GLAS Payments

Ceisteanna (189)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

189. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine when a GLAS payment will issue to a person (details supplied); the reason for the delay to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18241/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

The above named was approved into GLAS 2 with a contract commencement date of 1 January 2016 and has received all payments in respect of scheme year 2016.

Administrative checks must take place on all GLAS claims. All cases must clear validation checks before payment can issue. My Department is working proactively to complete these checks in this case. Once this case clears the validations the 2017 advance payment will be made. GLAS 2017 advance payments are being made on a weekly basis.

Dairy Sector

Ceisteanna (190)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

190. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the proposals he has put forward at EU level on the need for the European Commission to introduce measures to support the dairy sector in view of the downward pressure on prices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18291/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

As the Deputy is aware, the Irish dairy market, following on from broader EU and International trends, has performed strongly in 2017 and the early months of 2018, following a period of low prices in 2015 and 2016. While the overall dairy sector is now in a much better place overall than it has been in recent years, there is a significant overhang of intervention stocks of skimmed milk powder in the EU .

I remain conscious of the pressure volatility in dairy markets can exert on farmers and I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to utilising all measures at our disposal, including EU market measures such as intervention, aids to private storage and exceptional market measures, as necessary. 

Ireland is strongly positioned as a competitive producer of dairy products. It has enviable natural resources, adaptable and resilient producers, a strong international reputation, an effective dairy processing sector and a strong core of research infrastructure and expertise. My Department will continue to work with our partners in the industry to develop measures which can minimise the effects of price volatility in the future and ensure sustainable growth.

Fodder Crisis

Ceisteanna (191)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

191. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if payment will be made to farmers in respect of the transport costs of purchased fodder in circumstances in which farmers had to source fodder supplies long distances from their farms and such supplies were bought in advance of the introduction of the transport subsidy; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that some farmers in areas such as counties Cavan and Monaghan had to buy fodder from early 2018 due to cattle being housed early in the autumn of 2017 and the lack of a second cut of silage necessitated the purchase of fodder for many farmers from January 2018 onwards; if such cases will be included under the transport scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18294/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

In response to the problems experienced in parts of the West and North-West in the late autumn and winter I took a number of steps to address issues around the availability of fodder. I introduced a targeted ‘Fodder Transport Support measure’ on 29 January 2018 to provide additional assistance to those livestock farmers in parts of the West and North West severely affected by on-going fodder shortages. The main purpose of the measure was to support the cost of transporting fodder between those areas where it was plentiful and those where it was scarce.

The continuation of cold wet weather throughout March resulted in a serious delay to the onset of spring. Grass growth remained negligible, ground stayed wet and livestock had to remain housed in many cases. This resulted in the fodder problem extending countrywide with a consequent tightening of fodder availability nationally.

In response, I extended the Fodder Transport Support measure to all counties and also introduced a Fodder Import Support Measure, to ensure that there was adequate fodder available to feed the national herd.

However it is not possible to retrospectively include farmers as eligible for support during the period in advance of the introduction of these schemes.

Greyhound Industry

Ceisteanna (192)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

192. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to amend to the Greyhound Industry Bill 2017 to ensure that the State does not allow the export of greyhounds to countries in which animal welfare standards are poor and not in line with Irish animal welfare standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18295/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Trade within the EU of dogs, including greyhounds, is governed by EU law.  The position is that once animal health and welfare certification requirements, and the provisions of Council Regulation (EC) No 1 of 2005 on the protection of animals during transport, are met, dogs, including greyhounds, may be moved within the EU or exported to a non-EU country.  The main destination for Irish dogs and greyhounds moved abroad is the UK.

Under EU law, dogs moved to another EU country from Ireland must be accompanied by an EU pet passport, be microchipped, and have a valid rabies vaccination. 

Also under EU law, a premises exporting dogs must be registered with my Department. 

Dogs must also have a health certificate issued by a Department veterinarian. 

