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Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 42-59

Climate Change Policy

Questions (42)

Holly Cairns

Question:

42. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his views on the report by an advisory body (details supplied) regarding the implementation gap between climate action policy and action. [61537/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Annual Report of the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) provides independent analysis to Government on Climate Action, to inform ongoing policy development and implementation.

2021 has seen a step change in our approach to climate action, with the signing into law of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, and the publication of the National Development Plan and the Climate Action Plan 2021, reflecting the enhanced ambition set out in the Programme for Government. The significantly strengthened legally binding framework under the Act with clear targets and commitments set in law, will help ensure that Ireland achieves its national, EU and international climate goals and obligations in the near and long-term.

The transition to climate-neutrality will require changes across all sectors of our society and economy, involving collaborative effort by Government, business, communities, and individuals to implement new and ambitious policies, technological innovations, systems and infrastructures. This will also require changes in individual behaviours, including how we work, heat our homes, travel, consume goods and services, and manage our waste. Delivering this is the responsibility of everyone in society.

The CCAC report highlights that a significantly increased climate mitigation effort is required across the agriculture, land-use, built environment and transport sectors, while also recognising the significant progress already made in decarbonising our electricity generation. The Climate Action Plan 2021 sets out a range of new policies, measures and actions to address these sectors, including enhancing organisational capacity to do so.

The National Development Plan has allocated significantly increased funding to climate action, including public transport and retrofitting over the next decade. Government recognises that climate action will require a targeted balance between Exchequer-supported expenditure, taxation policies and regulation. Private investment will be needed to work alongside public funding to achieve our targets.

The National Dialogue on Climate Action will create a comprehensive support structure for widespread public and stakeholder engagement on climate change, empowering people across all areas of society and the economy to adopt more sustainable behaviours, and participate in all aspects of the transition.

The Government also recognises the need for a renewed focus on adaptation to deal with an increase in extreme weather events, as highlighted by the CCAC. Four Government funded Climate Action Regional Offices are supporting Local Authorities in their adaptation efforts.

The CCAC report also emphasises that it is important to acknowledge that the transition will have a cost and preparations will be required to reduce the impact on the most vulnerable. Building on the successful approach in the Midlands, a Just Transition Commission will be established to further support Government in this area.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (43)

Louise O'Reilly

Question:

43. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if the owner or shareholders of National Broadband Ireland have the ability to sell the business and assets of National Broadband Ireland after or before full deployment of the network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61547/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Contract for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led intervention, which was signed with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) in November 2019, is a complex and detailed document. It sets out the specific terms of the NBP contract with National Broadband Ireland in respect of the rollout of the high speed broadband network under the State led intervention, 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.

To protect the State investment and ensure that the NBP milestones and deliverables are met, the contract has been designed to include extensive protections, quality checks, reporting and monitoring obligations.

The NBP Contract provides specific protections in relation to a change in ownership, sale, or change in control of shareholders of NBI. Under the Contract, and up until 12 months after the network build is complete, the prior approval of the Minister is required for any of these events. In the event of a sale of NBI, any new owners will continue to have the same obligations as the original owners.

The Contract also requires the written consent of the Minister prior to the transfer of any interest, direct or indirect, in NBI held by Mr David McCourt. Again, this requirement is in place until 12 months after the network build is complete. It should be noted, however, that approval under these provisions cannot be unreasonably withheld.

In the event that the investors sell the majority of their shareholding in NBI in the first ten years of the Contract, the State will be entitled to clawback a proportion of any profit on sale based on the value of the business at the time of sale.

Energy Prices

Questions (44)

Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

44. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will provide an update on the discussions with key energy sector stakeholders which have taken place to date to try and reduce the very high current cost of energy utilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61264/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Government is acutely aware of the impact that the recent increases in energy prices is having on households.This is a global phenomenon and expert commentators, including the International Energy Agency, have attributed this to a range of demand and supply factors that have contributed to a tightening of the European gas market supplies and the upward trend in wholesale gas prices we have witnessed since mid 2020. The best long-term approach for Ireland to insulate consumers from volatility on international wholesale energy markets is to invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and to expand interconnection with our European and neighbouring markets and to deepen internal electricity market integration.

