Data Protection

Ceisteanna (231)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

231. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the preparedness of his Department in the context of the incoming general data protection regulation, GDPR, EU 2016/679; if staff in his Department have undertaken or been offered specific training and-or briefing on the GDPR; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7641/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department has established a departmental project group to examine the implications of GDPR, chaired by an Assistant Secretary. The group is currently undertaking a readiness assessment  in order to ensure that we are in a position to comply with the Regulation and the  Data Protection Bill 2018 when enacted.

My Department has appointed a data protection officer, who has received training and further training and briefing  will be rolled out to staff as required.

Mobile Telephony Use

Ceisteanna (232)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

232. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to protect mobile telephone users from telephone scams which are designed to trick persons into telephoning back at premium rates; his further plans to provide the Commission for Communications Regulation with additional powers to combat same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7655/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The telecommunications market is regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation, including in relation to operational issues such as detecting or monitoring scam calls designed to trick persons into phoning back at premium rates. I have no role or statutory function in that regard.

I am aware of Irish phone customers in the last year experiencing an escalated level of such nuisance scam calls and that they can cause considerable distress and anxiety, in addition to causing some customers to incur additional charges. In light of the situation, my officials were in contact with ComReg. The Regulator advised that it published a consumer information notice on 18 October 2017, which provides advice urging vigilance at all times on the part of consumers and listing suggestions for the proactive steps to be taken by those receiving scam calls, and in particular, advising people not to answer or to call back any number which they do not recognise or where there is a bland or no voicemail left.  The notice also provides a phone number for consumers to contact and the Regulator also offers a text call back service and other facilities to assist consumers.

In the meantime, ComReg continues to monitor the situation closely.  Unfortunately it is not possible to identify scam call numbers in advance, which can resemble normal, familiar geographical or international numbers encountered on a daily basis.

Alternative Energy Projects

Ceisteanna (233)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

233. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the details of a pilot project for a rooftop solar support scheme; the timeframe for its introduction; the amount of grant aid to be provided; if there is a limit on the number of applicants; his plans to extend this scheme to other microgeneration technologies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7688/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

On foot of the October 2017 stakeholder workshop hosted by my Department and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) along with further engagement with the micro generation industry, 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 important that before we deploy further public money we validate the demand and projected cost in an Irish context.

The proposed pilot scheme which I announced at the recent Renewable Energy Summit will commence this summer and will target solar PV and self-consumption amongst domestic customers. The data gathered during this scheme and throughout the behavioural and attitudes study will inform future phases of support for micro generation in Ireland, as we align with the ambition of the recast Renewable Energy Directive which recognises the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable self-consumers and deliver on ambitions and commitments made in the Energy White Paper and the Programme for Government.

Further details of the pilot scheme for domestic rooftop solar PV self-consumption will be made available when I have received the study being undertaken  by the SEAI and have had a  opportunity to consider its analysis. I intend that the final decision will be made in sufficient time to allow the scheme to commence this summer.

As set out in the National Mitigation Plan, a very significant increase in effort is required to realise the potential of the residential sector to contribute to the low carbon transition. Improving the energy efficiency of a home so that it needs less energy to maintain levels of comfort is a prerequisite for  moving off fossil fuels for heating to less energy intensive renewable energy options. This is why I have been providing additional funding to  include deeper energy efficiency measures, combined with renewable technologies, in the range of supports for residential energy efficiency operated by SEAI. Already, solar PV is supported under the Better Energy  Communities Scheme and the Deep Retrofit Pilot. Crucial to these schemes is the advice and technical support available to groups of householders and businesses to undertake these measures and embrace renewable technologies.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (234)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

234. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason fibre optic broadband is not being provided to a person (details supplied) in view of the fact the cable is being laid a mere 0.1 km from the person's house; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7698/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The premises referred to by the Deputy is in an AMBER area on my Department’s High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie . It is therefore included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

My Department is in a formal procurement process to select a company who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network in the State intervention area. The specialist NBP procurement team will continue to engage intensively with all relevant stakeholders, including the SSE/enet consortium, to ensure the earliest possible achievement of the Government’s objective of providing reliable high quality, high speed broadband to all premises in Ireland.

When the procurement process reaches a satisfactory conclusion for Government, a contract will be awarded and the network roll out will commence.

With regards to the nearby roll out referred to by the Deputy, decisions made by private telecommunication operators relating to the roll out and siting of infrastructure to provide high speed broadband services throughout Ireland are undertaken on a commercial basis by competing service providers operating in a liberalised market. I have no statutory role or function to intervene in the commercial decisions of private operators, and therefore cannot direct operators regarding infrastructure installation or delivery of services.

Prior to the roll out of the State led intervention, practical initiatives will continue to be addressed through the work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce to address obstacles and improve connectivity in respect of existing and future mobile phone and broadband services.

Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen. These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to developing infrastructure. There is a link to a list of these local Broadband Officers on my Department's website.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (235, 238)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

235. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which various Government interventions to offset the onslaught of climate change are in hand or proposed, such as drainage, flood relief or other such actions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7802/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

238. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the full extent of the action taken or proposed to address the impact of climate change here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7806/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 235 and 238 together.