I have introduced new greyhound racing legislation to ensure that the principles of good governance and regulation are clearly and unambiguously laid down in primary legislation. In broad terms the Bill seeks to address the deficiencies in the existing legislation as identified in the Indecon report, the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine report and the Morris report. It addresses the governance of Bord na gCon, strengthens regulatory controls in the industry, modernises sanctions and improves integrity with a view to building a reputation for exceptional regulation in the sector. The draft General Scheme of the Bill has progressed through the pre-legislative scrutiny phase. It is hoped that a memorandum will go to Government in the coming weeks, which will request approval to publish the updated General Scheme and to submit it to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.

Sheep Welfare Scheme

Ceisteanna (193)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

193. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if the advance payment for the sheep welfare scheme 2017 will issue to a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18301/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

An application was received under the Sheep Welfare Scheme from the person named under both herd numbers on 31 January 2017. Under the terms and conditions of the scheme, applicants are required to submit a Basic Payment Scheme application for each year of scheme participation, and comply with the requirement to be an active farmer.

In this case, a Basic Payment application was received under one of the herd numbers and thus advance payment issued in respect of the Sheep Welfare application submitted for that herd number only.

The Sheep Welfare application has now been amended to take account of the fact that the two herd numbers are linked and will be processed for payment accordingly. Balancing payments in respect of these applications are due to commence shortly.

Coastal Protection

Ceisteanna (194)

Fergus O'Dowd

Ceist:

194. Deputy Fergus O'Dowd asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position with coastal reclamation and protection in areas surrounding the Boyne River inlet in County Louth and the eastern area of County Meath following recent extreme weather; if reports have been undertaken to examine the change in the coastal protection requirements; if reports have been undertaken to examine the silt deposits in the Boyne River inlet and other related reports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18117/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I have no statutory function in relation to coastal erosion and flood relief. The lead responsibility for dealing with flood relief and flood risk management rests with the Office of Public Works (OPW), which is the responsibility of the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. I understand that Drogheda Port Company also has a role in relation to dredging of the Boyne Estuary.

Mining Licences

Ceisteanna (195)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

195. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if issues raised in correspondence (details supplied) will be examined in view of the concerns of a local community; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18123/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As the Deputy may be aware, three comprehensive letters of information and clarification have been sent to the Cavan Mining Objection Group to date and all of the issues now raised have been addressed previously. In addition, a presentation was given to Cavan County Council by the Chief Geologist of the Exploration and Mining Division of my Department on April 9th at which members of the Cavan Mining Objection Group were present. For clarity, I will ask my officials to send a copy of all correspondence and of the presentation given to Cavan County Council directly to the Deputy.

In brief, in response to the points raised in the correspondence attached to the Deputy’s question, I can confirm:

- To date, where minerals have been found and companies have purchased land, this has been agreed with the landowner. There have been no instances to date where a landowner has been forced to sell their land. In addition, to date, there have been no compulsory acquisitions of land for mining development.

- The text of my Department’s letter to the Cavan Mining Objection Group, dated 28 September, identified the environmental safeguards that have been put in place to guard against the possibility of any potential significant environmental impacts arising. It is important to note that in the case of mining, the environmental assessments are carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

- It is noted that Ireland ranks highly in the Policy Perception Index (PPI) because of its robust and transparent regulatory system. The transparency of the expectations with regard to adherence to licence conditions and protection of the environment provide clarity to any exploration company considering investment in this jurisdiction.

- The Directors of BMEx Ltd. carried out two site visits in the locality. Other than that, the data analysis and compilation has been desk-based.

- It should be noted that no application for mining has been made. I reiterate that prospecting and exploration activities are non-intrusive and temporary in nature and environmental impact is minimal.

The up-to-date position regarding these Prospecting Licences is that BMEx Ltd. have carried out data compilation and geological mapping in the Prospecting Licence Areas, and, as a result of this work, they have downgraded the prospectivity of the project and have decided to prioritise exploration elsewhere. The licences have been recently surrendered by the company.

I trust this and all of the previous correspondence clarifies matters for the Deputy.

