Renewable Energy Generation Targets

Ceisteanna (51)

John Curran

Ceist:

51. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the estimated level of fines that Ireland will face by missing the 2020 renewable energy targets; the short-term and immediate actions he is taking to reduce these fines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7334/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

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.

While good progress has been made to date, with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) advising that 9.5% of Ireland's overall energy requirements in 2016 were met from renewable sources, meeting the 16% target remains challenging. The SEAI's most recent assessment 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% towards its target.

The Renewable Energy Directive provides a comprehensive framework for Member States to work towards achieving individual and EU renewable energy targets, including mechanisms for countries to work together such as statistical transfers, which allow Member States to meet their targets by purchasing credits from Member States that overachieve on their renewable targets.

In the absence of an established market  mechanism, estimates of the cost of using  instruments such as statistical transfers are necessarily  tentative. Work undertaken by the SEAI in 2016  indicated that the cost to Ireland of not meeting our overall renewable energy targets may be in the range of €65 million to €130 million for each percentage point Ireland falls short of the overall 16% renewable energy target.  Costs per percentage point for statistical transfers could be below the lower end of the range suggested by SEAI but this will depend on market conditions when and if purchases are made. Present indications – based on trades agreed by Luxembourg late last year - are that the costs per percentage point for statistical transfers could be below the lower end of the range suggested by SEAI.

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

Any requirement for statistical transfers 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.

National Mitigation Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (52)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

52. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when each of the sectoral adaption plans for climate change mitigation will be published; the planned measures of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7477/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I published Ireland’s first National Mitigation Plan in July 2017 which sets out the measures proposed by the key sectors concerned for enabling a low carbon transition.

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 key 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.

Under the Framework, seven Government Departments (or Agencies, where appropriate) with responsibility for the twelve priority sectors identified in the Framework are 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. Respecting the principle of subsidiarity, detailed adaptation measures will be developed across sectors and Local Government, in accordance with the Framework.

Under Section 6(1) of the Climate Act, within three months of the Framework being laid before the Oireachtas, the Government must then request relevant Ministers to submit to the Government their sectoral adaptation plans within a specified period. The specified period, or deadline, for submission of plans to Government has yet to be finalised and will need to balance the need for urgent action with the need to allow sectors sufficient time to prepare plans that are fully in line with the requirements of the Framework and the Climate Act, while also accounting for mandatory consultation and Strategic Environmental Assessment and Appropriate Assessment processes. The deadline selected will not preclude sectors from completing sectoral plans before the chosen deadline, if they are in a position to do so, and indeed this is desirable to ensure plans are submitted to Government for approval as soon as is practical. I will be bringing a Memorandum to Government shortly so as initiate the process for the preparation of sectoral plans.

It should, however, 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 National Adaptation Framework.

Energy Prices

Ceisteanna (53)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

53. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to use his powers under the Electricity Regulation Act 1999 to issue a policy direction to the Commission for Energy Regulation in regard to competition in the electricity supply market in view of domestic electricity prices. [7402/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Responsibility for the regulation of the gas or electricity markets is a matter for the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). One of its  statutory functions is to carry out market monitoring to ensure that competition continues to develop and that customers benefit from competition. Two reports published by the regulator last year concluded that Irish energy markets are competitive, with the most recently available EU comparable electricity and gas supplier switching data also pointing towards a competitive Irish market. The CRU is an independent statutory body, and solely accountable to a committee of the Oireachtas for the performance of its functions.

The regulation of retail market prices for electricity in Ireland ended in 2011 and for gas prices in 2014. The Government has no statutory function in the monitoring or setting of electricity prices, with the main thrust of Government policy on energy costs focused on the competitive market and supports for energy efficiency. Government policy has supported competition to drive down prices, and data from approved price comparison sites (www.bonkers.ie and www.switcher.ie) shows that consumers can make significant savings by switching energy suppliers.

