Flood Relief Schemes Payments

Ceisteanna (258)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

258. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when payment will issue to a person (details supplied) in County Donegal under the Inishowen flood damage relief measure 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4877/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

An application to receive financial aid under the Flood Damage Relief Measure was received in the Department on 29th September 2017.  The processing of this application is on-going and is expected to be finalised shortly.

North-South Interconnector

Ceisteanna (259)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

259. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the North-South interconnector is to proceed, if EirGrid will have permission to enter farmers' lands against their will to erect the pylons; if so, the basis on which it has the right to do same; if the cost of dealing with the likely civil disobedience that will be generated from this action has been factored in; and if so, the estimated cost of same. [4679/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

On 21 December 2016 An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the North-South Interconnector project in Ireland. The decision concluded a lengthy planning process which included an Oral Hearing completed over eleven weeks from March to May of 2016. On 23 January 2018, full planning permission was also granted for the section of the line that lies in Northern Ireland. Following these decisions, and the conclusion of a number of judicial review proceedings relating to the decision in Ireland, EirGrid will continue to move to the next planned phased in the project. This is an operational matter for EirGrid and ESB Networks and I therefore have no function.

Following the decision of An Bord Pleanála to approve the interconnector, I met with the local opposition groups and members of the Oireachtas in Leinster House on 8 February 2017 to listen to concerns they had. 

Following this, motions calling for an updated independent study were passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann respectively. I have commissioned two independent studies designed to address the main points of the motions as well as key concerns expressed by parties opposed to the development of an overhead line.

The first is to examine the technical feasibility and cost of undergrounding the project. In the development of the terms of reference for this study, my officials met with the local opposition groups to get their views on the focus of the study. The study began in August 2017 and its results are expected this quarter.

The second study is focused on the compensation provided to land and property owners in proximity to high-voltage transmission lines in a European context. The results of this study are also expected this quarter. Both reports will be published and available to all parties concerned.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (260, 261)

James Browne

Ceist:

260. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the energy savings achieved in each calendar year by each of the 11 individual obligated parties (details supplied) since the commencement of the energy efficiency obligation scheme in 2014; the methods used to achieve these energy savings, by year for each of the 11 individual obligated parties; his views on the operation of the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4847/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

James Browne

Ceist:

261. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the engagement he has had with each of the obligated parties (details supplied) under the energy efficiency obligation scheme; the proposals each of the obligated parties have to reduce the State's dependence on fossil fuel usage, including proposals for the electrification of heat and transport; if he has satisfied himself regarding the progress under Ireland's transition to a low carbon energy future 2015 to 2030; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4848/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 260 and 261 together.

The Energy Efficiency Obligation Scheme (EEOS) is implemented in Ireland under Article 7 of the Energy Efficiency Directive (which was transposed by Statutory Instruments (SI's) 131 of 2014 and 634 of 2016). The Directive imposes a legal obligation on Member States to achieve new savings each year, from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2020, equivalent to 1.5% of the annual energy sales to final customers of all energy distributors and all retail energy sales companies.  The EEOS places obligations on energy suppliers and distributors, who sell more than 600 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy per year, to deliver savings from energy efficiency measures.   Obligated Parties are required to deliver their savings across all sectors, with 75% to come from the non-residential sector, 25% from the residential sector. Of the 25% residential target , 5% of savings must come from energy poor dwellings.  In 2018 the combined obligated target for all Parties is 700 GWh of energy savings.

Supported by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which administers the scheme, there are a number of ways in which my Department engages with the Obligated Parties. I issue each obligated party with an Energy Efficiency Notice that details their annual targets and sectorial breakdown, and penalties for non-compliance. SEAI provides reports to the  Obligated Parties and the Department on progress to target.  Senior representatives of the Obligated Parties meet with my officials and the SEAI at quarterly EEOS Governance Group meetings, which are chaired by a senior official of the Department and cover the operation and governance of the scheme. Obligated parties meet regularly on an informal basis with the SEAI to discuss their progress on the scheme, and with my Department as part of regular stakeholder engagement with the energy sector. Where changes are proposed to the scheme, Obligated Parties are invited to workshops by SEAI and are also invited to submit written proposals. 

