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Tuesday, 14 Dec 2021

Written Answers Nos. 78-95

Electricity Generation

Questions (78)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

78. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he will provide a progress update on the implementation of a new microgeneration scheme to enable selling of electricity back to the grid by domestic, public and private producers including farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61342/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The pending introduction of a Clean Export Guarantee (CEG) tariff represents the first phase of a comprehensive enabling framework for micro-and small-scale generators in Ireland. This will allow all renewables self-consumers to receive remuneration from their electricity supplier for all excess renewable electricity exported to the grid, reflective of the market value of that electricity.

Following a public consultation, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) published a decision on an interim enabling framework for the CEG on 1 December last. This decision, inter alia, outlines eligibility criteria and remuneration methodology. The CRU has decided that suppliers will set their individual CEG tariffs on a competitive market basis. The CRU decision also includes a number of provisions to ensure that the implementation of the CEG aligns with the National Smart Metering Programme. The CEG will become available upon the transposition of Article 21 of RED II into Irish law, which is expected to be complete before the end of the year, and will be available to both new and existing micro- and small-scale generators who fulfil the eligibility criteria as determined by the CRU.

My Department is also developing the final scheme design for the Micro-generation Support Scheme (MSS). It is expected that a proposal on the supports to be offered to citizens, farms, businesses and other entities for new installations under the Scheme will be submitted to Government shortly. Following Government approval, it is expected that the scheme design will be published in early 2022 and supports will be introduced on a phased basis over the course of the year.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (79)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

79. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the progress to date in achieving emission reduction targets in line with the Programme for Government whilst at the same time protecting economic progress in the agri-food business or other sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61426/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Climate ambition in the Programme for Government has been placed on a statutory footing through the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, which was signed into law in July of this year. The Act commits Ireland to achieve a climate neutral economy by no later than 2050, and provides for a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2018 levels.

The significantly strengthened legally binding framework under the Act with clear targets and commitments set in law, including embedding a process of carbon budgeting and sectoral emissions ceilings, will help ensure that Ireland achieves its climate goals and obligations in the near and long-term. Establishing these requirements in legislation places a clear obligation on this and future governments for sustained climate action.

In order to deliver upon this ambition, the Government published Climate Action Plan 2021 in November 2021, which identifies the actions necessary to achieve our emissions reductions targets. The Plan sets out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy based on their respective starting points, and the relative difficulty, cost, speed, and benefits, of reducing emissions. All sectors, including agriculture will reduce emissions by an ambitious and achievable percentage, each playing a vital role in meeting our targets.

The plan builds on the significant progress made since CAP 2019, in particular in the areas of climate governance, renewable electricity, ensuring a just transition, the development of a National Residential Retrofit Plan and the increasing levels of bio-fuels in the transport sector. The National Development Plan has allocated significantly increased funding to climate action, including public transport and retrofitting over the next decade.

With regard to the agriculture sector, the core measures outlined in the Climate Action Plan 2021 include efficiencies across the agriculture sector and diversification measures, including increasing organic production and the production of biomethane. Further measures will be required to meet the targets set for this sector and include the introduction of a model for carbon farming, exploring feed-related methane reduction solutions, and conducting a diversification review which will include an assessment on the wider production of biomethane. The Government is committed to finding the balance between environmental, climate and biodiversity needs, and supports for farmers.

Failure to rapidly decarbonise our 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. Embracing the transition will support further job creation through the development of new and emerging sectors.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Questions (80)

Mick Barry

Question:

80. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the measures he will take to ensure that the targets set to be missed as documented in the Climate Change Advisory Council’s review of the year will be met in particular the lack of a long term emissions reduction strategy, a failure to meet the target of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 and the delayed measures for transport and heating in the Climate Action plan 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61469/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I welcome the publication of the Climate Change Advisory Council’s 2021 Annual Report. The report highlights that a significant ramp-up of mitigation effort is required across the agriculture, land-use, built environment and transport sectors. It also emphasises the importance of climate resilience, while also recognising the significant progress already made in decarbonising our electricity system. Additionally, it stresses that the transition will have a cost and preparations will be required to reduce the impact on the most vulnerable.

We have delivered key elements of our climate policy framework in the last year, including the milestone Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Act 2021, and the Climate Action Plan 2021 which identifies the policies,measures and actions necessary to achieve emissions reductions of 51% by 2030 and net zero emissions by no later than 2050.The Government will shortly publish an Annex of Actions, which will set out the detailed steps that must be taken to deliver on our climate commitments. We will shortly have in place a system of legally binding economy-wide carbon budgets and sectoral emissions ceilings, with relevant Ministers required to give account to the Oireachtas on performance on implementing the Climate Action Plan and adhering to the sector's emission ceiling for the carbon budget period.