Departmental Expenditure

Ceisteanna (196, 197)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

196. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount his Department has spent on social media training and consultancy in each of the years 2011 to 2016. [18160/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

197. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if training has been delivered in his Department on the use of social media; the frequency and cost of this training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18196/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 196 and 197 together.

My Department did not incur any expenditure on social media training or social media consultancy from 2011 to 2017. In 2018, €1,900 has been expended on consultancy on the preparation of a social media campaign as part of the on-going awareness and education campaign on waste and recycling.

Telecommunications Services Provision

Ceisteanna (198)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

198. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if research has been carried out by his Department into the possibility of supplying a panic alarm system through the mobile telephone network or as part of the national broadband network (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18216/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I am not aware of any research undertaken into the possibility of supplying a panic alarm system through the mobile phone network. I am, however, familiar with the Seniors Alert Scheme (SAS), which is run by Pobal under the auspices of the Department of Rural and Community Development.  The objective of the scheme is to encourage community support for vulnerable older people in our communities through the provision of personal monitored alarms to enable older persons to continue to live securely in their homes with confidence, independence and peace of mind.

I understand that funding is available under the scheme towards the purchase of equipment by a registered organisation i.e. personal alarm and pendant with one year's monitoring. The subsequent associated monitoring and service charges must be paid by the participant. The equipment is funded by Pobal and made available through community, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations registered with Pobal under the SAS. This scheme is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development. 

The telecommunications market in Ireland has been fully liberalised since 1999. Decisions by commercial operators to invest in particular technologies, including fixed line network technologies are taken purely on commercial grounds, having regard to the cost of service provision and the anticipated revenue returns from any such investment.  Neither my Department nor the Commission for Communications Regulation, the independent market regulator, have statutory authority to oblige any particular network provider to invest in the provision of upgraded services however if the Deputy is aware of any research or new work in the technical area of panic alarm systems, I would be extremely interested in receiving this information or to facilitate a meeting.

Litter Pollution

Ceisteanna (199)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

199. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the action he will take to ensure that tobacco companies make a contribution towards the clean up of waste in view of the fact that according to Dublin City Council, cigarette butts account for 60% of all street littler in Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18284/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Litter Pollution Act 1997 provides the statutory framework to combat litter pollution. Under the Act, the primary management and enforcement responsibility rests with Local Authorities, who have a wide range of powers to tackle litter effectively, including "on-the-spot" fines of up to €150 or, on summary conviction, fines up to €4,000, for those who litter.

  While rigorous Local Authority enforcement is a part of the solution to littering, I believe that the key to success in tackling litter issues, including cigarette-related litter, is through awareness raising and education. Education for young people, in particular, through the litter module of the Green Schools Programme which my Department supports each year.  Since 1997, my Department has also allocated in excess €15.4 million to Local Authorities under the  Anti-Litter and Anti-Graffiti Awareness Grant Scheme (ALAGS).  Under this Scheme, Local Authorities are responsible for selecting suitable anti-litter awareness projects for funding and deciding on the grant allocations in individual cases. In 2017, I increased funding for this scheme by 28% to €885,000 and I will be maintaining this level of funding for 2018.

I am pleased that consecutive annual National Litter Pollution Monitoring Surveys (see www.litter.ie) have shown that the litter situation is generally improving across the country in recent years, so I do not propose at this time to seek a contribution specifically from the tobacco industry.

I assure the Deputy that effective litter prevention and management remains a priority for me.

Nuclear Plants

Ceisteanna (200)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

200. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department submitted an observation as part of the public consultation for the Hinkley Point nuclear plant; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18288/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Ireland enjoys a close working relationship with the United Kingdom on radiological matters through a UK-Ireland Contact Group which meets biannually. The most recent meeting, held in Dublin on April 18, was attended by officials from my Department, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the United Kingdom's Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Office for Nuclear Regulation, and National Decommissioning Authority, in addition to officials from the Isle of Man administration.