Government’s immediate response to address the increase in domestic energy prices has been to utilise the tax and social welfare system to counter rising costs of living. Budget 2022 increased the weekly rate of the Fuel Allowance so that €914 will be paid to eligible households over the course of this winter. Increases to the Qualified Child Payment, the Living Alone Allowance and an increase to the income threshold for the Working Family Payment were also announced.

Consumers should continue to switch or engage with their energy supplier and many households could still save on their bills if they did so. As recently as the 9th December, switching supplier could save a customer consuming the average amount of electricity up to €313.

CRU has in place a suite of protections against disconnection that are set out in the Supplier Handbook. In brief, priority customers cannot be disconnected, while vulnerable customers are protected over winter months from 1 November to 31 March each year while a CRU moratoria on disconnections for all customers comes into effect over the Christmas period. Additionally, under the supplier led voluntary Energy Engage Code, suppliers will not disconnect a customer who is engaging with them at any time. Furthermore, due to the ongoing pressure on households, the Government agreed today to provide a once off credit of €100 to every domestic electricity account holder, through their electricity supplier in quarter one of 2022.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (45)

Brian Stanley

Question:

45. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the cost within the National Broadband Plan for the use of the infrastructure of Eir over the duration of the contract. [61451/21]

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

All bidders as part of the original NBP tender were required to put forward a solution that maximised the use of existing infrastructure such as poles and ducts, pole infrastructure and towers, and masts located throughout the State. The solution proposed by NBI involved predominantly re-using the eir pole and duct infrastructure.

The NBP has been designed to ensure that as much as possible of the network infrastructure will comprise the re-use of existing poles and ducts which NBI will lease from existing infrastructure owners. Infrastructure re-use in this manner ensures the State complies with State Aid Guidelines and environmental sustainability best practice.

As part of the final contract tender National Broadband Ireland included some €900m for infrastructure rental of which circa €800m is forecast to be paid to eir for the rental of poles and ducts over 25 years. These rental charges are fully regulated by ComReg. In the event that there are any price reductions during the 25 years of the NBP Contract, the State will recoup 100% of any reductions to such rentals.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (46)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

46. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if the deposit return scheme will be in operation on-time; if glass will be included in the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61425/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The roadmap for the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme for plastic bottles and aluminium cans in Q3 2022 was outlined in the Waste Action Plan for a Circular Economy, published in September 2020. I continue to work towards meeting that deadline and the Separate Collection (Deposit Return Scheme) Regulations 2021, which provide the legal framework for the scheme, in particular the terms under which a scheme operator may be approved, were recently signed. The regulations also set out the obligations that will fall to producers, retailers and return point operators under the scheme.

The introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme will assist in reducing single use plastics, thus helping Ireland meet EU targets while promoting a wider circular economy. Materials to be included in the scheme will be those for which Ireland faces immediate, challenging EU recycling and separate collection targets. The scheme will therefore focus on plastic bottles and aluminium beverage cans. Recycling rates in Ireland for glass are significantly above current EU targets.

The Regulations provide that other materials may be considered for inclusion in the Deposit Return Scheme when the scheme is fully established.

Legislative Process

Questions (47)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

47. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the involvement he or his Department has had in the development of planned legislation in relation to marine protected areas; his views on the progress of maritime planning in the absence of these protected areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61541/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The development of planned legislation in relation to marine protected areas (MPAs) is being led by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage which recently ran a public consultation on the report of the expert advisory group on MPAs entitled “Expanding Ireland’s Marine Protected Area Network”. My Department responded positively to that report, and is supportive of the need to protect marine biodiversity while also enabling our climate targets to be met.

Work on a revised Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) has been initiated by my Department. This involves participation across Government and the collation of all available, relevant data on our marine resource. The aim is to provide an evidence base for the identification of areas most suitable for the sustainable development of renewable energy technologies, while also considering marine biodiversity. This work will also be of value to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in the MPA designation process.

