Commission for Communications Regulation Staff

Ceisteanna (277)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

277. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of requests for additional funding, staff resources or expertise that have been made by the Commission for Communications Regulation since January 2016; the purpose of the requested additional funding, staff resources or expertise; the response of his Department to each request in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13134/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department is in discussion with Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to a request by ComReg referring to ongoing and additional resourcing needs, including in relation to telecommunications market developments and EU regulatory revisions, the National Broadband Plan State Intervention and the ongoing work of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce. During the course of this ongoing engagement my Department is focused on ensuring that the Regulator is appropriately resourced to meet current and future challenges in delivering on its statutory and regulatory remit.

Commission for Energy Regulation Staff

Ceisteanna (278)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

278. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of requests for additional funding, staff resources or expertise that have been made by the Commission for Energy Regulation since January 2016; the purpose of the requested additional funding, staff resources or expertise; the response of his Department to each request in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13135/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The name of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) was changed to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) in September 2017 to fully reflect its remit to regulate water, energy and energy safety.

  The current staffing levels and grading structure at the Commission for Regulation of Utilities were agreed in early 2016 following an extensive engagement between the CRU, my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. There have been no requests to my Department for any additional resources since then.

Environmental Protection Agency Staff

Ceisteanna (279)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

279. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of requests for additional funding, staff resources or expertise that have been made by the EPA since January 2016; the purpose of the requested additional funding, staff resources or expertise; the response of his Department to each request in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13139/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The information requested is being compiled and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (280)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

280. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the date for the roll-out of high speed broadband for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13088/18]

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, almost 7 out of 10 of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland have access to high speed broadband. 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.

The premises referred to by the Deputy are in an AMBER area on my Department’s High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie

They are therefore included in the State Intervention Area under the NBP.

My Department is in a formal procurement process to select a company who will roll-out a new high speed broadband network in the State intervention area. That procurement process is now in its final stages.

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.  Broadband Officers may also be able to provide information on local wifi access, hot desks and other local authority initiatives that may improve access to high speed broadband in the interim period before roll out of the State led intervention.

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (281, 283, 284)

Ruth Coppinger

Ceist:

281. Deputy Ruth Coppinger asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the charging for the collection of recyclable waste; the risk of reducing the amount of recycling as a result; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13123/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

283. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the move by large waste management companies to charge for green bin collections; his views on whether this will discourage recycling; the steps he is taking to address same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13182/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

284. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the Commission for Regulation of Utilities will address escalating charges by waste management companies and produce its report on the pay by weight payment changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13183/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 281, 283 and 284 together.

The charges applied by waste management companies are matters for those companies and their customers, subject to compliance with all applicable environmental and other relevant legislation, including contract and consumer legislation.

In terms of environmental requirements, the charges applied should encourage householders to divert waste from the residual or general waste bin. For example, it would be expected that charges for the general waste bin would be higher than charges, if any, applied to the recycle bin.

The Government has funded a range measures to support better recycling and reduce contamination of waste, including:

- a national, standardised list of items that can go into the recycle bin has been established, which is available at http://recyclinglistireland.ie/;

- this standardised list has been supported by a public education campaign run by the regional waste management authorities, comprising radio advertisements, social media, billboards/posters, etc., to promote the new list; and,

- a ‘master recycling’ programme, also run by the regional waste management authorities, in partnership with environmental NGOs, to roll out 650 workshops across the country training recycling ambassadors to bring the recycling message and understanding to a wide variety of communities;

Almost all paper and plastic packaging is governed by EU internal market and packaging legislation. In that context, as Minister, I have called on the European Union to urgently consider collectively banning single-use plastic items on foot of the EU Plastic Strategy to further protect the environment and to help alleviate the impact of the decision by China to restrict its intake of recyclable waste.

In addition, I have also provided Government funding to support and encourage better separation of waste through a number of initiatives such as:

- the Stop Food Waste programme www.stopfoodwaste.ie, which is implemented under the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Waste Prevention Programme and is aimed at both householders and businesses, providing comprehensive information about the food that is wasted and how to prevent this, and,

- the development of a website www.brownbin.ie to provide the public with the information required to use the organic bin appropriately, including advice on the optimal methods for effective collection and storage of food waste.

In terms of pricing, I established a Household Waste Collection Price Monitoring Group (PMG) last year to monitor the rates charged by household waste collectors during the phasing out of flat rate fees. The PMG has met each month since September 2017 and has considered six months of pricing data trends. The PMG has indicated that, in the vast majority of cases to date, prices have remained stable. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is also currently conducting a separate study on the operation of the household waste collection market which it will complete in 2018.

The results from the PMG are being monitored, and in conjunction with the study being undertaken by the CCPC, will provide an evidence base for future decisions in relation to the need for further regulation of the waste market.

Ministerial Staff Data

Questions Nos. 283 and 284 answered with Question No. 281.

