Questions Nos. 1 to 8, inclusive, answered orally.

Broadband Service Provision

Questions Nos. 10 and 11 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (9)

David Stanton

Ceist:

9. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the total cost of delivering the metropolitan area networks, MANs; if all 88 MANs are now lit; the numbers of persons and businesses using the MANs infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11656/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The cost to the State of delivering the Metropolitan Area Networks or MANs Programme is in the region of €176 million. The Programme was eligible for co-funding of 40% to 50% under the European Regional Development Fund. Phase I of the MANs programme delivered optical fibre based networks to twenty eight towns and cities around the country. The total capital cost of Phase I of the Programme was €85 million. Phase II of the MANs programme delivered a further sixty fibre networks serving sixty-six towns. The total capital cost of Phase II of the Programme is €91.5 million. The MANs are managed, maintained and operated by e|net, who were appointed as Concessionaire following a procurement process in 2004 for the Phase I MANs and in 2009 for the Phase II MANs. e|net makes the networks available to the telecommunications sector on an open access basis.

Of the 88 MANs, 83 are currently “lit”, that is, connected to backhaul and in use by one or more licensed telecoms service providers. The final Phase II MAN, Kinsale, will shortly be handed over to e|net. The MANs that are not currently lit are available and ready to meet demand for services as it arises. e|net is a commercial organisation and information on traffic on the MANs is commercially sensitive. However, it is estimated that in excess of 600,000 individuals and business users are currently benefiting from the MANs infrastructure. The number of connections to the MANs has doubled in recent years and over 50 service providers are using the MANs infrastructure.

Since the inception of the MANs Programme, demand for bandwidth has increased significantly and this increase is expected to continue. Almost all broadband service providers are increasingly turning to optical fibre to backbone their networks. Service providers will continue to bring optical fibre closer to their end users. The MANs are ready to meet the demand for fibre connectivity and are well placed to serve the needs of service providers and their end users for the foreseeable future. The following table sets out a list of the MANs, the construction completion date for each MAN and the current status of each MAN:

Phase One Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs)

-

MAN

County

Year of Completion

Year MAN was lit

1

Cavan

Cavan

2006

2006

2

Kingscourt

Cavan

2006

2012

3

Cork

Cork

2005

2005

4

Carlow

Carlow

2005

2006

5

Letterkenny

Donegal

2004

2005

6

Gweedore

Donegal

2005

2011

7

Galway

Galway

2004

2004

8

Kilkenny

Kilkenny

2005

2006

9

Portlaoise

Laois

2005

2005

10

Carrick-on-Shannon

Leitrim

2005

2005

11

Manorhamilton

Leitrim

2005

2006

12

Limerick

Limerick

2005

2005

13

Dundalk

Louth

2006

2006

14

Drogheda

Louth

2006

2006

15

Ballina

Mayo

2003

2004

16

Belmullet

Mayo

2011

Not yet lit

17

Kiltimagh

Mayo

2003

2009

18

Carrickmacross

Monaghan

2006

2012

19

Monaghan

Monaghan

2006

2008

20

Tullamore

Offaly

2005

2006

21

Roscommon

Roscommon

2004

2006

22

Sligo

Sligo

2005

2005

23

Clonmel

Tipperary

2004

2004

24

Dungarvan

Waterford

2004

2006

25

Waterford

Waterford

2005

2005

26

Athlone

Westmeath

2004

2005

27

Mullingar

Westmeath

2005

2006

28

Wexford

Wexford

2005

2005

Phase Two Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs)