As regards the methods Obligated Parties use to achieve to achieve energy savings, in the non-residential sector, these include, upgrades to lighting, ventilation and air conditioning, heating systems, motors, drives and pumps etc.  In the residential sector, most of the measures are fabric upgrades (insulation) or heating and control upgrades. Since the scheme commenced in 2014, obligated parties have delivered a large number of electric-based heating projects,  which include the installation of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants towards non-residential targets and the installation of heat pump systems towards residential targets. There have also been a number of transport projects focusing primarily on eco-driving, fleet and energy management. This year, some Obligated Parties are proposing to carry out a number of projects to promote the uptake of electric vehicles and the installation of charging infrastructure, particularly in the commercial sector.

The objective of the Scheme is to incentivise a competitive market to deliver energy savings. While Obligated Parties do report the measures they carry out to the SEAI and to my Department  for monitoring and reporting purposes, the measures they choose to carry out to meet their targets are a commercial decision for them.

Energy efficiency is the first step in reducing our dependence on fossil fuel. The less energy we use, and the more flexibly we use it, the easier it is to integrate low carbon generation, transport and heating technologies. By the end of 2020, the scheme is required to deliver 4,375 GWh of savings.  As of the end of 2017 the obligated parties have delivered just over 2,600 GWh in savings under the scheme. This demonstrates the crucial importance of the scheme for Ireland's progress to its 2020 energy efficiency target - a crucial milestone in our path to a low carbon energy future.

Energy Policy

Ceisteanna (262)

James Browne

Ceist:

262. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the funding he will make available towards the implementation of Ireland's transition to a low-carbon energy future 2015 to 2030 (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4849/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Energy White Paper 2015 sets out a vision and framework to guide Irish energy policy and the actions that Government intends to take in the energy sector from now up to 2030, aimed at transforming Ireland's fossil-fuel based energy sector into a clean, low carbon system by 2050.  As we move to a decarbonised energy system, support for renewable energy is vital from both an economic and environmental perspective. In that regard, the Government has introduced a range of policy measures and schemes to incentivise the use of renewable energy and deliver energy efficiency. While funding of the energy transition will be primarily through commercial and household investment and charges on energy use, it is being strongly supported by Government initiatives as well as EU funding.   Ireland's first statutory National Mitigation Plan, which I published in July 2016, provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Decisions on the funding of particular measures will be a matter for Government consideration in the context of expenditure planning in the Estimates and Budgetary processes, and in the forthcoming National Development Plan. Individual investment or expenditure decisions will also, in the normal course, be subject to appropriate appraisal in line with the Government's Public Spending Code.

Budget 2018 marked a step change in efforts to achieve Ireland’s energy efficiency targets and renewable energy objectives. Funding this year will increase by 43% over 2017 levels, moving from a base at the formation of this government of €84 million in 2016 to €154 million in 2018, supporting energy efficiency programmes as well as schemes to incentivise renewable heat, electric vehicles and increase energy research.

Ministerial Advisers Data

Ceisteanna (263)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

263. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the names of advisers he has appointed to his office since becoming Minister; the responsibilities of each; the previous employment of each; the salaries of each; and if he plans to make further additional appointments. [4863/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Special Advisors are appointed by Government under the terms and conditions set out in the 'Instructions to Personnel Officers - Ministerial Appointments for the 32nd Dáil' which includes the Guidelines for Staffing of Ministerial Offices. I  appointed two advisors to my Department, Ms Suzie Coogan and Mr Ross Elwood on my appointment as Minister.  

Ms Coogan was appointed as press and media advisor and was previously employed as a journalist, government advisor and communications director for an international NGO. Ms Coogan's annual salary is currently at the rate of €95,441.

Mr Elwood is employed as special advisor with responsibility for policy and was previously employed in the Oireachtas and the European Parliament. His current salary is at the rate of  €88,471 per annum.

No advisors have been appointed by Minister of State Kyne to my Department.

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (264)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

264. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the management and maintenance of the electric vehicle charging network. [4915/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The ESB, through its eCars programme, has rolled out both publicly accessible charging infrastructure and domestic charge points for electric vehicles (EVs).  There are approximately 900 EV charge points in Ireland of which circa 70 are rapid chargers.  The maintenance and management of these charge points is an operational matter for the ESB. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities, following a public consultation process, published its independent regulatory decision in relation to electric vehicle charging infrastructure in October 2017, providing clarity regarding the ownership, operation, maintenance and investment required in the public EV charging network.