The National Development Plan published in October allocated significantly increased funding to climate action, including public transport and retrofitting over the next decade.

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.

Following the enactment of the Climate Act in July, and the publication of the Climate Action Plan 2021 in November, we will in the coming period finalise Ireland’s Long-term Strategy to reflect this increased ambition.. The Strategy will be brought to Government for consideration and approval, ahead of being submitted to the European Commission.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 81.

Questions (81, 82, 123, 125, 144, 145, 173)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

81. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the role of advisers (details supplied) in the ownership structure of National Broadband Ireland and its role in the National Broadband Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61548/21]

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Mairéad Farrell

Question:

82. Deputy Mairéad Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the ownership structure of National Broadband Ireland and a company (details supplied) respectively with regard to the National Broadband Plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61538/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

123. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the safeguards that are in place in respect of the National Broadband Plan to protect the State from liability and or risk posed by the make-up and investor entities in National Broadband Ireland. [61370/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

125. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the steps National Broadband Ireland must take in advance of the inclusion of new investors or excluding investor entities in its corporate structure; and if he can veto changes to the corporate structure. [61372/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

144. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if his attention and or that of his officials was drawn to the involvement of a company (details supplied) in the context of it being an entity owned by another company; and if he will clarify the role of the company in the National Broadband Plan; the date on which the matter was notified to him; and the steps he took on receiving notice. [61578/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

145. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if he is satisfied that no change in ownership or amendments to same have been made in respect of the ownership structure of National Broadband Ireland since its formation. [61579/21]

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Sorca Clarke

Question:

173. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if clarity will be provided on the National Broadband Plan including investors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61977/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81, 82, 123, 125, 144, 145 and 173 together.

The contract for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led intervention, which was signed with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) in November 2019, is a comprehensive and detailed document. 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.

On the matter of ownership, Metallah Limited is the 100% owner of the shares in the capital of NBI - save for the special share of the Minister which does not provide ownership rights. Granahan McCourt Dublin Limited is the 100% owner of the shares in the capital of Metallah Limited and is owned 50.9% by Granahan McCourt Fund Limited (a David McCourt controlled company) and 49.1% by Tel-IE Broadband Sari, an entity managed and controlled by Oak Hill Advisors. The ownership structure remains as it was at contract signing and contract effective date.

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.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 81.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 72.

Questions (83, 91, 134, 141, 143)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

83. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the funding and equity committed to National Broadband Ireland and the National Broadband Plan by its investors; the corresponding funding and equity committed to the National Broadband Plan by the State to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61504/21]

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Matt Carthy

Question:

91. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the funds withdrawn or recouped from National Broadband Ireland – National Broadband Plan; and the resulting impact this may have on roll-out targets. [61474/21]

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Darren O'Rourke

Question:

134. Deputy Darren O'Rourke asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the breakdown of the €2.7 billion investment contained within the National Development Plan to deliver on the National Broadband Plan through National Broadband Ireland including the financial years that this investment corresponds. [61531/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

141. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the steps he and or his predecessor have taken to ensure that equity has been lodged and accounted for from the contract winner in the context of the National Broadband Plan; if he will provide a schedule of the equity received; the amount the State has provided to date; and the amount provided by the contract holder in working capital [61575/21]

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Catherine Murphy

Question:

143. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the identity of the majority shareholder in the National Broadband Ireland; the amount the consortium of investors has contributed to date; and the amount recouped. [61577/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 83, 91, 134, 141 and 143 together.

The contract for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) State led intervention, which was signed with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) in November 2019, is a comprehensive and detailed document. 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.

Of the €2.7 billion capped maximum exchequer subsidy committed to the National Broadband Plan, €2.1 billion relates to base subsidy, €0.48 billion is for contingencies and over €0.1 billion refers to VAT. This subsidy has been committed over a 25 year period. Total funds of €223m, including working capital, have been committed by the consortium to the NBP in accordance with the requirements of the contract.

The investors are providing funding through the purchase of shares in NBI and the provision of shareholder loans. I am advised that utilising both instruments is a standard form of investment in infrastructure companies and reference to both as being “equity investments” is common practice.

The initial drawdown of committed shareholder funds by NBI was €100 million in January 2020. This was drawn down before the release of any subsidy by the State. I am advised that no shareholder distributions have been made to date. I am also advised that a further drawdown of investor funds of €20m will be made in the coming weeks and that the full amount of committed equity of €175m is covered by guarantees.