MAN

County

Year of Completion

Year MAN was lit

1

Cootehill

Cavan

2007

2010

2

Bailieborough

Cavan

2007

2012

3

Kilrush

Clare

2008

2012

4

Bantry

Cork

2008

2010

5

Blarney

Cork

2008

2009

6

Carrigaline/Ringaskiddy/Passage West

Cork

2008

2009

7

Charleville

Cork

2008

2011

8

Dunmanway

Cork

2008

2012

9

Fermoy

Cork

2008

2012

10

Kanturk

Cork

2008

2013

11

Kinsale

Cork

2013

Not lit yet

12

Midleton

Cork

2008

2012

13

Mitchelstown

Cork

2008

2013

14

Skibbereen

Cork

2008

2012

15

Youghal

Cork

2008

2012

16

Ballybofey/Stranorlar

Donegal

2007

2011

17

Ballyshannon

Donegal

2007

2009

18

Buncrana

Donegal

2007

2011

19

Bundoran

Donegal

2007

2012

20

Carndonagh

Donegal

2007

2012

21

Donegal Town

Donegal

2007

2010

22

Donabate/Portrane

Dublin

2007

2010

23

Lusk

Dublin

2007

2011

24

Skerries

Dublin

2007

2011

25

Athenry

Galway

2007

2012

26

Ballinasloe

Galway

2007

2011

27

Clifden

Galway

2007

2013

28

Gort

Galway

2007

2012

29

Loughrea

Galway

2007

2011

30

Killarney

Kerry

2008

2009

31

Castleisland

Kerry

2008

2010

32

Tralee

Kerry

2008

2009

33

Listowel

Kerry

2008

2010

34

Thomastown

Kilkenny

2008

2013

35

Abbeyfeale

Limerick

2008

2012

36

Newcastlewest

Limerick

2008

2012

37

Longford

Longford

2007

2009

38

Ardee

Louth

2007

2012

39

Ballinrobe

Mayo

2007

2012

40

Claremorris

Mayo

2008

2011

41

Knock

Mayo

2007

Not yet lit

42

Clonee/Dunboyne

Meath

2007

2009

43

Dunshaughlin

Meath

2007

2013

44

Kells

Meath

2007

2011

45

Navan

Meath

2007

2009

46

Trim

Meath

2007

2011

47

Castleblayney

Monaghan

2007

2010

48

Clones

Monaghan

2007

2012

49

Nenagh

North Tipperary

2008

2012

50

Roscrea

North Tipperary

2008

2012

51

Templemore

North Tipperary

2008

2011

52

Edenderry

Offaly

2009

2011

53

Banagher

Offaly

2008

Not yet lit

54

Birr

Offaly

2008

2011

55

Cahir

South Tipperary

2008

2012

56

Carrick-on-Suir

South Tipperary

2008

2012

57

Tipperary

Tipperary

2008

2013

58

Cashel

Tipperary

2008

2012

59

Blessington

Wicklow

2008

Not yet lit

60

Kilcoole/Newtownmountkennedy

Wicklow

2008

2012

Questions Nos. 10 and 11 answered orally.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (12, 16)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

12. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to improve broadband services in County Donegal through the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11499/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

16. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide an update on the mapping process being undertaken as part of the national broadband plan; the timeline for completion of same; the way he believes it will improve the services to many parts of rural Ireland which remain without a satisfactory broadband service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10850/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 16 together.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August 2012, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses including those in County Donegal. This will be achieved by providing:

- a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment, and

- a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. In the fixed line segment of the market, Eircom has announced plans to pass 1.4m addresses with its next generation broadband service, with speeds of up to 100Mbps, while UPC has increased its entry level and maximum speeds to 120Mbps and 200Mbps respectively. Mobile operators have also made announcements regarding network upgrades and are rolling out enhanced product offerings. The ESB Electronic Communications Bill, will, when enacted, enable the ESB to utilise its electricity distribution network to provide telecommunications services and is a further step in promoting investment in competitively priced high speed broadband.

Many of these developments have been facilitated through the implementation of measures in the National Broadband Plan, including the conclusion of ComReg's multiband spectrum auction, and the regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and service bundles. Both of these measures are designed to incentivise the rollout of services by operators.

In tandem with these developments, intensive work, including a comprehensive mapping exercise, continues in my Department in relation to the State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access. In order to progress the State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained.