Wind Energy Generation

Questions (48)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Question:

48. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to maximise the benefit from the supply chain opportunity for offshore wind in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61484/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department is currently developing terms and conditions for the first offshore wind auction under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1) to support the first phase of offshore wind development in Ireland. These proposed terms and conditions include a requirement for each successful project in ORESS 1 to headquarter its operation and maintenance facilities on the island of Ireland. As offshore renewable energy remains an emerging sector in Ireland, successful projects in ORESS 1 will also be required to complete a Project Delivery Plan Questionnaire, with particular emphasis on domestic supply chain development, to better inform Government policy and design of future ORESS auctions.

As referenced in the Climate Action Plan, a cross-Departmental Offshore Renewable Energy Team, chaired by my Department, is also being established to capture the wider economic and business opportunities associated with the development of offshore renewables in Ireland. This will be set up in conjunction with the Marine2040 groups to ensure consistency across the State maritime planning system. It will include the identification of supporting infrastructure and supply chain opportunities as Ireland’s offshore wind industry becomes established.

As part of this work, my Department has been working closely with the Department of Transport and the Irish Maritime Development Office to examine the potential to ensure that Irish ports are in a position to benefit from the offshore wind development programme. The Department of Transport, in conjunction with the Irish Maritime Development Office, has conducted an assessment of the options for Irish State ports to facilitate development of offshore renewable energy in Ireland, and will shortly publish an associated policy statement. The statement will outline the proposed strategy for the provision of infrastructure at ports to facilitate development and future operation of offshore renewable energy projects.

In addition, my Department has also been working with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who are finalising plans to establish a Shannon Estuary Taskforce. This Taskforce will consider the potential of the Shannon Estuary in terms of regional economic development across transport and logistics, manufacturing, renewable energy and tourism, and will develop a strategy to achieve this potential in 2022.

The offshore renewable sector also has the potential to result in commercial and employment opportunities for Irish firms operating beyond Ireland. In this regard, my Department works closely with Enterprise Ireland, which has, over the last several years, developed the Irish Offshore Wind Cluster, comprising of over 60 Irish companies working in the sector abroad, with the view to transferring this expertise to the domestic market once established in Ireland.

Legislative Measures

Questions (49)

Alan Dillon

Question:

49. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he plans to introduce legislation or other measures from an environmental protection perspective to improve air and dust quality around quarries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61493/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Under the Minerals Development Acts 1940 to 1999, my Department is responsible for the regulation of mineral exploration and mining. The Department has no function in respect of the regulation of quarries which is a matter for each relevant local authority under planning legislation which comes within the remit of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

Illegal Dumping

Questions (50, 73)

Alan Farrell

Question:

50. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the work undertaken by his Department in conjunction with other relevant bodies in enabling the use of CCTV to combat dumping particularly in environmentally sensitive areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61490/21]

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Fergus O'Dowd

Question:

73. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications when he expects the use of CCTV to be authorised to combat illegal dumping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61263/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 50 and 73 together.

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 litter and illegal dumping. Drafting of the Bill is well advanced, following consultation with the Data Protection Commissioners, the Department of Justice and the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities (WERLAs), 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.

National Broadband Plan

Questions (51, 61, 64, 66, 89, 94, 135)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

51. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number or percentage of households and premises which have yet to receive high speed fibre power broadband; and if he will provide an update on the roll-out of broadband across the country. [61414/21]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

61. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of homes that will be passed by National Broadband Ireland by 31 December 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61145/21]

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Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

64. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of premises passed to date by the National Broadband Scheme; the number that had been predicted in the contract for the end of 2021; the steps he is taking to ensure the roll-out of the scheme is significantly accelerated in 2022; the estimated number to be passed by the end of 2022; the expected date for the completion of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61407/21]

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Brian Stanley

Question:

66. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of connections that the National Broadband Plan has made in total; and the total projected connections by December 2022. [61450/21]

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Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

89. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the status of the roll-out of the National Broadband Plan with specifics in relation to premises passed, connections made and if the 60,000 premises passed target for the end of January will be made. [61545/21]

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Bernard Durkan

Question:

94. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the degree to which his Department continues to monitor the progress in the delivery of broadband in urban and rural areas throughout the country having particular regard to the increased reliance on electronic communications given the necessity to work from home; if he is satisfied that the progress to date is adequate; if he plans specific measures to accelerate the roll-out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61427/21]

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Darren O'Rourke

Question:

135. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the number of residential and commercial connections delivered under the National Broadband Plan to date by the location of connections and on a quarterly basis in which they were completed tabular form. [61532/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51, 61, 64, 66, 89, 94 and 135 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 with some 679 schools. The NBP roll out is currently a 7 year plan under the contract and deployment is due to be complete by the end of 2026.