As of November 2021, €167.8m of subsidy had been claimed by NBI which equates to approximately 6% of the maximum State Subsidy. At that same point, 45% of investor funds had been drawn down.

I am advised that the level of funding committed and the manner in which it has been committed is in accordance with the contract.

On the matter of ownership, Metallah Limited is the 100% owner of the shares in the capital of NBI - save for the special share of the Minister which does not provide ownership rights. Granahan McCourt Dublin Limited is the 100% owner of the shares in the capital of Metallah Limited and is owned 50.9% by Granahan McCourt Fund Limited (a David McCourt controlled company) and 49.1% by Tel-IE Broadband Sari, an entity managed and controlled by Oak Hill Advisors. The ownership structure remains as it was at contract signing and contract effective date.

Question No. 84 answered with Question No. 72.

Illegal Dumping

Questions (85)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

85. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if his Department has had discussions with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in relation to staffing to tackle litter; if local authorities have adequate resources to tackle fly-tipping and illegal dumping; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61518/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Litter Pollution Act and the Waste Management Act provide the statutory framework to combat littering and illegal dumping respectively. Under the Acts, the primary responsibility for litter, waste management and enforcement activity lies with the Local Authorities and the Office of Environmental Enforcement within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

It is a matter for each Local Authority to determine the most appropriate course of action to tackle litter pollution and illegal dumping locally within the legislation provided. This includes determining the most appropriate staffing, public awareness, enforcement, infrastructure provision and clean-up arrangements in relation to litter and waste, taking account of local circumstances and priorities.

My Department continues to invest significantly in the local authority waste enforcement network under the Local Authority Waste Enforcement Measures Grant Scheme, with the intention of maintaining a visible presence of waste enforcement personnel on the ground across the State. Over €7.7m was provided to local authorities under the scheme in 2021, in order to support the recruitment and retention of over 150 local authority waste enforcement staff across the country. My Department also continues to support the ongoing enhancement of the role, capacity and responsibilities of the Waste Enforcement Regional Lead Authorities, in order to position the local authority sector to better respond to emerging and priority enforcement challenges. I am satisfied that local authorities have the necessary resources in place to continue to effectively tackle fly-tipping and illegal dumping.

Energy Policy

Question No. 87 answered with Question No. 60.

Questions (86)

Jennifer Whitmore

Question:

86. Deputy Jennifer Whitmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the impact that building up to seven new gas power stations will have on Ireland’s ability to meet climate action targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61343/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government's Policy Statement on Security of Electricity Supply, published at the end of last month, sets out that the development of new conventional generation, including gas-fired generation, is a national priority and should be permitted and supported in order to ensure security of electricity supply and support the achievement of higher levels of renewable electricity generation.

The policy statement supports the need to deliver circa 2 GW of new gas-fired generation which is set out in the National Development Plan 2021-2030 and the Climate Action Plan 2021.

The need for this level of new gas-fired generation capacity was identified by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, which has statutory responsibility for security of electricity supply, and EirGrid.

As set out in EirGrid's Generation Capacity Statement, which was published in September, much of this new capacity is needed to replace older high-emitting power stations such as those fuelled by oil and coal. It is also needed to meet growing demand from large energy users, such as data centres, and the electrification of the heat and transport sectors.

It is important to note that the development of flexible gas-fired generation is to provide security of supply and support increased levels of renewable electricity generation. The new capacity will only run when needed and therefore minimise the level of associated emissions.

Question No. 87 answered with Question No. 60.

Electricity Grid

Question No. 89 answered with Question No. 51.

Questions (88)

Alan Farrell

Question:

88. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the status of the development of the Celtic Interconnector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61491/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Celtic Interconnector is an electricity interconnector jointly proposed by EirGrid and the French Transmission System Operator, RTÉ (Réseau de Transport d’Électricité). It is proposed as a 575km long, with 500km of this being subsea, 700MW cable connecting the north-west coast of France to the south coast of Ireland. At this scale it would be able to provide electricity for some 450,000 homes.

The Celtic Interconnector will provide a reliable high-capacity electricity link between Ireland and France that will have significant benefits for electricity consumers in Ireland. The project will provide access to the European internal energy market, leading to expected increased competition and lower prices in Ireland. It will also enhance security of electricity supply and facilitate increased capacity for renewable energy here via export access to the mainland European markets.

