Questions Nos. 1 to 7, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 8 to 18, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 19 to 28, inclusive, answered orally.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (29)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

29. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department will request that the EPA carry out an impact study on the effects of increased energy use and its implications for Ireland's obligations under the Paris Agreement (details supplied). [7246/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is already tasked with producing annual projections of greenhouse gas emissions for Ireland, in collaboration with relevant State and other bodies.

A key input to these projections are annual forecasts of energy use, prepared each year by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

The 2009 Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) established binding annual greenhouse gas emissions targets for EU Member States for the period 2013 to 2020. These targets cover sectors of the economy that fall outside the scope of the EU Emissions Trading System, including transport, buildings, agriculture and waste management. For the year 2020 itself, the target set for Ireland is that emissions should be 20% below their level in 2005, which was jointly the most demanding reduction target allocated to EU Member States under this Decision.

The latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the EPA in April 2017, indicate that emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by Ireland's 2020 targets could be between 4% and 6% below 2005 levels by 2020. The projected shortfall to our targets in 2020 reflects both the constrained investment capacity over the past decade due to the economic crisis, and the extremely challenging nature of the target itself. In fact, it is now accepted that Ireland’s 2020 target was not consistent with what would be achievable on an EU wide cost-effective basis.

Concerning renewable energy, the EU Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC set Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy demand 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 transport target also being legally binding. Meeting the 16% target remains challenging.

SEAI has reported that, in 2016, overall energy use increased by 3.7%, while the economy grew by 5.1%.  9.5% of Ireland's overall energy requirements in 2016 were met from renewable sources.  As regards Ireland’s renewable electricity target, renewable electricity accounted for 27.2% of total consumption by end 2016.  The SEAI's most recent forecast of Ireland’s compliance with its renewable energy targets (December 2017) is 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% to 96%  of the way to its target.

Ireland will contribute to the Paris Agreement via the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) tabled by the EU on behalf of its Member States, which commits to a reduction of at least 40% in EU-wide emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.  This will be met through reductions of 43% in the Emission Trading System (ETS) and 30% in the non-ETS sector compared with 2005 levels.

Ireland's contribution to the overall 30% reduction in the non-ETS sector by 2030, as well as the contributions to be made by other Member States, will be established in the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) proposal, which will replace the current Effort Sharing Decision. In December 2017, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the ESR proposal and I expect that this agreement to be shortly formally endorsed by both the European Parliament and Council. The final agreement sets a target of a 30% reduction in Ireland’s 2005 emissions by 2030, with a starting point of May 2019, based on average emissions over the period 2016 to 2018.

Angling Sector Promotion

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 26.

Ceisteanna (30)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

30. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the supports available to develop angling with particular reference to County Sligo and the north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7255/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In December last, I announced funding of approximate €540,000 by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) for 28 projects under the National Strategy for Angling Development (NSAD), which were based on applications received from Counties Sligo, Donegal and Leitrim.  These projects are to be implemented over the next year.

IFI’s angling sponsorship scheme also supported seven projects in the North West for novice angler events, angling festivals, angling guides and schools' programmes during 2017. I would encourage Angling Clubs and Community Groups to continue to avail of funding supports from IFI.

In addition, Donegal Angling Tourism Alliance, enabled by a strategic alliance with IFI, has been instrumental in progressing the marketing of angling in Donegal.  The many initiatives achieved by Donegal Angling Tourism Alliance with IFI support include the launch of Clodha Wheelyboat, a wheelchair accessible flat deck boat at Rooskey Lough in Donegal and the Donegal Angling Holidays project funded by the 'LEADER' programme.

The Deputy will be pleased to know that the much envied accolade of catching the first spring salmon of the year went to an angler fishing in the North West on the River Drowes, County Leitrim, in January.  As is traditional, the first fish was the centre of attention at a charity tasting event which this year benefited the North West Hospice.

I propose to circulate with the Official Record the funding awards in the North West under both the Development and Sponsorship programmes.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 26.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (32)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

32. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when he expects a penetration rate of 100% to be achieved under the national broadband plan. [7342/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government's National Broadband Plan (NBP) will deliver high speed broadband access of a minimum 30 megabits per second to 100% of premises in Ireland.