  The UK's new nuclear build programme, including Hinkley Point C, is a standing agenda item at these meetings. This engagement informed the publication of the 2013 EPA report on proposed nuclear power plants in the UK and the potential radiological implications for Ireland, which found that the routine operation of the proposed nuclear power plants, including Hinkley Point C, will have no measurable radiological impact on Ireland or the Irish marine environment. This report continues to inform Irish engagement on the UK new nuclear build programme. Senior officials from my Department and the EPA also visited the Hinkley Point C site in October 2017 to learn more about the project.

  Through this process officials from my Department and the EPA have the opportunity to raise issues of concern directly with the UK at both a policy and technical level, and on that basis, my Department has not submitted an observation as part of the public consultation for the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant. However, the EPA has submitted observations to the consultation.

Waste Disposal Charges

Question No. 202 answered with Question No. 47.

Ceisteanna (201)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

201. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if an implementation date been reached regarding the pay by weight for household waste and the allowance of €75 for households with medical waste; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18287/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In line with the commitments set out in A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland, published in 2012, and in the interest of encouraging further waste prevention and greater recycling, flat-rate fees for kerbside household waste collection are being phased out over the period autumn 2017 to autumn 2018, as customers contracts come up for renewal. The necessary regulatory steps have been put in place to give effect to this measure.

It is worth noting that this measure is not ‘new’ for about half of kerbside household waste customers, who are already on an incentivised usage pricing plan, i.e., a plan which contains a per lift or a weight related fee.

As announced in mid-2017, mandatory per kilogramme 'pay by weight' charging is not being introduced. Allowing for a range of charging options, which encourage householders to reduce and separate their waste, provides flexibility to waste collectors to develop various service-price offerings that suit different household circumstances.

An annual support of €75 per person will be made available for persons with lifelong or long-term medical incontinence. This will help people meet the average annual cost for the disposal of medical incontinence products.  My Department is currently in discussion with the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive to finalise the details and arrangements of the support which will involve further engagement with relevant stakeholders.

Question No. 202 answered with Question No. 47.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (203)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

203. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the five most important issues whereby he and his Department can positively impact on the issue of climate change with particular reference to greenhouse gas reduction in public and private transport, energy conservation in the home, domestic motoring and agriculture and forestry while continuing to protect economic output; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18320/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I refer to the reply to Question No. 67 of 14 February 2018 and to Question No. 24 on today’s Order Paper.

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.

Meeting Ireland's EU targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 2030 will be extremely challenging. 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 against a target that emissions should be 20% below their 2005 levels. The projected shortfall to our targets 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.

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%. The recently agreed EU Effort Sharing Regulation sets out binding annual greenhouse gas emission targets in the non-ETS sector for each Member State for the period 2021 to 2030. Ireland’s target under this Regulation will be for a 30% reduction on 2005 levels of emissions by 2030.

To meet these targets, Ireland's first statutory National Mitigation Plan, which I published in July last year, provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The purpose of the Plan is to specify the policy measures required in order to manage Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions at a level appropriate for making progress towards our long-term national transition objective as set out in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, as well as to take into account existing EU and international obligations on the State in relation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Although this first Plan does not provide a complete roadmap to achieve the national transition objective to 2050, it begins the process of development of medium- to long-term options to ensure that we are well positioned to take the necessary actions in the next and future decades.

Building on the National Mitigation Plan, the publication in February of the National Development Plan will lead to a significant step change in funding available for climate action over the next decade. Almost €22 billion will be directed, between Exchequer and non-Exchequer resources, to addressing the transition to a low-carbon and climate resilient society. In addition, the NDP allocated a further €8.6 billion for investments in sustainable mobility. This capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions over the period to 2030.

The key investment priorities in the National Development Plan that my Department will take forward include:

- energy efficiency upgrades of 45,000 homes per annum from 2021 and providing support for a major roll-out of heat pump technologies;

- delivering energy upgrades to BER 'B' level to all public buildings and a minimum of one third of commercial buildings;

- implementing the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme to deliver an additional 3,000-4,500 MW of renewable energy,

- rollout of the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat and National Smart Metering Programme; and

- transitioning Moneypoint away from coal by the middle of the next decade.