Ceisteanna (282)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

282. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the details of each non-Civil Service appointment he has made to a role in his Department; the persons appointed; the role, qualifications and salary of each; and the guidelines that apply in respect of party political fundraising. [13154/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Since my appointment as Minister I have appointed two Special Advisers, Ms Suzie Coogan and Mr. Ross Elwood. Ms Coogan was appointed as press and media advisor and was previously employed as a journalist, government advisor and communications director for an international NGO. Ms Coogan's annual salary is currently at the rate of €95,441.

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

In addition, I appointed two Civilian Drivers, Mr. Liam Feehily and Mr Michael Concar both of whom are on a salary level of €36,057 per annum.

All of the above appointments were made in accordance with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s 'Instruction to Personnel Officers - Ministerial Appointments for the 32nd Dáil'.

The terms of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 apply to all Ministerial staff appointments, including Special Advisers, and in accordance with these Acts a copy of the appointees' contracts of employment together with details of qualifications are laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas. In addition, the Acts provide for each individual appointee, with the exception of the grade of Civilian Driver, to make written statements of registerable interests which could materially influence the appointee in, or in relation to, the performance of official functions.

The Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour also apply to Ministerial appointees but the Deputy may wish to note that the restrictions on civil servants engaging in political activity under the Code do not apply to Ministerial staff holding temporary unestablished positions in the civil service and whose tenure is coterminous with that of the relevant Minister. I am satisfied that all of the persons appointed by me are appropriately qualified to carry out their official functions.

Questions Nos. 283 and 284 answered with Question No. 281.

Air Pollution

Ceisteanna (285)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

285. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on his recent decision to ban coal burning here from September 2018; the impacts this will have on ordinary households, in particular on households enduring fuel poverty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13184/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal, or ‘the smoky coal ban’ as it is commonly known, was first introduced in Dublin in 1990, and subsequently extended to our major cities. Following a public consultation process, it was further extended in 2012, and now applies in 26 urban areas nationwide. The ban has proved very effective in reducing particulate matter and sulphur dioxide levels and has had the effect of significantly improving public health. Research indicates, for example, that the ban has resulted in over 350 fewer annual deaths in Dublin alone.

Scientific understanding has evolved in the intervening years, however, and numerous studies now indicate that air pollution has impacts on human health at lower levels than was previously understood.  Consequently, it is necessary to continue to strengthen policy to enhance air quality for the protection of people’s health and the environment.

Recent monitoring has also revealed that the air quality in some of our smaller towns in Winter is worse than that in larger towns where the ban is in place.  Given the clear human health benefits, I am committed to extending the ban nationwide.  This process necessarily involves discussion and consultation with a wide number of stakeholders, including with the European Commission, relevant Government Departments and Agencies, the residential fuel industry, and the general public.  Discussions with many of these stakeholders on issues that may arise in connection with the proposed nationwide ban are underway.  My next step will be to introduce the specific legal measures to give effect to the ban over a twelve month period commencing in Autumn 2018. This period of 12 months lead-in time will allow both the industry and householders to 'wash through' existing stock in preparation for the full ban on the marketing, sale, distribution and burning of bituminous coal coming into effect throughout the State from Autumn 2019.

Where householders continue to rely on solid fuel, there is now a range of innovative low smoke solid fuel products, including low smoke coal products, available on the market. Low smoke solid fuel is cleaner and more energy efficient. It can deliver improved air quality as well as human health benefits.

In relation to cost, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has published figures comparing the respective costs of domestic fuels.  These are available online at https://www.seai.ie/resources/publications/Domestic-Fuel-Cost-Comparison-October-2017.pdf and show that while low smoke fuels are typically more expensive to buy on a weight-by-weight basis, they have a higher heat output than coal or lignite nuggets.  Low smoke fuels, therefore, represent good value for money.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (286, 287)

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

286. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if there is a register or other collection of data used by his Department to identify excess, waste or surplus heat in industry or other sectors; if this data is mapped by his Department or a body under its aegis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13206/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

287. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the action he is taking to promote district heating here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13214/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 286 and 287 together.

In 2015, AECOM completed a study commissioned by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to fulfil Ireland’s requirements under Article 14 of the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) and SEAI’s responsibility under 23(1) of the European Union (Energy Efficiency) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 426 of 2014). As part of this study a map of Ireland’s heat demand was developed.

In addition to presenting a spatial representation of Ireland's heat demand data, the map includes industrial waste heat availability for EU Emissions Trading System sites, the location of industrial sites, key energy supply technologies including power stations and water network lengths, gas network lengths and road lengths used for the calculation of linear heat density. The map is available on the SEAI website at the following address: http://maps.seai.ie/heatdemand/.

A large portion of heat demand in Ireland is generally low density in nature and not suitable for district heating.  However, potential exists for certain scale projects and further analysis could potentially identify more localised opportunities.

One of the commitments in the Energy White Paper (Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future) is to “develop a policy framework to encourage the development of district heating”.  A working group, chaired by my Department, has been established in order to develop this framework. 

The Support Scheme for Renewable Heat (SSRH), which was approved by Government in December 2017, is designed to support the adoption of renewable heating systems by non-domestic heat users at sites not covered by the emissions trading system.  This will include district heating systems in addition to commercial, industrial, agricultural and other non-domestic heat users.