  Today 7 out of 10 of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland have access to high speed broadband. Since this Government came into office almost 400,000 additional premises have access to a high speed broadband service. This will increase to nearly 8 out of 10 premises by the end of this year and by 2020, 9 out of 10 premises will have access to a high speed broadband connection. This is being achieved via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.

Part of that commercial investment is eir’s ongoing rural deployment of high speed broadband to 300,000 premises.  That deployment is targeting a deliverable of circa 40,000 premises per quarter for this year.  Based on that rate of deployment building the NBP high speed network would take approximately three years.

It is a reality of any infrastructure rollout of this scale that there will be those isolated and harder to reach premises and areas which will take longer than this to pass. This is an unavoidable fact. However, it is my firm resolve that the occupants of these premises will not wait any longer than necessary to receive the service they need.

The actions and measures I have initiated through the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce will facilitate as efficient a rollout as possible as well as assisting any ongoing commercial investments.

Working with the Broadband Officers in each Local Authority and with the Department of Rural and Community Development, my Department has identified Strategic Community Points across all counties where services can be connected at an early stage after award of the NBP contract.  As fibre connections to villages and communities continue to improve, so to will public wifi which provides people with greater accessibility to better services.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (33)

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

33. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to provide broadband to counties Roscommon and Galway further to the withdrawal of a company (details supplied) from the national broadband plan. [7252/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Currently some 15,000 premises in Roscommon and 77,000 premises in Galway have access to a high speed broadband service. Of these, around 2,300 premises in Roscommon and 10,800 premises in Galway have been passed as part of eir's on-going rural deployment of Fibre to the Home and can access a high speed broadband service of up to 1000Mbps.

Just over 24,000 premises in County Roscommon and some 57,000 in County Galway do not currently have access to a high speed broadband service. The Government's National Broadband Plan will deliver this service to every single one of these premises via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.

6,000 premises in Roscommon will receive a high speed broadband service through eir's rural deployment before the end of this year, while the remaining 18,000 will be served via the planned State led intervention. In County Galway 18,000 will be served through eir's deployment while 39,000 come under the State intervention.

Other operators are delivering on commercial investment in these counties. SIRO, the Vodafone-ESB joint venture, are currently delivering fibre services in 2 Galway towns, Castlebar and Westport, with plans to roll out fibre services to Roscommon town and Cortober in County Roscommon.

As I outlined in my reply to an earlier question in the House today, my Department's procurement process to engage the company to roll out the high speed network in the intervention area is at an advanced stage. When this process reaches a satisfactory conclusion for Government, a contract will be awarded and the network rollout will commence.  

Delivering high speed broadband to every citizen in Roscommon, Galway and indeed every other county remains my firm commitment and that of the Government.

National Broadband Plan Administration

Ceisteanna (34)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

34. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will request a review of the commitment contract his Department has with a company (details supplied) relating to the 300,000 homes removed from the NBP in view of that company's withdrawal from the NBP competition; if this contract can be revoked by the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7479/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Last April, eir entered into a Commitment Agreement with my Department to deliver high speed broadband to 300,000 premises, predominantly in rural areas.  I understand from the company that this represents an investment of €200 million in rural Ireland. Following its withdrawal from the separate procurement process to appoint a company for the State led intervention, eir reaffirmed its commitment to continue delivery of this roll out.  Although Quarter 4 2017 figures have yet to be verified by my Department, I understand eir have passed over 120,000 of the identified 300,000 premises.  

Some of eir's  key commitments as part of the Commitment agreement include a requirement to:

- pass 100% of the 300,575 premises incorporated in the Agreement;

- connect at least 95% of orders made by service providers/end users at the standard regulated connection charge;

- ensure all premises receive the minimum 30 megabits per second download and 6 megabits per second upload speeds. eir has submitted plans to meet this requirement with a predominantly Fibre To The Home build; and

- achieve agreed milestone targets for premises passed each quarter with a completion date of December 2018.

My Department oversees the fulfilment of this commitment on a monthly basis through meetings and reviews of submitted reports.  eir is required to submit quarterly reports on the progress of the deployment and these are independently verified by my Department and then published on the Department's website www.broadband.gov.ie.

The Commitment Agreement binds eir to its private plans and also includes robust monitoring and enforcement provisions.  In this way I am satisfied the Agreement will ensure provision of high speed broadband services to 300,000 premises urgently in need of connection. 

