Questions Nos. 1 to 10, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 11 to 17, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 18 to 24, inclusive, answered orally.

Trading Online Voucher Scheme

Questions Nos. 26 to 28, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (25)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

25. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase the grant for businesses to set up an online sales platform in view of competition from overseas and the actual cost to set up such a platform; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16175/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

A key element of developing Ireland's digital presence has been to encourage small businesses to discover the economic potential of the Internet. The Trading Online Voucher Scheme assists small businesses that are not yet trading online, to develop their ecommerce capability, pairing training with financial support of up to €2,500.  This is a demand-led scheme, for which I have secured up to €3 million to support a further 1,500 small businesses in 2018 to grow and diversify their markets through trading online.

The scheme targets a broad range of businesses including retail, food, professional services, arts and crafts, and manufacturing. It encourages businesses to invest their own resources in developing their digital capability to target their customers effectively. A business may apply for matched funding to a maximum value of €2,500 . The average drawdown payment by applicants under the scheme is €1,800, with over 80% of expenditure relating to direct web development costs.

The Scheme has been highly effective in achieving its objectives with 4,300 vouchers approved to date and over 10,000 businesses benefitting from training delivered by the Local Enterprise Offices since 2014.  Bu sinesses, both urban and rural, who participate grow their sales on average by 21%, increase employment by 35% and 3 out of 5 begin exporting for the first time. 

My aim is to help even more businesses to trade online. My Department is currently scoping initiatives to build on the success of the scheme, including the development of a national website infrastructure for online application to the scheme to make it easier for more businesses to apply and for businesses to obtain information when developing their online trading presence businesses. Furthermore over 500 small business owners across the country have participated in digital literacy training under the Getting Citizens Online programme.

Questions Nos. 26 to 28, inclusive, answered orally.

Post Office Network

Questions Nos. 30 and 31 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (29, 33)

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

29. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures he is pursuing to protect and enhance rural post offices; the responsibilities he has in this area; the action he has planned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8508/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

33. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the policy in terms of progress towards changes in services available through the post office network or broadening services to maintain a viable network of post offices and maintain an efficient postal delivery service. [18029/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 29 and 33 together.

As Minister, I am responsible for the postal sector including the governance of An Post.  Operational matters relating to the company’s retail business, including the post office network, are matters for the Board and management of An Post. Nonetheless, I am acutely conscious of the value placed by communities in both rural and urban areas on services provided by post offices and am concerned to ensure the needs of those communities continue to be met.

An Post’s Annual Report for 2017, published last week, records an operating profit for 2017 of €8.4m reflecting the hard work that has been undertaken over the past year to restructure the company.  In response to the challenges facing the company, the Board has overseen the preparation of a comprehensive strategic plan, the objective of which is to secure the long term viability of both the post office and mails businesses and return the company to a sound financial footing.  The €30m Government loan provided to An Post late last year ensures that the company can continue to roll out its strategy quickly, building on the momentum of actions already taken including the continuation of daily mail deliveries and the renewal of the post office network.

The strategic plan harnesses the company's existing strengths such as its nationwide reach, trusted brand and the relationship of postmasters with communities, both rural and urban. At the same time, An Post has recognised that it must embrace the digital agenda and this is reflected in the plan, especially in the emphasis on growing the parcels business. Enhanced banking services are becoming available through the post office network with the smart bank account. It is expected that further such opportunities will be available across the network, especially as high-speed broadband becomes widely available through the roll-out of the national broadband plan. The Government has also committed to exploring the potential for extra Government business to be channelled through the network and my Department is engaging with other relevant Government Departments in this regard. 

As part of the strategy for modernising the post office network, An Post has established a dedicated business unit within An Post, An Post Retail. Last week An Post announced its plans for a modernised Post Office Network.  The vision centres around the availability of new services around a modernised, revitalised network. Such services will include a better range of Government services, financial services and e-commerce services for shoppers and small businesses. The announcement by An Post is supported by an agreement reached with the Irish Postmasters Union executive following 3 months of intensive negotiations under the guidance of Mr Turlough O’Donnell SC. While I am conscious that final acceptance of the agreement is still subject to a ballot of IPU members, the announcement represents a positive first step in reinvigorating our national post office network and making it a viable service that meets the needs of communities across the country, particularly in rural areas. The fact that there would be no compulsory closures of post offices is a highly significant outcome of the negotiations. The deal will see An Post invest €50m in growing and modernising the network and includes agreement on a protocol which I specifically sought to help manage the modernisation of the network in a transparent and community focussed manner.  IPU members will be balloted on the proposals later this month. 