Consistent with European energy policy, the electricity and gas markets in Ireland are commercial, liberalised, and competitive. The position of successive Governments has been that competitive energy markets result in greater choice for consumers and businesses, in terms of suppliers, products and prices. Competition exerts downward pressure on suppliers’ prices.

Section 10A of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999, as amended, sets out the procedure under which the Minister may give “general policy directions”. The legislation sets out details on the tasks and inter-alia timelines, consultation requirements with the independent regulator and Oireachtas, and identifies restrictions on the areas where such directions may not be given.

Energy markets in Ireland operate within a European regulatory regime in which member states must guarantee the independence of National Regulatory Authorities, which are expressively forbidden from taking direct instructions from government, or any public body, when carrying out their regulatory tasks. The regime also restricts policy directions in the form of general policy guidelines in certain areas that are prescribed regulatory duties and powers in the EU Third Energy Package, specifically in Directive 2009/72/EC concerning common rules for the internal market in electricity.  A policy direction in this matter is therefore not being considered.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (54)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

54. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the alternative plans being considered by his Department for rolling out the national broadband plan since a company (details supplied) pulled out of the procurement process; the measures he is taking to prevent further delay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7471/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The procurement process for the National Broadband Plan State Intervention Area has been a very robust process with strong risk management throughout, with all scenarios and eventualities having been considered.

  This process is entering its final stages, with the remaining bidding consortium having reaffirmed its commitment to the successful conclusion of that process.

Energy Policy

Ceisteanna (55)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

55. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress which has been made on the creation of an all-Ireland energy market. [7343/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Single Electricity Market (SEM) is the wholesale electricity market for Ireland and Northern Ireland and it has operated successfully on this island since 2007. It has delivered an efficient, cost reflective, competitive market, while assuring security of supply and integrating significant volumes of renewable electricity into the generation mix.

As a result of the common EU policy of delivering the Internal Energy Market and Energy Union and following European legislation aimed at harmonising cross-border trade in electricity, the SEM will have to change how it operates. The development of the associated new wholesale market rules is a Regulator-led project, with oversight by my Department and the Department for the Economy Northern Ireland (DfE) to ensure legal and policy compliance. The Integrated-Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) project, to design and implement the new rules, has been underway since 2012.  Legislation was amended in Ireland and Northern Ireland to allow the Regulators make the necessary changes to the electricity market rules. The new market will go live in 2018.

The benefits will include more competitive wholesale electricity prices for consumers through more efficient market trading; efficient dispatch of interconnection to other markets; and increased security of supply for Ireland.

As regards the all island gas market, the Common Arrangements for Gas (CAG) project commenced in 2008 between Northern Ireland and Ireland.  It aimed to harmonise technical operations of the gas transmission networks in both jurisdictions. The project was superseded by EU internal gas market developments that require the implementation of binding EU-wide gas network codes in Member States, including Ireland and Northern Ireland. These EU network codes are the EU rules for cross-border gas trading.

Renewable Energy Generation

Ceisteanna (56)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

56. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps his Department will take to practically support the inclusion of community based micro energy generation initiatives in the renewable energy support scheme. [7245/18]

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 and analysis of these is almost complete.

A cornerstone of the new scheme will be the provision of pathways for increased community based ownership and participation in and benefit from renewable electricity projects in line with the 2015 Energy White Paper. Communities and citizens are effectively being designed into the fabric of the new scheme and the SEAI in conjunction with my Department have recently completed a comprehensive assessment of polices and support measures to underpin and deliver this ambition.   

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. We also need to address measures 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. This ambition is now being mirrored across the EU as part of the recast Renewable Energy Directive, which will establish the rights, entitlements and obligations of renewable self-consumers and renewable energy communities.

Micro generation was also appraised as part of the RESS economic assessment and 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 and in October 2017 my Department and the SEAI hosted a workshop on micro generation at which a number of these challenges were discussed with relevant stakeholders. On foot of this workshop and 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 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 continue to 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.