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (35)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

35. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the particulars of the deal secured on 21 December 2017 on the effort sharing regulation surrounding climate change emissions targets; the implications for agriculture emissions targets; the emissions reductions his Department expects from the agriculture sector by 2030; the areas of agriculture that will account for the reductions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7478/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

On 20 July 2016, the European Commission presented a legislative proposal, the "Effort Sharing Regulation" (ESR), setting out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets for Member States for the period 2021 to 2030. The targets cover sectors of the economy that fall outside the scope of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). These sectors, including the built-environment, transport and agriculture, account for almost 55% of total EU-28 emissions and 71% of Irish emissions. The proposal is the successor to the Effort Sharing Decision, which established national emissions targets for Member States in the non-ETS sectors between 2013 and 2020.

For the ESR, targets have been proposed for Member States based on GDP per capita and the cost-effectiveness of domestic emissions reductions within individual Member States. The final agreement sets a target of 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 for Ireland.  Mitigation options built into the ESR agreement include land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF), and the possibility to transfer credits from the EU ETS.

The ESR was provisionally agreed on 21 December 2017 by the Council and the European Parliament, and following final approval and formal adoption by the Council, it will enter into force.

During the ESR negotiations, I emphasised the need to prioritise a successful conclusion which retains a high environmental ambition for the EU, but provides each Member State with the capacity to contribute to that ambition in a cost-effective and fair manner. I am satisfied that the provisional agreed text provides appropriate recognition of different Member State circumstances, and the need to provide flexibility to reduce emissions as cost-effectively as possible in the context of the overall EU target.

In terms of emissions, the EPA develops national projections on an annual basis, in collaboration with relevant State and other bodies. In addition to this, they also produce emission projections for each sector.

The latest EPA projections were published in April 2017. Greenhouse gas emissions were projected to 2035 using two scenarios: a ‘With Existing Measures’ scenario and a ‘With Additional Measures’ scenario. The With Existing Measures scenario assumes that no additional policies and measures, beyond those already in place by the end of 2015, are implemented. The With Additional Measures scenario assumes implementation of the With Existing Measures scenario in addition to further implementation of Government renewable and energy efficiency targets for 2020, as set out in the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP).

Emissions from Agriculture are projected to reduce by 2.4% between 2020 and 2035 under both scenarios. For 2035, it is estimated that fertiliser nitrogen use will reduce from 401,000 tonnes in 2020 to 395,000 tonnes in 2035. The beef herd is forecasted to contract by 11% between 2020 and 2035 from 5.6 million to 4.9 million. These agriculture emissions projections are based on data from Teagasc’s FAPRI-Ireland model which were provided to the EPA in December 2015.

In terms of addressing the significant challenge to reduce emissions, I published Ireland’s first statutory National Mitigation Plan last July. It provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A key objective of the Plan is to prepare for the emissions targets that Ireland will take on for 2030.  The Plan sets out over 70 individual mitigation measures and 106 related actions to reduce emissions in the four sectors with the most significant contribution to national emissions (Electricity Generation; the Built Environment; Transport; and Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use). Action across all sectors will be paramount to building the foundations for Ireland’s low carbon transformation, considering the cross-cutting nature of the climate challenge.

The National Mitigation Plan highlights a number of measures that are already contributing to emission reductions in the agriculture sector, including: the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP); Knowledge Transfer Programme; Green, Low Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS); Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS II); Organic Farming Scheme; Smart Farming Programme; Business, Environment and Technology through Training Extension and Research (BETTER) Farms Programme.

Although the Plan does not provide a complete roadmap to achieve either Ireland’s proposed 2030 target or the 2050 transition objective, it begins the process of developing medium-to-long-term policy options so as to achieve progressive emissions reductions in each of the four key sectors, and to ensure that we are well positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades.

It is important to note that the National Mitigation Plan is a living document that will be updated as on-going analysis, dialogue and technological innovation generate more and more cost-effective sectoral mitigation options. This continuous review process reflects the broad and evolving nature of the sectoral challenges outlined in the Plan, coupled with the continued development and deployment of emerging low carbon and cost effective technologies across different sectors of the economy.

The Government will also publish a new National Development Plan soon and this will provide an opportunity for further prioritisation of expenditure required to implement the National Mitigation Plan.