Under the national mapping exercise, information has been sought from all undertakings authorised by ComReg in relation to current and planned broadband services, both basic and next generation access (NGA). Mapping data has been submitted to my Department by a total of 23 operators and the process of analysing the data and supporting information is continuing. The mapping data is being assessed on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the EU State Aid Guidelines. When all of the information has been analysed, a clear picture should emerge of coverage throughout all of the country. I expect that this process will be completed later this year, after which it is my intention to publish a map showing existing and planned NGA broadband coverage, along with the Government’s proposals for a State-led intervention to roll out high speed broadband across the country. The procurement process for the approved intervention will be carried out in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules and it is expected that it will be launched later in 2014.

Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, I am committed to ensuring that all parts of Ireland have access to high speed broadband, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in, and maximise the benefits of, a digitally enabled economy and society.

Environmental Protection Agency Expenditure

Ceisteanna (13)

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

13. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the cost of the Environmental Protection Agency study into hydraulic fracturing; the funding arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11496/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

While the EPA is managing the study into the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing under the STRIVE programme, the research programme is being co-funded by the EPA, my own Department and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. While the call for tenders for the appointment of the appropriate expertise to carry out the research programme has been completed, the appraisal of the tenders received is still underway and appropriate experts have yet to be appointed. It is, therefore, difficult to be definitive at this juncture with regard to final costs.

It should be noted that the scope of this study is considerable with its key objectives being to ascertain if Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction projects and operations can be carried out on the island of Ireland while also protecting the environment and human health and what is best environmental practice in relation to Unconventional Gas Exploration and Extraction projects and operations. In order to conclude on these matters, the appointed experts will consider baseline characterisation with respect to groundwater, air and seismicity, together with potential environmental impacts and mitigations of hydraulic fracturing, along with a consideration of best international regulatory practice. It is expected that the total cost of the research programme will be in the order of €1m.

Inland Fisheries Regulation

Ceisteanna (14)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

14. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a breakdown of the number and location of fish counters in our rivers to count returning salmon; his views on whether there are adequate counters to provide scientific advice on fish returns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11505/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Fish counters are a component element of the assessment array in use by the independent Standing Scientific Committee for Salmon. In carrying out salmon stock assessments the Committee draws on a number of data sets including rod and commercial catch data, fish counters and catchment wide electro-fishing. Salmon stocks are assessed in the majority of rivers using salmon rod catch data. These data are used in conjunction with an angler exploitation rate to assess the total salmon stock. This assessment is then correlated with the salmon Conservation Limit which is the number of adult fish required to spawn and sustain a healthy population for each river. Any commercial salmon catch is also included in this calculation.

Fish counters are a component element of the assessment array in use by the Standing Scientific Committee for Salmon and are particularly useful in cases where rod or commercial data is not available. Of the rivers assessed for the 2014 season, fish counters were used on 31 to assess the upstream salmon run against the conservation limit and facilitate the Standing Scientific Committee for Salmon in formulating its advice for those particular rivers. I am advised that, given the availability of catch records on the majority of rivers, and other indices the number of fish counters in use is considered sufficient as a component within the array of methodologies available to the Standing Scientific Committee for Salmon. However the requirement for additional counters is continually reviewed, as it is recognised by all that counters provide additional granularity on the status of salmon stocks.

The following table lists the location of the counters. For other rivers, catchment wide electro-fishing is used to determine the abundance of juvenile salmon in a catchment as an indicator of adult salmon presence.

Location of Counters

River

Fishery District

16

Cashla

Connemara

1

Dee

Dundalk

17

Ballynahinch

Connemara

2

Fane

Dundalk

18

Owenglin

Ballinakill

3

Boyne

Drogheda

19

Dawros

Ballinakill

4

Liffey

Dublin

20

Culfin

Ballinakill

5

Slaney

Wexford

21

Erriff

Ballinakill

6

Bandon

Cork

22

Bunowen

Ballinakill

7

Kerry Blackwater

Kerry

23

Burrishoole

Bangor

8

Waterville

Kerry

24

Owenduff

Bangor

9

Maine

Kerry

25

Munhin

Bangor

10

Feale

Limerick

26

Owenmore

Bangor

11

Mulkear

Limerick

27

Ballisodare

Sligo

12

Shannon

Limerick

28

Erne

Ballyshannon

13

Dunkellin

Galway

29

Eany

Ballyshannon

14

Corrib

Galway

30

Eske

Ballyshannon

15

Boluisce

Galway

31

Clady

Letterkenny

Inland Fisheries Ireland

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 12.