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. The first fibre to the home connections are successfully connected with over 27,000 premises passed and available for immediate connection. In total, almost 35,000 premises can order or pre-order a connection on the network as of 3 December. This includes residential and commercial premises. NBI has confirmed that over 3,900 premises have been connected as of 6 December and this is increasing on a daily basis. Connections have been made in 11 counties including Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Monaghan, Roscommon and Tipperary. To date, the level of connections are in line with projections and some areas are exceeding targets, for example, one area has seen almost a 25% take up after only a few months of going live.

In line with a remedial plan to address Covid-19 related delays which was agreed with the Department earlier this year, NBI was to have almost 60,000 premises passed and available for immediate connection by the end of January 2022 (the end of Contract Year 2). As would be expected with a large scale infrastructure build of this nature, challenges have been encountered as a result of Covid-19 and also planning and build related issues. NBI is actively working with its network and build partners to address these issues as they arise and has recently confirmed to my Department that the number of premises passed by the end of December will be in the order of 35,000, while between 50,000 and 60,000 premises will be able to order or pre-order a service by the end of the year. For more than another 120,000 premises, I am advised build work is underway demonstrating the project is reaching scale.

I met with the Board of NBI on 19 November last to restate the priority the Government attaches to this project and the need for urgent resolution of build related issues. I met with the Chair and CEO of both NBI and eir yesterday to reinforce that message.

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

Wind Energy Generation

Questions (52)

Brian Leddin

Question:

52. Deputy Brian Leddin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the steps he is taking to support the development of at least 30GW of offshore wind energy in the long term; his plans to give greater certainty that there will be a potential route to market for this amount of offshore wind energy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61481/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Ireland’s increased climate and energy ambition is reflected in the Government target to achieve 5GW of installed offshore wind generation by 2030. There is a further commitment in the Programme for Government to develop a longer-term plan to utilise the potential 30GW of offshore floating wind power in our Atlantic waters. The 5GW target will be primarily met through development of offshore renewable energy (ORE) in Ireland’s eastern and southern coastal regions. This reflects the suitability of water depths in these regions for deployment of conventional fixed bottom offshore wind turbines and existing electricity grid infrastructure to connect these projects to the onshore grid.

Subsequent cost-effective deployment of renewables in deeper waters off the west coast, to take advantage of stronger and more consistent wind speeds, should be increasingly feasible through future advances in floating turbine technology.

Development of the Maritime Area Planning Bill is being led by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, with my Department providing input on provisions specific to ORE. The enactment of this Bill will provide a modern, up-to-date regulatory framework that will enable ORE developments beyond the limits of the current foreshore regime. The Bill completed Final Stage in the Dáil on 1 December 2021 and Second Stage in the Seanad on 7 December 2021, with enactment anticipated by the end of the year.

Work on a revised Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) has also been initiated by my Department. This will provide an evidence base for the identification of areas most suitable for the sustainable development of both fixed and floating wind, wave, and tidal technologies, and will include an assessment of other maritime activities and marine biodiversity setting out the path-way for the development of ORE beyond 2030. In tandem with the OREDP, a comprehensive analysis of long-term routes to market will be undertaken by my Department in 2022.

Cybersecurity Policy

Questions (53)

Neasa Hourigan

Question:

53. Deputy Neasa Hourigan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to improve cybersecurity in the public sector in the aftermath of the cyber-attack on the HSE; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61430/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The second National Cyber Strategy published at the end of 2019 sets out a broad suite of measures to strengthen the security of Government networks and ICT systems. The Strategy defines the role of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – situated in my Department – to support Government Departments and other public bodies to improve the resilience and security of their IT systems, to better protect services that people rely upon and their data. Recognising the growing dependence on digital services and the evolving global cyber threat landscape, earlier this year Minister Ryan commissioned external consultants to conduct a Capacity Review and to benchmark the NCSC with similar agencies in Europe and internationally. Minister Ryan and I received the consultants’ report in June and in July the Government agreed a number of measures to support the continued development of the NCSC over the coming five years, including:

- Increasing the overall fulltime staffing complement of the NCSC to at least 70 over the next 5 years with a first tranche of an additional 20 staff recruited by end 2022 bringing the serving complement to 45.