Public Procurement Contracts

Ceisteanna (36)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

36. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps his Department has taken or will take in the future to ensure that companies competing for State procurement of services, such as the national broadband plan, do not collude with each other in the bidding and competitive tendering process to the detriment of the State's finances; the penalties a company might incur if found to have engaged in such collusion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7482/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government's National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location.  The State led intervention aims to provide high speed broadband to areas where commercial operators are unlikely to invest.

  The nature of this intervention has taken the form of a competitive dialogue procurement procedure.  This process is used for complex contracts where a Contracting Authority is seeking technical solutions to go to market on. Typically this is used for large infrastructure projects and is common practice internationally.  The competitive dialogue process enables greater participation throughout the process by bidders, with separate dialogues taking place directly with the Department's specialist NBP procurement team and each potential Bidder.

The  NBP procurement is structured in accordance with international and EU standards.  This includes requirements in respect of canvassing, conflict of interest, collusion and confidentiality. 

In line with recognised practice, breach of procurement law may result in the disqualification, rejection or elimination of a bidder from further participation in a procurement process.

Public Procurement Regulations

Ceisteanna (37)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

37. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if all contracts awarded by agencies under his remit follow public procurement and competition rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7265/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Adherence to public procurement and competition rules by State agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter for each Agency.

Procedures for procurement by State Bodies are set out in the  Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies 2016. In accordance with section 8.16 of the Code of Practice, it is the responsibility of the Board to satisfy itself that the requirements for public procurement are adhered to and to be fully conversant with current value thresholds for the application of EU and national procurement rule. In addition, the Chairperson of each State body is required, in a comprehensive report submitted to the Minister annually, to confirm that the State body is compliant with current procurement rules and guidelines.

As part of its corporate governance responsibilities, my Department monitors compliance by the State bodies with the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (38)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

38. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he has achieved progress and understanding to advance the programme to deliver broadband (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7414/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government's National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location.  The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. 7 out of 10 of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland now have access to high speed broadband.  By the end of this year that number will rise to nearly 8 out of 10 premises and by 2020, 9 out of 10 premises or 90% of premises will have access to a high speed broadband connection. This will be achieved via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.

In April 2017, I signed a Commitment Agreement with eir in relation to its plans to provide High speed broadband to 300,000 premises in rural areas on a commercial basis. eir has committed to completing this rollout by the end of this year.  Information on eir's planned rural deployment is available at http://fibrerollout.ie/eircode-lookup/. A copy of the Commitment Agreement is available on my Department’s website www.dccae.gov.ie.

Quarterly updates on eir's rural deployment are published on this website. Although deployment figures for Q4 2017 have not yet been verified by my Department’s teams, I understand eir has passed a total of 121,000 premises of the 300,000 identified premises to date. 

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. One company, eir, publicly withdrew from the procurement process on 30 January, citing "commercial, regulatory and governance issues". While this is regrettable, it is a commercial decision for eir to make.  The specialist NBP procurement team will continue to engage intensively with all relevant stakeholders, including the enet/sse 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 rollout will commence.

Delivering high speed broadband to citizens across Ireland remains a firm commitment of mine and this Government.

In the interim, 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.

Alternative Energy Projects

Ceisteanna (39)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

39. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the potential implications for developing a biomass industry here to sustain current and future power plants in view of the planned investment by Bord na Móna in a biomass facility in the United States of America. [7401/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department's Draft Bioenergy Plan establishes the broader context for the development of Ireland’s bioenergy sector. It recognises that meeting the demand for biomass from indigenous sources could deliver significant economic and employment benefits and contains measures to stimulate and support the supply of Irish biomass. In the short-term, international supply chains will be required to meet the demand of current and future power plants across the country.  The draft Bioenergy Plan is currently being updated to reflect the developments which have taken place since its original publication and will be published for public consultation.

  There has been significant progress to date in the use of biomass which, in 2016, provided the vast majority of the 6.8% of energy consumption in the heat sector that came from renewable sources.  The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat will open up new opportunities for indigenous biomass feedstock producers by incentivising opportunities for renewable heat technologies including biomass boiler installations.  