The challenges presented by the impacts of climate change are unprecedented, both in terms of their potential scale and the transformation required to prepare for them.

Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework was approved by Government in December 2017, and was published and laid before the Oireachtas on 19 January 2018 in line with Section 6(5) of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 (the Climate Act). The Framework sets out the context to ensure Local Authorities, regions and sectors can assess the key risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, implement climate resilience actions, and ensure climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into all local, regional and national policy making. It includes a number of key actions and supporting objectives.

Under the Framework, seven Government Departments - or Agencies, where appropriate - with responsibility for the twelve priority sectors identified in the Framework will be required to prepare sectoral adaptation plans in line with the requirements of Sections 5, 6 and 7 of the Climate Act and the policies laid out in the Framework.

The Framework does not identify specific locations or propose adaptation measures or projects in relation to sectors, such as specific measures in relation to flood relief and drainage. Respecting the principle of subsidiarity, detailed adaptation measures will be developed across sectors and Local Government, in accordance with the Framework.

Under the Climate Act responsibility for the development of sectoral adaptation plans, and the prioritisation of the actions within them, rests with the lead Government Minister responsible for developing the plan. For example, the Framework provides that the Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works will prepare a statutory sectoral adaptation plan on flood risk management.

It should also be noted that under the non-statutory 2012 National Climate Change Adaptation Framework, which has now been superseded by the National Adaptation Framework, four draft sectoral plans covering five sectors have already been developed, including for flood risk management, agriculture and forestry, transport, and the electricity and gas networks. These plans will be reviewed and updated in line with the requirements of the new statutory National Adaptation Framework.

Local understanding is also crucial to getting adaptation right and in this regard Local Authorities will be preparing their own adaptation strategies under the Framework. In publishing the Framework last month, I also announced a funding commitment from my Department of €10 million over five years to establish four Local Authority Regional Climate Action Offices. These will underpin a risk-based approach to climate action at the local and regional level and will provide a coherent and coordinated response to climate change, both in terms of adaptation and mitigation. The Regional Climate Action Offices will be operated by a lead Local Authority in four different regions grouped according to shared climate change risks. The establishment of these offices will enable a more coordinated engagement across the whole of Government and will help build on the experience and expertise which exists across the sector.

Ireland already has a number of resources in place to assist with adaptation planning, including an online resource and guidelines for both key sectors and Local Authorities. As set out in the Framework I will be putting in place arrangements so as to further develop the online climate information platform, Climate Ireland, which provides tools to assist both sectors and Local Authorities in planning and prioritising adaptation actions.  While the platform will provide operational support to the key sectors concerned it will also serve as an educational and awareness resource for the private sector and civil society who also have a key role to play in enabling our climate resilient transition.

Furthermore, existing guidelines will be strengthened under the Framework in order to support Local Authorities and sectors in preparing their adaptation strategies and plans respectively, so as to ensure that a coherent and consistent approach to adaptation planning is adopted at national, regional and local levels.

Adaptation planning is an iterative process, with the National Adaptation Framework and the sectoral plans prepared under it to be reviewed at least once every five years in line with the Climate Act. This will ensure that we adopt a dynamic approach to adaptation planning which is informed by the latest scientific evidence thus enabling Departments, Agencies and Local Authorities to modify or escalate adaptation actions as appropriate.

In the coming weeks I will be seeking Government approval to request the key sectors to start preparing their respective adaptation plans, thus initiating another key step in developing a whole-of-Government approach to how we will achieve climate resilience under this new statutory National Adaptation Framework. 

Alternative Energy Projects

Ceisteanna (236, 246, 247)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

236. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to address the most serious issues to be addressed in the shortest possible time in order to combat climate change; the extent to which alternative energy proposals feature in this equation; the extent to which Ireland can become less reliant on fossil fuels and achieve maximum carbon reduction in the short term; the timeframe proposed to address these issues in addition to avoiding penalties for failure to do so; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7804/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

246. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he envisages an ability to achieve the targets in the alternative energy sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7814/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

247. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which his Department continues to plan to utilise existing natural resources and invest for the future in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7815/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 236, 246 and 247 together.

The 2014 National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development sets out an ambitious long-term commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in Ireland across the electricity generation, built environment and transport sectors; and in parallel, to pursue an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.

The 2015 Energy White Paper presents a long-term strategic vision that is intended to guide the direction of Irish energy policy from now until 2030. At its heart is a commitment to transform Ireland into a low carbon society and economy by 2050 and reduce the country’s fossil fuel dependency. This ambitious vision for Ireland’s energy system envisages a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from that sector by 80-95% relative to 1990 levels by 2050. The White Paper identifies the long-term strategic importance of diversifying Ireland's energy generation portfolio and largely decarbonising the energy sector by 2050.  It also recognises that oil and natural gas will remain significant elements of Ireland’s energy supply in that transition period. 