It is also worth pointing out the SEAI’s Better Energy Communities scheme currently supports micro generation vis-à-vis grant aiding a portion of costs associated with a solar PV installation.

Waste Management Regulations

Ceisteanna (57)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

57. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department is examining phasing out the use of non-compostable disposable cups in all Government buildings, including the Kildare Street and Merrion Street campus; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7264/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Article 18 of the EU Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste states the following: “Member States shall not impede the placing on the market of their territory of packaging which satisfies the provisions of this Directive”. Coffee cups and a range of other single use packaging fall under the definition of packaging for the purposes of this Directive. In this space, where it is not in my power to place an outright ban on non-compostable items, such as disposable cups, I am looking at other means of curbing their use.

  The Deputy will be aware I recently announced that I am considering introducing a levy on disposable coffee cups in an attempt to effect environmental behavioural change and incentivise individuals to use their own cups on the go.  While the policy in this regard is at a very early stage in the process, a levy such as this has proved very successful in the past in curbing the use of plastic bags.

In addition, I strongly welcome the European Commission adopting a strategy on plastics, on 16 January 2018, as part of our transition to a more circular economy. It will protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for Europe. Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted. I will shortly be bringing this strategy to the attention of all Government departments and asking them to consider how they might contribute to meeting these ambitious goals. 

National Development Plan

Ceisteanna (58)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

58. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the national development plan contains targets and projects for retrofitting homes; if his Department had an input into same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7474/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As set out in successive planning documents, such as the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan and National Mitigation Plan, both published in 2017, increasing the level and depth of energy efficiency upgrades to homes remains at the centre of policy in this area. This is reflected in the level of funding for these supports, which I have increased to €84m for 2018.  

While much has been achieved in improving energy efficiency in the residential sector, it is clear that, post 2020, the scale and depth of the measures undertaken must significantly increase. This is why pilot projects such as the Deep Retrofit and Warmth & Wellbeing schemes are already underway. These cutting edge initiatives are creating the evidence base necessary for the increase in effort, and investment we know we will have to make on improving residential energy efficiency in the period to be covered by the forthcoming National Development Plan.

Energy Efficiency

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 47.

Ceisteanna (59)

John Lahart

Ceist:

59. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase the flexibility and grounds on which persons can apply for the warmth and well-being grant. [7266/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Warmth and Wellbeing scheme is a joint policy initiative between my Department and the Department of Health under the Healthy Ireland framework, which aims to measure the health and wellbeing impacts of improving the energy efficiency of a person’s home. I have allocated €20m to the pilot scheme under the Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty for the period 2016-18. The scheme is being delivered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the Health Service Executive.

The scheme is being piloted in Community Healthcare Organisation 7 and is open to people aged 55 and over or 12 and under who are living with chronic respiratory conditions in households that are in receipt of the Fuel Allowance or the One-Parent Family Payment. Further, eligible applicants must be living in one of the pilot scheme areas - Dublin 8, 10, 12, 22 or 24.

As a pilot scheme that is 100% Exchequer funded, the resources available to the scheme are limited, and so it has targeted eligibility requirements in relation to medical and income needs. As well as needing to meet the medical, age and home location criteria, participation is limited to those deemed to be living in or at risk of energy poverty. To determine this with complete accuracy SEAI would need to know the condition of a person's home, including its energy efficiency level and heating system, that person's family circumstances and their household income level. However, it would not be practical or efficient for SEAI to perform this assessment for each applicant to the scheme. Therefore this is instead determined through the use of proxy indicators, principally the National Fuel Allowance. These proxy indicators provide an acceptable approximation that allows SEAI to identify that people are in or at risk of energy poverty without having to resort to a cumbersome, expensive and intrusive administrative regime.

An independent research project is underway to assess the impact the scheme is having. At the conclusion of the scheme, and with independent evidence on its effectiveness, the potential for a wider rollout, including extension of any application criteria will be considered.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 47.