It is Bord na Móna’s stated policy to prioritise domestic biomass supply. Every domestic tonne sourced by the company displaces an imported tonne. In addition, Bord na Móna Bioenergy is supporting the development of the domestic biomass market by mobilising the biomass supply potential of the privately-owned forestry sector and thereby providing further opportunities for sustainable indigenous employment.

It should be noted that Bord na Móna will require my consent as shareholder, as well as the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, before proceeding with the development of a US biomass production facility. To date, no consent request to this effect has been received by my Department.

Renewable Energy Generation Targets

Ceisteanna (40)

John Curran

Ceist:

40. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the actions he is taking to advance the development of solar energy here; the amount of solar power he anticipates will be generated here in each of the years 2018 to 2022; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7335/18]

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 which compared the cost of supporting a range of commercial renewable technologies including Solar PV at various scales including Utility (farm scale) 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. The assessment included analysis of the optimum financial support mechanisms for renewable technologies, in line with the 2014 EU State Aid Guidelines.

The new scheme will be defined by a series of renewable electricity auctions, where the most cost effective projects within an auction structure will receive financial support in the form of a premium, in addition to the price they receive from the market.

I am aware of the very strong level of interest in solar PV in Ireland and the most recent data available to me indicates that at present, there are 621 solar applications at the distribution level and 37 solar applications at the transmission level, at various stages in the grid connection application process. These applications amount to 4,398 Megawatts and 2,135 Megawatts respectively or 6,533Megawatts in total.

It is widely recognised that solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has become more cost competitive for electricity generation over the last few years, not only compared with other renewables but also compared with conventional forms of generation. Furthermore, a recent report by the the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA 2017) forecasts that solar PV costs will continue to fall by a further 50% out to 2020.

Notwithstanding the level of solar applicants seeking connection to the grid and acknowledging that solar PV does have a role to play in Ireland’s energy future, the cost effectiveness of the new scheme is a key policy objective.  I cannot stand over a scenario whereby electricity customers are locked into higher prices now for renewable energy as renewable technology costs fall. While increasing diversity of the renewable energy mix is one of several policy objectives the new RESS is trying to deliver, falling technology costs by themselves may lead to increased diversity of the renewable portfolio over the medium term.

Following on from the recent 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. A formal application for State Aid clearance from the European Commission will then commence.

At this stage no final decisions have been made as regards which technologies will be supported under the new RESS.

Landfill Sites

Ceisteanna (41)

James Lawless

Ceist:

41. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his attention has been drawn to concerns of persons in County Kildare regarding the expansion of a landfill site (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7336/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Issues pertaining to planning legislation, including the legislation which regulates Strategic Infrastructure Development applications, are matters for my colleague the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

The Waste Management Act 1996 and the Waste Management (Licensing) Regulations 2004 govern the process under which waste licences are applied for and maintained. Once granted, each waste licence defines the nature of environmentally acceptable activities that can take place at a waste facility, including the acceptable types of waste that can be received. This is done by the conditions of the licence which are set by the Environmental Protection Agency. I have no function in relation either to the setting of operating conditions or to their enforcement, and under section 60(3) of the Waste Management Act 1996, as Minister, I am precluded from exercising any power or control in relation to the performance by the Environmental Protection Agency, in particular circumstances, of a statutory function vested in it.

Trading Online Voucher Scheme

Ceisteanna (42, 81)

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Ceist:

42. Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the trading online voucher scheme is being expanded; the number of businesses which have availed of the scheme in County Offaly in 2017 and since its introduction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7254/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Peter Burke

Ceist:

81. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the uptake of the trading online voucher scheme by county both in 2017 and since the scheme’s introduction; if the scheme is being expanded; if so, if such an expansion will include data protection and cyber security; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7261/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42 and 81 together.

My Department's Trading Online Voucher Scheme is designed to support micro businesses (10 or less employees, less than €2 million turnover) to develop their trading online capability. The scheme pairs training with financial support of up to €2,500 (subject to matched funding), to help small businesses to grow and diversify their markets through trading online. It specifically targets businesses who are not yet trading online or doing so in a very limited away. This is a demand-led scheme, which is funded by my Department, and delivered in every county by the Local Enterprise Office.

By the end of 2017, over 4,100 small businesses had successfully applied for a trading online voucher and over 10,600 businesses in total had benefited through participation in training sessions delivered by the Local Enterprise Offices under the scheme since it began in 2014.

