtas, and not to me as Minister. The Deputy may wish to note that CRU provide a dedicated email address for Oireachtas members, which enables them raise questions directly to CRU at oireachtas@cru.ie for timely direct reply.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 149.

Questions (170)

Denis Naughten

Question:

170. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the status of plans to fast-track the National Broadband Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61965/21]

View answer

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 554,000 premises, including almost 100,000 businesses and farms along with some 679 schools.

Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic, NBI has made steady progress on delivery of the new high speed fibre broadband network under the National Broadband Plan with almost 35,000 premises available to order and pre-order across 13 counties (Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Monaghan, Roscommon, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow). NBI has advised that over 282,000 premises in the Intervention Area across all counties have been surveyed and build work is underway for more than 120,000 premises, demonstrating the project is reaching scale.

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.

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

The focus for 2022 is to continue to deliver momentum in the build programme, catch up on the delays experienced and plan for acceleration. Final targets for 2022 are expected to be agreed early in the new year.

Question No. 171 answered with Question No. 149.

Climate Change Negotiations

Question No. 173 answered with Question No. 81.

Question No. 174 answered with Question No. 147.

Questions (172)

Denis Naughten

Question:

172. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the discussions which he has had with the Just Transition Commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61967/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 30 on today’s Order Paper (see below). The Government is committed to a just transition in the Midlands region and has dedicated significant funding to supporting workers, companies and communities affected by the closure of the peat-fired power stations and the end of peat harvesting by Bord na Móna.

As part of this commitment, the Just Transition Commissioner was appointed in November 2019 with the mandate to engage with those affected by the accelerated exit from peat for electricity generation, and to recommend to Government the essential elements of a just transition for those workers and communities. The Commissioner has made an important contribution to the Government's overall just transition response in the region, helping to facilitate dialogue, and bringing forward concerns from affected communities, residents, workers, and businesses.

The Government has responded to the Commissioner’s recommendations by publishing an Implementation Plan for the Midlands Region, as part of the 2021 Climate Action Plan. The key responsibilities, steps and timelines to deliver the actions under this Implementation Plan will shortly be published as part of the Annex of Actions to the Climate Action Plan.

I have had various engagements with the Commissioner during 2021, most recently in July in a meeting with both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste. We have discussed a range of matters including the Department’s proposed response to the Commissioner’s recommendations in his progress reports, progress with the delivery of funding into the region, and the Commissioner’s work for the remainder of 2021. In addition, the work of the Commissioner continues to be supported by my Department on an ongoing basis.

As I have noted previously, given the significant progress that has already been achieved, the Government does not propose to continue the Commissioner's term beyond the end of his current mandate which concludes at the end of this year. I look forward to receiving the Commissioner’s final report and recommendations and being further briefed by the Commissioner at that stage.

The Midlands Regional Transition Team, which is convened by the Midlands Local Authorities, continues to provide an important forum for the Local Authorities, State Agencies and others to coordinate their ongoing work and to engage with Government in relation to just transition in the region. My Department will continue to engage with and support the work of this group into the future as the Midlands Implementation Plan is delivered.

Question No. 173 answered with Question No. 81.
Question No. 174 answered with Question No. 147.

North-South Interconnector

Question No. 176 answered with Question No. 175.

Questions (175, 176)

Brendan Smith

Question:

175. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the position regarding the review commissioned by his Department in respect of the proposed north-south interconnector project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62008/21]

View answer

Brendan Smith

Question:

176. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if the widespread concerns of communities in counties Cavan, Monaghan and Meath are taken into account in decisions regarding the proposed north-south interconnector project; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that local authorities, reflective of the views of local communities are very strongly of the opinion that undergrounding is the only acceptable way that this project can be delivered as outlined in correspondence to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62009/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 175 and 176 together.

The North-South Interconnector is critical to improving the efficient operation of the all-island Integrated Single Electricity Market and increasing security of electricity supply in Ireland and Northern Ireland. It will also facilitate the achievement of the goal to generate up to 80% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030. A resilient and well-connected energy infrastructure is vital for Ireland's economic well-being and the ability to respond to the future needs of energy consumers.

The option of undergrounding the North-South Interconnector has been comprehensively assessed on several occasions. Most recently, the key finding from the International Expert Commission's report of October 2018 was that an overhead line remains the most appropriate option for this critical electricity infrastructure.

Notwithstanding this, I decided to commission a further short review to assess if the overall finding from the 2018 report remains valid. The terms of reference for this study were published on my Department's website on 21 April. On 7 May, my Department initiated a procurement process to appoint an independent expert to undertake the review. International consultants were subsequently engaged and their work is well advanced at this stage. I expect the review will be completed shortly.

The system operators, EirGrid and ESB Networks, always seek to work in close collaboration with landowners and stakeholders in the delivery of electricity infrastructure. Both companies are engaging with those living closest to the route of the interconnector. EirGrid has already activated a variety of engagements locally, including the appointment of community liaison officers and a mobile information unit active in the area. I expect such engagements will assist in ensuring that communities are fully engaged in the delivery of the project as consented.

Question No. 176 answered with Question No. 175.
Top
Share