Energy Policy

Ceisteanna (61)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

61. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to establish a biogas industry as an indigenous source of energy and an alternative to fossil fuels. [7400/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Having regard to the range of areas such as forestry, agriculture, waste, research funding and business development that have a role in the development of bioenergy, there are a wide range of Government Departments, agencies and State bodies that are critical enablers for the development of the sector.  The draft Bioenergy Plan sets out the policy areas that must be coordinated to support the development of the bioenergy sector in Ireland.  It identifies a number of supply-side and demand-side measures to support the sustainable development of the sector.

  Since its publication, a number of the actions set out have progressed significantly, such as the approval by Government of a new Support Scheme for Renewable Heat.  Furthermore, the publication of the Energy White Paper (Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future) and the National Mitigation Plan have provided an updated policy context. The draft bioenergy Plan is being updated to reflect these and other policy developments. The updated plan along with a Strategic Environmental Assessment and NATURA Impact Statement is currently under development and will be published for public consultation.

The production of biogas and biomethane from anaerobic digestion has significant potential in Ireland.  Biogas can be utilised to generate electricity and in the heat sector.  Biomethane, produced by removing impurities from biogas, can be used as a substitute for natural gas and can be injected directly into the gas network or used as a transport fuel.  In addition to being a source of renewable energy, it can also provide an outlet for farm wastes.  

An assessment of the costs and benefits of biogas and biomethane was undertaken by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and published. This formed part of the detailed economic assessment on the design and cost of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat.  

Operational support for anaerobic digestion heating systems will form part of the first phase of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat.  Other technologies and methods of support are under consideration for subsequent phases of the scheme, including biomethane grid injection. In this regard, my Department continues to examine how best to support biomethane production. This included a stakeholder workshop to examine potential support options with industry stakeholders held last month.

Cyber Security Policy

Ceisteanna (62, 87)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

62. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps being taken to enhance cyber security particularly in view of the networks information systems directive which must be transposed by May 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7256/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Noel Rock

Ceist:

87. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the work to ensure adherence to the network information systems directive with particular reference to cyber security; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7251/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 87 together.

Cyber security is a critically important area for Government, business and citizens alike, having regard to the potential implications for the infrastructure that people and services rely on. Since the formation of the National Cyber Security Centre in my Department in 2011 and the publication of the National Cyber Security Strategy, my Department has been working on a series of measures to further protect critical national infrastructure in addition to the existing work of the National Cyber Security Centre.

Some of these measures flow from the European Union Directive on Network and Information Security, and will involve applying binding security requirements on a selection of key infrastructure providers and certain online service providers. My Department informed those infrastructure operators likely to be formally designated of their status in September 2017, and published the draft set of security requirements for these infrastructure operators for public consultation in November. These operators span a wide range of areas, including the energy, healthcare, transport, and telecommunications sectors.

In addition to critical national infrastructure, the Directive also requires that States apply a new regulatory regime to Digital Service Providers (DSPs). These will include cloud computing providers, search engines providers and providers of online market places. Critically, the State will have responsibility for dealing with the security of services provided across the European Union by multinational companies that have their European headquarters located in Ireland.

My Department is currently giving priority to the process of transposing this Directive into national law in advance of the transposition deadline of May 2018.  I have asked my officials to arrange for the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action & Environment to have an opportunity to examine the draft legislation when it has been finalised.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (63)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

63. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to address problems with broadband provision in the western areas of County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7249/18]

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.

In April 2017 I published an updated High Speed Broadband Map which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/eircode:

- The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP and are the subject of an ongoing procurement process.

- The BLUE represent those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services. 

- The LIGHT BLUE areas represent eir's commercial rural deployment plans to rollout high speed broadband to 300,000 premises by the end of this year as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with me in April.

There are approximately 46,500 premises in the constituency of Dublin West. Approximately 900 (2%) fall within the AMBER area and will be covered under the State led Intervention. More than 45,400 (98%) of premises are in a BLUE area and are or will be covered by commercial providers. Less than 1% of premises in Dublin West are LIGHT BLUE.