A key outcome of the decision is that the charging network should not form part of the regulated asset base and expansions of the network should not be funded from network charges.  This is in keeping with the proposals set out by the European Commission in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package which was published in 2016.  While the regulatory decision envisages the sale of the infrastructure by ESB Networks in the long-term, the continued ownership of the charging network by ESB Networks for a transitional period of up to ten years is provided for in order to safeguard those who rely on public electric vehicle charging infrastructure and result in as little impact to the network as possible in the short to medium term. 

In terms of developing public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in the future, the decision sets out the need for charging infrastructure to operate on a commercial basis.   Currently, recharging electric vehicles at public charge points is free and unlimited.  This provision of free fuel for electric vehicles, funded by electricity consumers, is not sustainable in the longer term particularly as the number of EVs increases.  At the same time, it is important that if payments for use of public charge points are introduced in the future, they are at a level which does not disincentivise the uptake of electric vehicles. 

I secured additional funding in Budget 2018 to support the provision of public charging.  The Low Emissions Vehicle Taskforce, which is co-chaired by my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, is considering a range of options for effective and efficient EV charging. The key objectives are supporting the operation of the existing charging network and facilitating the expansion of the network, with a particular focus on increasing the number of fast chargers.  The Taskforce held a stakeholder workshop in November 2017 to explore issues related to the future requirements for the public charging infrastructure. This workshop included representatives of EV owners, the motor industry, local authorities and other key stakeholders. Invaluable feedback was provided which will assist the taskforce in devising a sustainable policy framework for effective and efficient electric vehicle charging.

Renewable Energy Incentives

Ceisteanna (265)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

265. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to introduce a renewable electricity support scheme for homeowners, farmers and small business owners and a scheme for larger renewable companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4933/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department is developing a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which is being designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contribution to EU-wide targets out to 2030. The design of the new scheme has included an extensive independent economic appraisal. This appraisal compared the cost of supporting a range of commercial renewable technologies, at various scales including micro-generation, to ensure that the new scheme delivers value for money for energy users whilst also delivering on the energy pillars of sustainability and security of supply. A public consultation on the new Scheme, which closed in November 2017, resulted in over 1,250 responses which are being analysed currently. A cornerstone of the new scheme will be the provision of pathways for increased community ownership and participation in and benefit from renewable electricity projects in line with the 2015 Energy White Paper commitments. Communities and citizens are effectively being designed into the fabric of the new scheme and a comprehensive assessment of polices and support measures to underpin this ambition has been undertaken.  

One of the highest ranking community measures proposes a separate ‘community-led’ category for projects that are initiated or majority owned by individuals or groups within the local community. I will also ensure that structures are put in place to support citizens and community groups, who may wish to develop their own project or participate in a developer-led project, overcome legal, financial and technical barriers to renewable electricity generation.

Micro generation was also appraised as part of the RESS economic assessment. The analysis identified a number of challenges that may need to be addressed before a support scheme for micro generation can be developed. Notwithstanding this, I am committed to further exploring opportunities for supporting micro generation, as I believe that micro-generation could have an important role in Ireland’s transition to a low carbon economy, in assisting Ireland meet its renewable electricity targets, and increasing social acceptance of renewable energy projects right across the country.

In October 2017 my Department and SEAI hosted a workshop on micro generation which discussed a number of these challenges with relevant stakeholders. On foot of this workshop, I have asked the SEAI to conduct a short study to assess the likely demand for and impact of micro generation among the public.  It is my intention to launch a grant aided pilot scheme this summer for solar PV micro generation initially targeted at self-consumption and for domestic properties. My Department will work with the micro generation sector and the SEAI to better understand how to validate and further develop these policies in a fair and cost effective manner.

Following on from the RESS public consultation and review, a final design proposal will be brought to Government for approval in the coming months, including the overall costs and technologies to be supported. Subsequent to a Government decision, a formal application for State Aid clearance from the European Commission will commence.

Road Safety

Ceisteanna (266)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

266. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if it is necessary for a motorist to wear a seat belt while driving when that motorist has a letter from their general practitioner stating that they are unable to wear a seat belt due to their medical condition. [4675/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

There is an exemption from the requirement to wear a seat belt where a person holds a certificate from a medical practitioner stating that they cannot wear a seat belt for medical reasons.

Information in respect of such an exemption can be found on the Road Safety Authority's website.