- That the General Scheme of a Bill be prepared for Government approval, to establish the NCSC on a statutory basis and provide for related matters including clarity around its mandate.

- That the new role of Director of the NCSC be established at a salary level equivalent to that of Deputy Secretary in the Civil Service.

- That the existing cross-Government group overseeing the implementation of the National Cyber Security Strategy 2019-2024, chaired by the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications be tasked with developing an action plan for key elements of the capacity review, sponsoring implementation of the review, and reporting to the Minister/Government as necessary.

- That the future capital budget for the NCSC be informed by a 5-year NCSC technology strategy.

- The NCSC will be accommodated within the Department’s new Headquarters (HQ) in Beggars Bush.

- In addition to the creation of 20 new permanent posts in the NCSC, a cyber security graduate training programme would be initiated.

Implementation of the programme of work to deliver on these measures is well underway.

My Department has recently published a baseline cyber security standard to be applied by all Government Departments and key agencies. The NCSC has worked with colleagues across Government to develop the standard which will support public bodies to identify cyber risks, deploy appropriate mitigation measures, and protect personal and other important data. In addition, the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) based within the NCSC has developed and deployed technology on the infrastructure of Government Departments to detect and warn of certain types of threat.

Renewable Energy Generation

Questions (54)

Marc Ó Cathasaigh

Question:

54. Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the safeguards that he will put in place to ensure that communities can access supports for community renewable energy projects and to avoid supporting developers attempting to develop projects through a back door; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61483/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is the main Government policy to help deliver on our objective of up to 80% renewable electricity by 2030. The 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 Climate Action Plan includes a target for at least 500 MW of renewable electricity to be supplied by local community-based projects, meaning approximately 100 community projects will be needed to meet this ambition. In order to ensure such a pipeline of community projects I have allocated €2 million in capital funding in Budget 2022 to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). This funding 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 development. Some of this enabling framework is already in place with additional elements to be delivered in early 2022.

To ensure genuine community participation for future RESS auctions, only projects 100% owned by a Renewable Energy Community (REC) will be eligible for the separate community category, ensuring that all of the benefits of the project stay in the local area. The REC definition employed in RESS was derived from the REC definition provided through the EU’s Clean Energy Package, with particular reference to Article 22 of the recast Renewable Energy Directive (EU) 2018/2001. Accordingly, a REC must be open to all potential local members and its primary purpose should be to provide environmental, economic or social community benefits for the local areas where it operates, rather than financial profits.

Renewable Energy Generation

Questions (55)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Question:

55. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the estimated output of installed capacity of renewable energy available to the national grid by province; the steps he intends taking in ensuring that all areas of the country and their coastlines contribute equally to this national effort; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61408/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

Currently, over 4.5 GW of renewable generation is connected to the electricity grid. The System Operators, EirGrid and ESB Networks, publish every quarter an updated list of individually connected renewable generators on their websites including details of capacity and location.

The indicative electricity capacity targets set out in the Climate Action Plan 2021, envisage up to 8 GW of onshore wind, at least 5 GW of offshore wind and between 1.5 – 2.5 solar PV capacity by 2030. To meet these ambitious targets, it is vital that we take the necessary steps to deliver a more coherent spatial planning framework that supports the delivery of this additional electricity generation and aligns our national targets to the regional level. A series of actions are underway to deliver a more facilitative spatial planning framework for renewable electricity generation development. Specifically, the SEAI’s Methodology for Local Authority Renewable Energy Strategies will be revised to provide a best practice approach to identifying and assessing renewable energy resources in spatial planning at local authority level. Furthermore, my Department will set out an approach and target for the total onshore capacity that should be planned for on a national and regional level.