This year I have provided funding to increase the target number of businesses supported from 1,000 per annum to 1,500 in 2018. My Department is currently scoping initiatives to build on the success of the scheme, including the development of a national website and centralised web-based infrastructure for online application to the scheme. 

As part of this, my Department, in collaboration with our partners in the delivery of the scheme, will explore ways in which the scheme can promote awareness of the latest digital trends, including topics such as data protection and cybersecurity, in the context of its primary objective which is to increase the demand for broadband products and services.

The following table provides information on the number of applications approved under the scheme by county, including Offaly, from 2014 to date. 

County

2014/2015

2016

2017

TOTAL

Carlow

47

22

12

81

Cavan

18

14

20

52

Clare

24

37

32

93

Cork City 

51

35

33

119

Cork North/West

103

55

44

202

Cork South

93

45

36

174

Donegal

63

24

47

134

Dublin City 

137

98

140

375

Dublin South

32

37

38

107

Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown

121

75

78

274

Fingal

101

51

51

203

Galway 

26

58

43

127

Kerry

85

85

60

230

Kildare

73

24

42

139

Kilkenny

68

27

28

123

Laois

25

18

11

54

Leitrim

37

18

12

67

Limerick 

77

58

49

184

Longford

15

12

15

42

Louth

42

39

55

136

Mayo

34

22

29

85

Meath

21

11

30

62

Monaghan

23

23

17

63

Offaly

30

14

15

59

Roscommon

26

19

22

67

Sligo 

57

23

22

102

Tipperary

63

33

37

133

Waterford

61

49

42

152

Westmeath

38

26

29

93

Wexford

54

44

33

131

Wicklow

132

58

67

257

TOTAL

1,777

1,154

1,189

4,120

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (43)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

43. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his attention has been drawn to the moral obligations to reduce emissions due to the effects climate change is having on the developing world as highlighted by a report (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7409/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I am fully cognisant of the urgent, global challenge of climate change and its effects, particularly those experienced in the developing world. The scale and complexity of this challenge demands a coordinated approach at both national and international levels. Ireland is committed to concerted multilateral action to tackle climate change through the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global average temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with an ambition of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Agreement is designed to meet this objective through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by all parties to the agreement.

Ireland will contribute to the achievement of these objectives through the NDC submitted by the European Union on behalf of its Member States, committing to a reduction of at least 40% in EU-wide emissions by 2030 compared with 1990 levels.

In the context of Ireland’s commitment to and solidarity with our developing country partners, I was pleased to be able to announce last November in Bonn that Ireland will join the NDC Partnership, an initiative which represents a highly practical approach to sharing capacity and policy insights with our developing country partners towards meeting their commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Ireland made a commitment in 2015 to provide at least €175 million in public funding on climate action between 2016 and 2020, and reported a total of €52.7 million in funding in 2016. The majority of this funding supports adaptation and mitigation action in developing countries, largely in sub-Saharan Africa, through the Official Development Assistance budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. My Department made contributions of €4.5 million over 2016 and 2017, supporting the Green Climate Fund, the NDC Partnership, and a number of other international climate initiatives.

Geological Survey of Ireland

Ceisteanna (44)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

44. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his view on the value of the geoscience sector here as determined by a recent analysis of the sector; the steps he is taking to maximise the value of the sector to local economies and communities, such as the development of geoparks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7257/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Geological Survey Ireland, as part of my Department, commissioned a report in 2017 on the Economic Value of the Geoscience Sector, which gave an overall economic impact of over €3.2 billion with employment of almost 25,000 full-time equivalents in 2016. This shows the impact of the sector to be much more significant than initially perceived with wider societal impacts and potential for future expansion.

GSI is working to support and expand the geoscience sector and its regional impact in a number of ways. The on-going work of the GSI is supported by exchequer funding through my Department's Vote with a total of €12.6 million provided in the Vote in 2018.

GSI manage the Tellus programme, which is carrying out national airborne sensing and ground sampling to produce updated geological and chemical maps. The outputs from this programme, which is now completed over more than half the country, help to update GSI’s geological mapping and also supports areas such as environmental planning, agricultural planning, plant and animal health and the national Radon Control Strategy. Updated Tellus data is also used by the mineral exploration industry and attracts foreign direct investment and spending in rural areas.