In late 2019, the European Commission announced a grant of €530 million towards the construction of the interconnector under the Connecting Europe Facility fund. Following extensive planning and multiple periods of public consultation over the past number of years, EirGrid decided earlier this year on the interconnector’s route in East Cork. EirGrid have further decided to establish an enhanced community benefit scheme for neighbouring communities. EirGrid will continue to engage with the public on this project in the coming months and years.

While I have no function in the area of consenting for the interconnector, I understand from EirGrid that applications to all relevant consenting authorities are now submitted. Statutory public consultations with regard to the planning and foreshore licence applications have been held in recent months.

Question No. 89 answered with Question No. 51.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 83.

Questions (90)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

90. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the engagement he has had with National Broadband Ireland and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that current delays to the roll-out will be resolved; the measures being considered to improve on the current projected delivery dates; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61452/21]

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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 some 679 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.

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

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.

National Broadband Ireland 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 in 13 counties across Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Monaghan, Roscommon, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow. In total, over 282,000 premises in the Intervention Area across all counties have been surveyed, with over 150,000 premises under construction or complete with activity now underway in all 26 counties.

While delivery of the Programme is the responsibility of NBI under the Contract, my Department continues to monitor delivery very closely in accordance with the Department’s role under the contract. In parallel with the ongoing oversight of the contract with NBI, the Department has also been working with the 31 Local Authorities, the County and City Management Agency (CCMA), the Roads Maintenance Office (RMO), Broadband Officers and other Government Departments, where appropriate, to ensure that any possible barriers that might delay the rollout are addressed as soon as possible. This also includes engagement with other bodies such as Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Irish Rail and ComReg.

Question No. 91 answered with Question No. 83.

Illegal Dumping

Questions (92)

Neale Richmond

Question:

92. Deputy Neale Richmond asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications if local authorities will receive support in 2021 and 2022 to help fund anti-dumping initiatives particularly regarding the Dublin mountains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61262/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Anti-Dumping Initiative (ADI) was introduced in 2017 to encourage a collaborative approach between local authorities, communities, and other State Agencies to tackling the problem of illegal dumping. Funding of over €9 million has been provided by my Department under the Initiative, which has supported the delivery of over 1,000 projects nationwide. Details of funding, broken down by local authority and individual project, for each of the years 2017-2020 are available on the gov.ie website at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/publication/e27ac-anti-dumping-initiative/

€3m has been allocated to local authorities under the 2021 ADI. Payments to each local authority are currently being finalised and details will be made available on the gov.ie website when complete. Allocations for 2022 have yet to be finalised, but it is likely that a similar amount will be made available in 2022.

As regards the Dublin mountains, my Department continue to provide support to the Protecting Uplands and Rural Environments (PURE) project, which was established in 2006 to combat illegal dumping and fly-tipping in the Wicklow/Dublin Uplands. PURE is a partnership project incorporating statutory and non-statutory organisations, including Wicklow, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown and South Dublin County Councils, Coillte, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the Wicklow Uplands Council..

€115,000 has been allocated in support of the PURE Project in 2021 and my Department has committed to maintaining this figure for at least a further two years to end 2023. My Department has also separately approved an allocation of up to €150,000 in 2021 to enable the purchase of a PURE Project truck. This purchase will help to provide greater certainty for the operational work of the Project in the coming years.

Wind Energy Generation

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 51.

Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 1.

Questions (93)

Steven Matthews

Question:

93. Deputy Steven Matthews asked the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications the steps he will take to ensure citizen engagement with offshore wind energy projects in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [61411/21]

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Written answers (Question to Environment)

The Government considers citizen engagement to be at the heart of Ireland’s energy and climate transformation. It is critically important that citizens and local communities are recognised as best placed to understand their own needs and concerns, as well as enabled to effectively participate in implementing the changes required. Local communities will be central to the decision-making processes of community engagement initiatives as part of Ireland’s offshore renewable energy journey.

The Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Bill, which has been passed by Dáil Éireann and is currently before Seanad Éireann, will enable the realisation of our offshore renewable energy ambition by establishing a well-regulated and inclusive consenting process, with comprehensive environmental assessments and consultative processes to better enable meaningful community engagement.

My Department has also just completed a public consultation on the draft terms and conditions for the first offshore wind auction under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme, ORESS 1, which will support the first phase of offshore wind development in Ireland. Projects successful at this auction will be required to make significant community benefit contributions from an early stage in the lifecycle of an offshore wind project. There has been a tremendous response from local communities to this consultation and my Department will now carefully consider all submissions before issuing a formal response early next year. I look forward to working harmoniously with local communities and the offshore renewable energy industry to make this happen together in a way that is successful for everyone involved.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 51.
Question No. 95 answered with Question No. 1.
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