Mobile Telephony Services

Ceisteanna (204, 205)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

204. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has had discussions with service providers with regard to the possible improvement of the quality of the mobile telephone service with particular reference to areas with very poor service due to lack of reception and others due to overloading; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18323/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

205. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason the mobile telephone service here is inferior to the service available in other European countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18324/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 204 and 205 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.

With respect to the quality of mobile telephony service in other countries, comparisons between Member States and within regions can be problematic for many reasons, including the fact that the technical characteristics of mobile phone networks that determine coverage and capacity will vary between operators and locations. Other factors would include the characteristics of individual markets, including topography, population density, frequencies used etc.

Various initiatives are underway to improve the quality and coverage of mobile services and broadband throughout Ireland. 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.

Minister Kyne and I published the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce Implementation Review 2017 on 21 February 2018, which comprehensively outlines the progress made in 2017 on the actions identified by the Taskforce. Of the 40 actions, 29 have been completed, with work on the remaining 11 carrying into the 2018 Work Programme. Following close engagement with stakeholders at the National Stakeholder Forum, an additional 23 new measures have been identified for delivery in 2018, which will lead to improvements for consumers across Ireland.

In terms of addressing mobile coverage blackspots, various initiatives are under way:

- My Department and the Department of Rural and Community Development have worked to achieve a greater consensus around site selection for telecoms infrastructure and therefore improve mobile phone coverage.

- Both Departments also worked with a pilot group of local authorities to identify the issues associated with mapping local blackspots. This pilot exercise has been completed, with all local authorities having been asked to map local blackspots and identify infrastructure that could potentially be used to provide additional coverage on an economic basis. This exercise is ongoing, and has been included in the 2018 Taskforce Work Programme. It is planned to have dedicated GIS resources in place to support this.

- Under Action 40 of the 2016 Report, a review was conducted to identify recommendations to address blackspots. This work is continuing in 2018 under a focus group to inform future policy development and initiatives, in providing guidance with respect to specific categories of locations where high quality mobile phone coverage should be made available as a priority, taking account of customer expectations.  

- ComReg is also delivering a composite national coverage map, which will, in tandem with its work on handset testing and activities to raise consumer awareness, allow people across Ireland to optimise the services available to them.

In tandem with the work of the Taskforce, the release by ComReg of the 3.6GHz radio spectrum band, which has been identified at EU level as a primary band suitable for the introduction of 5G, will also contribute to addressing increasing mobile data demands and improve mobile coverage. Mobile operators’ commercial investment has also resulted in improved services, following ComReg's 2012 multi-band spectrum auction. At least one operator now has in excess of 90% 4G population coverage.

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

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (206, 207)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

206. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures he will take to discourage the use of non-biodegradable plastics; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18325/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

207. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a means can be found to incentivise a reduction in the use of plastic wrappings and containers that are non-biodegradable; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18326/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 206 and 207 together.

Tackling the negative impacts of plastic on our environment is a national and global challenge.  I am working with my colleagues in Government and internationally to ensure that Ireland acts to protect our environment and at the same time provide new opportunities in a circular economy.

I recently wrote to the EU Commissioner with responsibility for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Commissioner Vella, welcoming the European Strategy for Plastics. I assured him that Ireland fully embraces the ambition of the new strategy and indeed will strive to go beyond it.   

In response to the list of measures announced, I asked the Commissioner to focus, in particular, on the more difficult non-recyclable plastics, such as soft wrapping, film and single use items like coffee cups and plastic cutlery.  The Commission has indicated that an announcement will be made next month around its intentions in this area.  I believe that this will support EU Member States taking actions in this area and may result in new legislative proposals to take action at a European market level.

Since I first mooted the introduction of a levy on single use non-recyclable coffee cups, some retailers are now moving to replace their non-recyclable cups with compostable cups. In order to support the elimination of single-use plastic cups by industry, I do not intend to introduce a levy on compostable cups. However, I am looking at a range of other potential levies on single use plastic items, unless there is constructive engagement by industry with my Department to tackle these environmentally damaging plastic items.