Groundwater mapping, being carried out nationally at GSI, supports the protection of Drinking Water and compliance with EU Directives. This involves working closely with the National Federation of Group Water Schemes to map and protect their groundwater supplies as part of a multiannual programme. The work also defines groundwater supplies that can be used to support future regional development.

In terms of business development, GSI manages the Geoscience Ireland business cluster, which works with Enterprise Ireland to help win work overseas and secure jobs for Irish companies in this sector. The majority of these companies are located outside of Dublin and are headquartered throughout the country. Since 2012, Geoscience Ireland companies have collectively added a net 754 jobs up to end 2017.

Geotourism is supported through the promotion and development of UNESCO Global Geoparks and geotourism projects. This includes technical and financial support for the three Unesco Global Geoparks in counties Waterford, Clare and Cavan and various proposed geopark projects in counties Galway and Mayo. In addition, GSI is carrying out a national programme of county audits of geoheritage sites, which helps underpin and protect the sites located within Geoparks.

Telecommunications Infrastructure

Ceisteanna (45, 49, 66)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

45. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress which has been made by the mobile broadband task force implementation group on the 40 recommendations identified in the final report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7340/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pat the Cope Gallagher

Ceist:

49. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to provide a report on the achievements and successes of the mobile telephone and broadband task force recommendations to date; the further recommendations he plans to implement; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the nationwide experience is that mobile telephone signals are deteriorating and the services worsening despite the task force report being published since December 2016; if his attention has been further drawn to the anxiety many rural households have about to rural broadband provision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7260/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Eugene Murphy

Ceist:

66. Deputy Eugene Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the upgrade of the national mobile telephone coverage plan; the steps he is taking to improve it in accordance with the measures and timetables set out in the programme for Government; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7253/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 45, 49 and 66 together.

Providing telecommunications services, including mobile phone services, is a matter for the relevant service providers operating in a fully liberalised market regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), as independent Regulator. I do not have statutory authority to require commercial companies to rollout services and make specific investments in particular locations. The ComReg consumer helpline is accessible at consumerline@comreg.ie and I would urge consumers who feel they have not received an appropriate response from service providers to make contact with the Regulator.

Notwithstanding ComReg’s independence, I recognise the frustration felt by Irish consumers where telecommunications networks are not always delivering the services people expect. Accordingly, I specifically included in the Programme for Government a commitment to a Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce. The Taskforce worked with key stakeholders to produce a report in December 2016, available on my Department’s website, which contains 40 actions to alleviate some of the deficits. The Implementation Group I co-chair with Minister Kyne is overseeing implementation of the actions and comprises all key stakeholders responsible for delivery. This includes ComReg, who attend as both an action owner, and in an observer capacity in their role as the independent Regulator.

I published the third Taskforce Quarterly Progress Report in November 2017, which demonstrates that good progress has been made in delivering the actions. I plan to publish an Annual Report shortly. This Report will give an update on progress made on each of the 40 actions and will evidence the continuing progress, together with the sustained level of engagement between action owners and industry. The Annual Report will also contain a work programme for 2018, with new actions identified that will lead to improvements for consumers across Ireland.

The Taskforce’s achievements to date include:

- Revisions to Exempted Development Regulations to facilitate prompt roll-out of telecommunications infrastructure and to prepare Ireland for the roll-out of 5G mobile technology;

- Funding of all local authorities to assign a Broadband Officer;

- Close cooperation with local authorities to develop local digital strategies and to identify approximately 320 high speed Strategic Community Access Hubs to be connected at an early juncture after award of the NBP contract;

- ComReg’s development of a testing regime to check mobile handset performance which will inform consumers in choosing products and network services. ComReg will also develop a new network coverage map.

- Most local authorities applying waivers in respect of development contributions for telecoms development.

- Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has constructed 80km of ducting on the M7/M8 corridor and 14km on the N25 in Cork, with more following in the coming months to help expedite infrastructure roll-out. TII is also reviewing the cost of duct access for telecoms.

All of these initiatives should assist in enhancing the quality of telecommunications services, particularly in rural areas.

Renewable Energy Generation

Ceisteanna (46)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

46. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding the renewable energy support scheme; the date by which this scheme will be launched; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7468/18]

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, 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 and analysis of these is almost complete.