My Department is in a formal procurement process to engage 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 rollout will commence.

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

I recognise the importance of availability of high speed connectivity for all premises in Ireland and fully appreciate the frustration felt by people, such as those in Dublin West, who do not currently have access to this level of connectivity.  The vital broadband connections these people need to live, work and learn will be delivered by the National broadband Plan.

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 which is available at http://www.ruralireland.ie/policies/national-broadband-plan/.

Departmental Bodies Establishment

Ceisteanna (64)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

64. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the deadline by which his Department in conjunction with the Departments of Justice and Equality and Children and Youth Affairs will appoint a digital safety commissioner. [7469/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The subject of online safety for all individuals but especially for children is of vital concern and importance to me.  This  issue  is a complex and multifaceted one and effective actions in this area rely on the active engagement of all stakeholders including Government, technology companies and parents. On Tuesday 21 November 2017 I convened a meeting with my colleagues, the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and their officials to discuss online safety issues, including the various initiatives which are taking place at a national and European level to tackle illegal or harmful content online.

  Recognising that there are already a range of diverse activities being taken by many Government Departments, by the European Commission, by industry and by stakeholders, we agreed at this meeting to further progress the matter of digital safety through an Open Policy Debate. The Open Policy Debate will take place on Thursday 8 March in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.  The establishment of an Office of a Digital Safety Commissioner is one of a number of proposals which will be discussed during this event.

My Department is co-ordinating this open policy debate with the support and participation of the Departments of Justice & Equality; Education & Skills; Business, Enterprise and Innovation; Health; and Children and Youth Affairs. My Department is also engaging with the relevant online platforms, ISPCC, parents' groups and other key stakeholders who will be participating in the initiative. The overall aim of the event is to raise awareness among all participants of the activities which are being undertaken by the Irish Government, by the European Commission, by industry and NGOs.

It is intended that the event will identify issues requiring further consideration and areas where additional cooperation between stakeholders would be beneficial.  Following the event, I will engage further with my Ministerial colleagues in relation to these matters.

Television Licence Fee Collection

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 45.

Ceisteanna (65)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

65. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to tackle the mass evasion of the television licence by households; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7248/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I am very much aware of the challenges that face the existing TV Licence system including the current level of evasion which is estimated to be 14.6%. While the rate has fallen from 15.3% at the end of 2013, it is still very high and equates to a loss of €40m per annum to public service broadcasting.

To address this issue, my Department has been working with An Post and RTÉ on an on-going basis to ensure that the TV licence collection system is working as effectively as possible. Measures such as marketing campaigns, more evening and weekend inspection and appointment of additional temporary inspectors are just some of the initiatives that have been utilised to enhance sales and improve compliance rates.

While these measures are important steps, I believe that the current system needs to be reformed. As the Deputy will be aware, I obtained Government approval last year to draft a number of legislative amendments to the Broadcasting Act 2009, including amendments for the tendering of TV Licence fee collection. The proposed amendments are currently under Pre-Legislative Scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action & Environment and I look forward to receiving the Committee's Report on the matter.

In addition, I requested the Committee to examine the longer term issue of the future funding of public service media. The Committee published their report at the end of November 2017 and I intend to bring the matter to Government shortly. 

Question No. 66 answered with Question No. 45.

Climate Change Policy

Question No. 68 answered with Question No. 26.

Ceisteanna (67)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

67. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the three most important actions he plans to take to address the issue of climate change and carbon reduction including development of the alternative energy sector and incentivising the transport sector to change to renewable fuels; the extent to which the domestic transport sector can be influential in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7415/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

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 by at least 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050 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.