In 2016, imported fossil fuels accounted for 69% of our energy needs at a cost of €3.4 billion. Given the inextricable link between energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, achievement of the commitments set out in the National Policy Position and the Energy White Paper will require a significant transformation of Ireland’s energy system from being predominantly fossil-fuel based to a clean, low carbon energy system.

As a means of addressing this challenge, the 2017 National Mitigation Plan sets out over 70 individual mitigation measures and 106 related actions to reduce emissions in the electricity generation, built environment, transport and agriculture sectors.

The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive sets Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. Ireland is committed to achieving this target through meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heat and 10% of transport from renewable sources of energy, with the latter target also being legally binding. The most recent annual data from the SEAI indicates that 27.2% of electricity, 6.8% of heat and 5.0% of transport energy requirements were met from renewable sources at end 2016. Overall, SEAI analysis shows that 9.5% of Ireland’s energy requirements in 2016 were met from renewable sources.  The SEAI projects that Ireland will achieve between 13.2% and 15.4% of its 16% renewable energy target by 2020, indicating that Ireland should be between 82% and 96%  of its target.

While the focus of my Department remains firmly on meeting our 2020 renewable target and on implementation of renewable energy measures, including the new  Renewable Electricity Support Scheme and the Support Scheme for Renewal Heat, contingency planning has commenced to explore the potential extent, mechanisms and costs of addressing our targets within the framework of the 2009 Directive.

Any requirement for the purchase of statistical transfers under the Directive to meet compliance would be undertaken against a background of discussions by the Irish authorities with the EU Commission and relevant Member States. As any purchases arising would be made over a period, the costs to the Exchequer of acquiring statistical transfers to meet any potential shortfall would be spread over a period of more than one year and in any event the cumulative costs would not be known until 2021, the deadline for completion of all purchases.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Question No. 238 answered with Question No. 235.

Ceisteanna (237)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

237. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the most sensitive environmental issues facing Ireland with economic implications; his plans to address these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7805/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Framework for Sustainable Development, Our Sustainable Future, sets out a range of challenges which Ireland faces, including in relation to the sustainability of public finances and economic resilience.  In response to the challenges, it also set out some 70 measures to be implemented across Government in order to create a more sustainable Ireland.  A 2015 progress report on the national framework is available on my Department’s website www.dccae.gov.ie.

In line with the overall objective of the national framework, the 2016 Programme for a Partnership Government contains a timely and ambitious commitment to shape the long-term direction of Irish environmental policy towards a low-carbon future, and achievement of recognition for Ireland as a country with one of the cleanest and safest environments in the world.

In response to the decarbonisation and other environmental challenges which Ireland faces, my Department’s Statement of Strategy 2016-2019 includes a commitment to support economic and social progress and help the country reach its full potential by, inter alia, leading the national transition to a sustainable, low-carbon, resource-efficient economy; protecting and improving our high-quality natural environment; and ensuring the sustainable and productive use of our natural resources.

The National Mitigation Plan, which I published in July 2017, represents an initial step to set Ireland on a pathway to achieve the deep decarbonisation required by mid-century in line with Government policy objectives.  It contains a series of mitigation measures and actions to address the immediate challenge to 2020 and to prepare for the EU targets that Ireland will take on for 2030.  It also begins the development of work to meet the objectives of the National Policy Position for 2050.

Ireland also needs to tackle the challenges presented by the impacts of climate change which are unprecedented, both in terms of the potential scale and the transformation required to prepare for them.  The National Adaptation Framework published last month sets out the context to ensure local authorities, regions and key sectors can assess the key risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, develop adaptation plans and strategies to implement climate resilience actions and ensure climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into all local, regional and national policy making.

In parallel to the National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework, I have also committed to putting in place a national Clean Air Strategy with the aim of enhancing and protecting the quality of the air that we breathe.  Work is on-going in my Department and it is my intention that the Clean Air Strategy will provide the strategic policy framework to identify and promote the required integrated measures across Government to reduce air pollution and promote cleaner air while delivering on wider social and economic objectives.

All of these actions are consistent to Ireland’s commitment to the 2015 international agreement on Transforming our World – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In direct response to the 2030 Agenda and in advance of Ireland’s first national voluntary review at the United Nations in July 2018, my Department is finalising coordination of a National Implementation Plan which I will publish shortly.  Looking beyond the first national voluntary review, I also intend to develop a renewed high-level national policy position on environment protection.  Work on this policy initiative is at an early stage in my Department but I intend to complete it in 2018.

In addition, both the Environmental Protection Agency's 2016 report on the state of the environment, Ireland's Environment: An Assessment 2016, and the National Risk Assessment 2017, prepared by the Department of the Taoiseach, identify a range of environmental risks but highlight Climate Change and the need to decarbonise the economy as the most pressing environmental issue for Ireland. I agree with this assessment.

The National Risk Assessment 2017 may be found here:  https://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/eng/Publications/Publications_2017/National%20Risk%20Assessment%202017%20-%20Overview%20of%20Strategic%20Risks.pdf

Ireland's Environment: An Assessment 2016 may be found here: http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/indicators/SoE_Report_2016.pdf

Question No. 238 answered with Question No. 235.