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. The new scheme is expected to open in 2019.

At this stage no final decisions have been made as regards which technologies will be supported under the new RESS.

National Development Plan

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 26.

Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 45.

Ceisteanna (47, 60)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

47. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the input his Department has had in the framing of the national development plan with regard to ensuring the viability of the rural post office network; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7481/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

60. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the input his Department has had to the national development plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7473/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 60 together.

My Department has worked closely with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in framing the National Development Plan, and will oversee a significant programme of capital investment during the 10 year period of the Plan.   

Climate mitigation and adaptation are cross-cutting priorities for Government and for me.  Public and private sector investment choices over the coming decade will play a critical role in ensuring that Ireland is on a sustainable trajectory towards securing the national objective of a competitive, low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy and society by 2050.   

Building on the approach set out in the Government’s National Mitigation Plan, the National Development Plan includes a strong focus on strategic investments in the areas of transport, agriculture, energy and the built environment to address the significant climate change challenges we face.  Action now to decarbonise these sectors will position Ireland to harness a range of benefits into the future, in terms of the creation of sustainable green jobs, sustainable food production, deepening our energy security, improving the quality of our lives and making our working and built environments healthier.  

In my Department, a significant expansion of investment in energy efficiency upgrades, including deep retrofitting of housing, commercial and public building stock, will accelerate the contribution of the built environment to the collective effort to reduce CO2 emissions. Measures to progressively decarbonise electricity generation and to promote the electrification of heat and transport will be central to the achievement of national transition objectives.  Investment in renewable energy technologies must be complemented by the development of appropriate levels of energy interconnection to cater for growing demand and to diversify our sources of supply.

Delivery of the new high speed broadband network under the National Broadband Plan will ensure that the opportunities presented by the digital transformation are available to every community in Ireland.  Fast, secure, high capacity digital connectivity will underpin balanced regional development, allow new businesses and services to emerge and increase Ireland’s competitiveness and attractiveness as a place to live and do business.  In a similar way, An Post, in its strategic plan, is embracing the opportunities presented by the digital agenda and harnessing its existing strengths such as its nationwide reach, trusted brand and the relationship with communities to develop new products and services.  Further opportunities will be available to the post office network, as the  step change in digital connectivity is extended across the country to villages and rural areas.

During the lifetime of the National Development Plan, capacity will continue to be built in sustainable waste management and resource efficiency, including recycling, waste to energy, landfill and landfill remediation. Such investments, along with support measures to prevent food waste, will be critical to environmental and economic well-being for a growing population, and to achieving EU circular economy and climate objectives.

Question No. 48 answered with Question No. 26.
Question No. 49 answered with Question No. 45.

National Broadband Plan Administration

Ceisteanna (50)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

50. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the way in which he and his Department will ensure value for money for the taxpayer in the national broadband plan process in view of the fact that only one bidder remains; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7407/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government's National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location.   The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. Today 7 out of 10 of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland have access to high speed broadband.  By the end of this year that number will rise to nearly 8 out of 10 premises and by 2020, 9 out of 10 premises or 90% of premises will have access to a high speed broadband service. This will be achieved via a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.

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. One company, eir, publicly withdrew from the procurement process last month. 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.

The procurement process, which is a very robust process with strong risk management throughout, reached an advanced stage prior to eir’s withdrawal. “Detailed Solutions” submitted by two bidders on 26th September 2017 had already been evaluated by the NBP specialist team and detailed feedback had been delivered. This means that the process has had the benefit of strong competitive tension up until now, which will help inform the NBP procurement team in ensuring that value for money is achieved at final tender stage. The NBP procurement team also have the benefit and will use comparative costings from similar projects in other Member States together with advice from ComReg, the sectoral regulator with responsibility for the cost of access to the eir pole and duct infrastructure, where relevant to the final bid.

The final contract which will result from the NBP procurement process will ultimately be subject to Government approval on the level of subsidy to be provided once a final bid has been received. This subsidy must also be independently reviewed as providing value for money by the National Development Finance Agency as is required for all Government Capital Projects with a value of more than €20 million. The contract will also be subject to audit and review provisions to ensure that any potential over recovery of State Aid post contract by the bidder can be recovered by the State; this is also a requirement under the European Commission State Aid Guidelines for Broadband being followed by the Department.