Question No. 17 answered with Question No. 11.

Ceisteanna (15)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

15. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has confidence in the work being done by Inland Fisheries Ireland; if any other Department has raised any issue with him in relation to the work and professional competence of the staff of this agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11504/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The establishment of IFI has facilitated more efficient and effective management of the inland fisheries resource along with an enhanced national perspective in the formulation of relevant policy which is more streamlined, coherent and integrated. Since its establishment IFI has developed innovative technologies and working methods to create cost efficiencies with no loss of operational efficiency in delivering its services. IFI’s broad range of functions and responsibilities are set out the section 7 of Inland Fisheries Act 2010. In summary these functions relate to the protection, conservation, management and promotion of Ireland’s inland fish resources and of sea angling. In accordance with Section 7 of the 2010 Act IFI has specific functions in relation to research and to environmental matters set out in EU and domestic legislation, particularly the Habitats Directive.

Section 7(2) (a) of the 2010 Act specifically charges IFI with advising the Minister on conservation, protection, management, marketing development and improvement of inland fisheries, including sea angling. In relation to salmon, IFI is supported by the independent Standing Scientific Committee, established in accordance with the 2010 Act, comprised of scientists from the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Loughs Agency, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, the Marine Institute and other State Agencies. In its role as the Department’s statutory scientific advisors as regards the inland fisheries resource, all advice is supported by fact-based scientific and technical research conducted by the Agency.

Given the challenging work-load and circumstances following the establishment of IFI, the amalgamation of 17 bodies into a single national organisation and the continued delivery of excellent services country-wide from a new agency has been a great success. I have confidence in the work of the Board, management and staff of the agency in achieving that success and across the wide range of functions as ascribed to the Agency by section 7 of the Inland Fisheries Act 2010.

Question No. 16 answered with Question No. 12.
Question No. 17 answered with Question No. 11.

Energy Resources

Ceisteanna (18)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

18. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the extent to which adequate alternative energy electricity generating capacity is being provided for over the next 20 years with particular reference to the need to ensure the minimisation of carbon penalties; the need to ensure adequate energy resources to meet economic development requirements in the period in question; the extent to which it is expected to achieve energy self-sufficiency and security from non-fossil fuel sources in this period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10959/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The overarching objective of the Government's energy policy is to ensure secure and sustainable supplies of competitively priced energy to all consumers. Ireland is currently heavily reliant on imported fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. While it is acknowledged that fossil fuels will remain part of the energy mix for some time to come, progress is being made towards increasing the share of renewable energy in our generation porfolio.

The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive set Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. In order to meet this target, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand from renewable sources. Figures for 2013 show that 19% of electricity demand was met from renewables.To date wind energy has been the largest driver of growth in renewable electricity, contributing most towards the achievement of the 2020 target. In 2013, 17% of electricity demand was met by wind generation. At the end of 2013, the total amount of renewable generation connected to the grid was 2,300 MW. It is estimated that a total of between 3,500 and 4,000 MW of onshore renewable generation capacity will be required to allow Ireland to meet its 40% renewable electricity target. Currently, around 3,000 MW of renewable generation has taken up connection offers under the Gate 3 grid connection programme.

The issue of carbon penalties potentially arises with regard to Ireland's 2020 renewable energy target. Currently Ireland is in line with our forecast trajectory to meet this target. My Department closely monitors progress in this regard. We are now looking towards a new EU energy and climate change framework for 2030, and to acheiving a low carbon economy by 2050. Following the recent publication by the European Commission of its proposal for a 2030 Climate and Energy Framework, my Department is undertaking analysis to establish the scale of the contribution Ireland can make to the achievement of the proposed EU renewable energy target of 27%, while ensuring that action taken will be cost effective.

Renewable Energy Exports

Ceisteanna (19)

Michael Colreavy

Ceist:

19. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has had any discussions with the British Government regarding the amount it would pay for Irish renewable energy sources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11495/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In January of 2013 the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Mr. Edward Davey M.P. and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding on energy cooperation. That Memorandum sent a strong signal of our shared interest in exploring the opportunity to export green electricity from Ireland to Britain and resulted in consideration over the last fifteen months of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of both countries.