Domestically, I am also looking at the Plastics Strategy's recommendations for national administrations to see what can be delivered in a short time frame.  Already many of the measures recommended in the Strategy are well embedded into Irish resource management. These measures include the existing Extended Producer Responsibility schemes run by REPAK and the Irish Farm Films and Plastics Group, the landfill levy, the plastic bag levy, as well as robust enforcement around illegal dumping and landfilling. 

Similarly, consumers need to be supported in their efforts to do the right thing around plastic recycling. The national recycling list and recycling ambassadors’ programme try to ensure these valuable materials are used as a resource for our communities and economy rather than being wasted.

In relation to plastic wrapping and containers, REPAK members pay fees based on the amount of packaging they place on the market and this incentivises them to reduce packaging.  REPAK’s ‘Prevent and Save’ initiative, funded by my department via the National Waste Prevention Programme, employs specialist packaging technologists to optimise packaging used and to minimise any resulting packaging waste.

In relation to marine plastic, my colleague, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, will be bringing in a Bill to prohibit the manufacturing, selling, importing or exporting of cosmetics, personal care products, detergents and scouring agents containing plastic microbeads that are liable to be washed into wastewater systems with the potential to reach our rivers, lakes and seas. 

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (208)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

208. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he expects the delivery of broadband to proceed throughout the country with particular reference to those areas located between services but not in receipt of service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18327/18]

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. Since this Government came into office almost 400,000 additional premises 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.

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 in those areas where commercial operators acting alone will not provide this essential service.  These latter areas form the Intervention Area that will be included in the State Intervention under the NBP.

Individuals can check which category their premises falls into by going to my Department’s website www.broadband.gov.ie and searching the Map via eircode/address.

- 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.

Currently, approximately 1.8m premises of the 2.3m premises in Ireland can or will get high speed broadband from commercial service providers and investment by the telecoms sector is continuing to expand this footprint.

Information on a county by county basis with a breakdown of coverage across the townlands in every county is available on my Department’s website at http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/en-ie/Broadband/Pages/County-and-Townland-Maps.aspx. 

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 the 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. eir has passed a total of 121,000 premises as of December 2017.  Figures for Q1 2018 are expected to be published in May.

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.

Electricity Generation

Ceisteanna (209)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

209. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the proportion of electricity generated from oil, gas, coal, wind, solar or other renewable sources; the extent to which the present position is in line with expectations and international requirements; when it is expected that renewable sources will meet international targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18328/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Energy White Paper presents a long-term strategic vision that is intended to guide the direction of Irish energy policy from now until 2030. It identifies the long-term strategic importance of diversifying Ireland's energy generation portfolio and largely decarbonising the energy sector by 2050.  It does not set out targets for specific renewable technologies; rather it provides a framework to guide policy between now and 2030.

  The EU Renewable Energy Directive sets Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. In addition, Ireland's renewable energy portfolio post-2020 will have regard to our obligations and member state contribution that may be agreed as part of an EU-wide renewables target under the new Renewable Energy Directive, that is currently being negotiated under the Clean Energy Package.

Published data from the SEAI indicates that 27.2% of electricity, 6.8% of heat and 5.0% of transport energy requirements were met from renewable sources at end 2016. Overall, SEAI analysis shows that 9.5% of Ireland’s energy requirements in 2016 were met from renewable sources.  The SEAI projects that Ireland will achieve between 13.2% and 15.4% of its 16% renewable energy target by 2020, indicating that Ireland should be between 82% and 96% of its target. While Ireland has made considerable progress in the decarbonisation of our energy sector in recent years this progress will need to accelerate in pace in the coming years.

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

Details in relation to electricity system demand and fuel mix are publicly available on the EirGrid website at http://www.eirgridgroup.com/.  

The following table provides a breakdown of 2016 generation for all technologies on a percentage basis.  

Generation Technology

Proportions of electricity generated (%)

(2016)

Oil

1.0%

Peat

7.7%

Coal

15.6%

Natural Gas

50.6%

Wind

(normalised)

20.4%

(22.3%)

Hydro

(normalised)

2.3%

(2.5%)

Other Renewables and Wastes

2.5%

Total

100%