Under the Paris Agreement, the EU has committed, on behalf of its Member States, to a reduction of at least 40% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, to be achieved by reductions in the Emission Trading System (ETS) sector of 43% and in the non-ETS sector of 30%. 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), which will replace the current Effort Sharing Decision. In December 2017, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the proposed ESR and I expect that this agreement to be shortly formally endorsed by both the European Parliament and Council. This provisional 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.

Official inventories of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions are prepared annually by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The most recent data, for the year 2015, is available on the EPA's website at: http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/airemissions/ghgemissions/.

According to this data, the breakdown of emissions by sector in 2015 is as follows:

Sector

Mt CO2eq.

% of total 2015 emissions

Agriculture

19.81

33.1%

Transport

11.83

19.8%

Energy Industries

11.80

19.8%

Residential

6.04

10.1%

Manufacturing Combustion

4.55

7.6%

Industrial Processes

1.99

3.3%

F-Gases

1.14

1.9%

Commercial Services

0.94

1.6%

Waste

0.97

1.6%

Public Services

0.81

1.3%

Total ETS

16.84

28%

Total Non-ETS

43.04

72%

Total for all sectors

59.88

100%

The latest EPA report on greenhouse gas emissions, published on 27 November, indicates that Ireland complied with its annual limits in the period 2013-2016. However, EPA projections indicate that Ireland is expected to exceed its annual limits from 2017 onwards, and that emissions could be between 4% and 6% below 2005 levels by 2020, and between 1% and 3% below 2005 levels by 2030. 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. It is now accepted that Ireland’s 2020 target was not consistent with what would be achievable on an EU wide cost-effective basis. In the light of this, Ireland’s 2030 target will present a very significant challenge.

As a means of addressing this challenge, 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 close the gap to Ireland's 2020 EU target and to prepare for the EU 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.

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.

Question No. 68 answered with Question No. 26.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (69)

John Lahart

Ceist:

69. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the roll-out of broadband to areas in the south west of County Dublin that are currently lacking in broadband (details supplied); if the matter will be addressed in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7268/18]

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 connection.

In April 2017 I published an updated High Speed Broadband Map which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/eircode:

- The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP and are the subject of an ongoing procurement process. 

- The BLUE represent those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services. 

- The LIGHT BLUE areas represent eir's commercial rural deployment plans to rollout high speed broadband to 300,000 premises by the end of this year as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with me last April.

There are approximately 58,000 premises in the constituency of Dublin South-West. Nearly 600 (1%) fall within the AMBER area and will be covered under the State led Intervention. More than 57,500 (98%) of premises are in a BLUE area and are or will be covered by commercial providers. Less than 1% of premises in Dublin South-West are LIGHT BLUE.

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 rollout will commence.

I recognise the importance of availability of high speed connectivity for all premises in Ireland and fully appreciate the frustration felt by people, such as those in Dublin South-West, who do not currently have access to this level of connectivity.  The vital broadband connections these people need to live, work and learn will be delivered by the National broadband Plan.

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 which is available at http://www.ruralireland.ie/policies/national-broadband-plan/.

Fish Farming

Ceisteanna (70)

Peter Burke

Ceist:

70. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the work of his Department and agencies under its aegis on ensuring investment in fish farms by Inland Fisheries Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7262/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I am advised by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), that following a positive and constructive meeting of its Fish Farming Working Group, the production supply of fish will continue throughout 2018, and thereafter.

The Fish Farming Working Group is comprised of members of Inland Fisheries Ireland’s Board and Executive, as well as the two main trout angling organisations in Ireland.

The Board of IFI has already confirmed its commitment to developing a comprehensive strategy to meet current and future trout production needs, subject to securing the investment required, and have agreed to proceed with a tender process for this project.

The future success and development of the sector depends on the close co-operation and constructive approach of both IFI and the stakeholders. The fact that the Fish Farming Working Group has begun 2018 with such a positive meeting is very much to be welcomed and I look forward to ongoing productive dialogue in the future.

I also welcomed the Group’s discussions, in the context of the future advancement of the sector, on the wider development of youth angling generally and the potential for developing urban angling locations.