From the outset, it was our shared understanding that both States would enter into an Inter-Governmental Agreement to facilitate renewable energy trading only if it was mutually beneficial to do so. Significant work has been undertaken on various workstreams including policy, spatial development, regulatory approaches and economic analysis. A full cost benefit analysis (CBA), assessing if it is mutually beneficial for Ireland and the United Kingdom to enter an Inter-Governmental Agreement is substantially complete. From an Irish perspective the potential benefits would include jobs created, community gain, interconnection benefits, corporation tax receipts, rates paid to local authorities and a dividend of trade. This analysis also includes examination of issues such as the amount of energy to be procured by the UK and the mechanisms for sharing the resultant dividend of trade, including an appropriate return to the Irish Exchequer.

Based on the CBA, it is clear that under certain sets of arrangements renewable energy trading between Ireland and the UK could deliver significant benefits for both States while also being attractive for renewable energy generators. However, any IGA would have to be designed in a manner that would be workable for both Ireland and the UK. In this regard, both Ireland and the UK recognise that there are a number of very complex issues that have yet to be resolved in order to deliver renewable energy trading projects, particularly projects focused on delivery for 2020. Key policy and regulatory design decisions remain to be taken by the UK on matters which are central to the design of any energy trading scheme and to the conclusion of an IGA including (i) the maximum quantity of electricity to be procured; (ii) the structure of the payment mechanism, the basis for allocating payments, and the resultant financial flows to electricity generators and tranmission asset owners; (iii) the regulatory approach to the transmission wire; and (iv) the arrangements for sharing the dividend of trading. Certainty on these matters would also be essential for renewable generators if they are to deliver for 2020, given the long lead in time on projects of this nature.

As I have explained many times in the House and outside, there can only be an Intergovernmental Agreement if there is considerable value to Ireland in employment and economic terms. Against that standard and given the issues still unresolved, I made public my judgement after meeting with Minister Ed Davey last week that it is doubtful that the project can be delivered as envisaged.

Mobile Telephony

Ceisteanna (20)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

20. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the progress his Department has made to date with mobile phone operators in an effort to eliminate roaming charges for Irish customers while travelling through Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11500/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The regulation of retail charges for roaming services is implemented by way of EU Regulations which limit the maximum retail prices for retail roaming services within the European Union. The first such EU Regulation commenced in 2007. Two further EU Regulations were introduced in 2010 and 2012 to further reduce the maximum permitted retail roaming charges within the EU and to increase consumer protection measures by requiring service providers to inform users of the roaming charges they may incur and additional requirements to curtail services in order to avoid bill shocks in any billing period. The purpose of these recurring EU Regulations is to bring about common tariffs for both national and roaming services within the EU internal market.

The current EU Regulation, which commenced in July 2012, imposes two further reductions in retail roaming charges, effective from July 2013 and July 2014. When the second reduction is implemented in July next, the regulated maximum per minute price, exclusive of VAT, will have reduced from €0.49 in 2007 to €0.19 for making a call and from €0.24 in 2007 to €0.05 for receiving a call. In addition the retail price for data services when roaming, will have reduced from €0.70 to €0.20 per megabyte, exclusive of VAT, between July 2012 and July 2014.

In addition, the EU Regulation adopted in 2012 also requires mobile service providers to take positive steps to advise customers on the means of avoiding inadvertent roaming, which can occur in border regions when the mobile signal from a service provider in the adjacent State is stronger then the signal provided by a user's domestic service provider at any particular location. Mobile phone users can avoid inadvertent roaming by disabling the automatic network selection setting on handsets in favour of the manual network selection mode. In Ireland the competing service providers offer options for users roaming in Northern Ireland. The available options include roaming calls billed at national rates, no additional charges for calls received and some calls included within bundled minutes. The offers differ from service provider to service provider. Full details of the options available can be obtained from the individual service providers or on the website www.callcosts.ie.