Waste Management

Questions (56)

Steven Matthews

Question:

56. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the steps he will take to reduce the level of single use disposable food containers and coffee cups in Ireland. [61412/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The forthcoming Circular Economy Bill will provide for the introduction of environmental levies on single-use disposable items, such as hot and cold beverage cups, and food containers, where more sustainable alternatives are available and affordable.

This approach is based on the very successful experience of the Plastic Bag Levy and the Landfill Levy, both of which have resulted in citizens and businesses adopting more sustainable practices.

The proposed new environmental levies are not primarily intended to be revenue raising measures, but rather to incentive shifts in consumer behaviour away from single-use items and towards re-usable alternatives. Any revenue associated with the new levies will be ring-fenced to fund the new Circular Economy Fund, which the Bill will establish in place of the existing Environment Fund. The new Fund will continue to support environmental protection initiatives while also having a specific mandate to promote the Circular Economy.

The first new environmental levy that will be introduced will be in respect of disposable hot beverage cups, and the necessary regulations will be published as a priority following enactment of the Bill.

The Bill also provides for the subsequent introduction of bans on the sale of those same classes of disposable items initially subject to the new levies, though again only where more sustainable alternatives are available and affordable. While the introduction of levies will be pursued in the first instance, I foresee bans becoming applicable in the medium term.

Departmental Strategies

Questions (57, 67)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

57. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will expedite the preparation of a national hydrogen strategy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61422/21]

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Brian Leddin

Question:

67. Deputy Brian Leddin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications his plans to develop a hydrogen strategy for Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61482/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 67 together.

The Climate Action Plan 2021, published last month, identifies green hydrogen as having the potential to support decarbonisation across several sectors and, in particular, in high-temperature heat for industry and in electricity generation. It also sets out how green hydrogen could address some of the challenges faced by the energy sector, such as providing a back-up for intermittent renewables, and key actions including carrying out a work programme to identify a route to deliver one to three TWh of zero emissions gas (including green hydrogen) by 2030.

To help inform national policy development, the SEAI is currently undertaking a National Heat Study, including consideration of the role of green hydrogen, which is expected to be published early next year.

At a European level, the European Commission is proposing a range of changes to European gas markets with a strong focus on hydrogen. This follows on from the hydrogen strategy which they published last year.

My Department continues to work with relevant Departments, agencies and stakeholders to carry out research and develop policies to support the uptake of green hydrogen. I expect a detailed strategy focussing on the development of green hydrogen to be included in Climate Action Plan 2022.

Climate Action Plan

Questions (58)

Darren O'Rourke

Question:

58. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the way he plans to roll-out district heating on a large scale; if legislative change will be required to achieve this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61423/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The rollout of district heating is supported by several actions under Climate Action Plan 2021.

These include establishment of a Steering Group that will oversee research to inform the development of district heating and that will make recommendations as to how the sector may be financed. The Steering Group will also make recommendations as to appropriate targets for district heating expansion, based on the National Heat Study, which is due to be published by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland next month.

My Department is liaising closely with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and relevant agencies to develop a regulatory framework for district heating along with any legislation that may be required.

I anticipate that the Local Authorities will have a leading role in the development of district heating, as is the case with the Tallaght District Heating Scheme and the Dublin District Heating System, both of which are local authority-led and funded by the Climate Action Fund.

Departmental Schemes

Questions (59)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

59. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the timeline for the publication of the finalised terms of reference for the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61485/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

My Department is currently developing terms and conditions for offshore wind auctions under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme. The first such auction, ORESS 1, will support the first phase of offshore wind development in Ireland.

The ORESS 1 auction is scheduled to commence in Q4 2022, subject to a sufficient quantity of eligible projects for a competitive process. A key component of auction eligibility will be for a project to hold a Foreshore Lease or a Maritime Area Consent (MAC). MACs are established under the Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Bill and are expected to be issued to eligible projects by Q3 2022.

A public consultation of the draft ORESS 1 Terms and Conditions was held between October 2021 and December 2021 and over 150 responses were received. My Department will issue a formal response to consultation feedback in Q1 2022, with final Terms and Conditions to be submitted for Government approval in Q2 2022.

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