I am also pleased to advise that further Government funding of €80,000 has also been secured to roll out a pilot scheme for “Digital Assist” which will see 10 post offices equipped to help citizens with online Government interactions.  Ten pilot schemes will be located in rural post offices and will be in place later this year.

Given the scale of the challenges it is facing, the Company will have to pursue an ambitious agenda across its various business areas and there is likely to be significant change and new business models implemented in the coming years. This should be viewed positively as it will result in a solid, sustainable business for the future.

In considering this issue, there are two elements to consider, the funding of An Post and the adequacy of income for individual postmasters.  For the smaller post offices, it is difficult to see how some postmasters will be in a position to adapt to the changes necessary to renew the network and, in some instances, the best option for them may be to exit the business.

While financial and structural challenges remain, achieving a common view of the steps we need to take to regenerate the network is of great significance as the company re-builds and takes action to secure the future of the company and the network.  The agreement is a significant milestone and shows that An Post, the IPU and Postmasters have the potential to work together to deliver a viable and sustainable future for the post office network to the benefit of all parties and most importantly our citizens.

Questions Nos. 30 and 31 answered orally.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 29.

Ceisteanna (32, 58, 64)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

32. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a financial assessment of the implication of missing 2020 targets (details supplied) has been carried out. [17849/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

58. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures he is taking to ensure that the State ameliorates the shortfall in meeting its binding 2020 targets. [17848/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

64. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that according to inter alia the EPA, the Climate Change Advisory Council and the SEAI, Ireland will miss its legally binding 2020 targets. [17847/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32, 58 and 64 together.

The 2009 Effort Sharing Decision 406/2009/EC established binding annual greenhouse gas emissions targets for EU Member States for the period 2013 to 2020. For the year 2020 itself, the target set for Ireland is that emissions should be 20% below their level in 2005. This will be Ireland’s contribution to the overall EU objective to reduce its emissions by the order of 20% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Ireland’s target is jointly the most demanding 2020 reduction target allocated to EU Member States under this Decision, which is shared only with Denmark and Luxembourg. 

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

The legislative framework governing the EU’s 2020 emissions reductions targets includes a number of flexibility mechanisms to enable Member States to meet their annual emissions targets, including provisions to bank any excess allowances to future years and to trade allowances between Member States. Using our banked emissions from the period to 2015, Ireland is projected to comply with its emissions reduction targets in each of the years 2013 to 2018. However, our cumulative emissions are expected to exceed targets for 2019 and 2020, which will result in a requirement to purchase additional allowances. While this purchasing requirement is not, at this stage, expected to be significant, further analysis will be required to quantify the likely costs involved, in light of the final amount and price of allowances required.

Ireland's first statutory National Mitigation Plan, which I published in July of 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 will 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.

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

The 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. 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.

In relation to Ireland’s renewable energy targets, 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.  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 likely be spread over several years and the cumulative costs would not be known until 2021, the deadline for completion of all purchases.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 29.

National Mitigation Plan

Ceisteanna (34)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

34. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he remains satisfied with meeting targets in respect of fossil fuel reduction and electricity generating dependency thereon; if he expects to meet these targets in full within the prescribed period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18018/18]

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. At its heart is a commitment to transform Ireland into a low carbon society and economy by 2050 and reduce the country’s fossil fuel dependency. This ambitious vision for Ireland’s energy system envisages a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from that sector by 80-95% relative to 1990 levels by 2050. The White Paper identifies the importance of diversifying Ireland's energy generation portfolio and largely decarbonising the energy sector by 2050 but also recognises that some fossil fuels will remain significant elements of Ireland’s energy supply in that transition period.

  The extent of the challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in line with our EU and international commitments, is well understood by the Government. The National Policy Position on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development 2014 establishes a long-term objective to pursue substantial decarbonisation of the energy, transport and built environment sectors, as well as pursuing carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land sector. Transition to low carbon electricity generation will be key to successfully meeting this objective.

The National Mitigation Plan 2017 provides a framework to guide investment decisions by Government in domestic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Plan specifies 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. It also takes into account existing EU and international obligations on the State in relation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This first Plan 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.

In 2016, imported fossil fuels accounted for 69% of our energy needs at a cost of €3.4 billion. This marks a reduction in our energy import dependency figure which was 88% in 2015 at a cost of €4.6 billion.  Renewable electricity generation accounted for 27.2% of gross electricity consumption in 2016. The use of renewables in electricity generation in 2016 reduced CO2 emissions by 3.1 Mt and avoided €192 million in fossil fuel imports.

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.

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (35, 57)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

35. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will introduce an auction system for the provision of EV charging points around the country. [18001/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

57. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase the number of ecar public charging points across the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17978/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 57 together.

The Low Emissions Vehicle Taskforce, which is co-chaired by my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, is considering the measures and options available to Government to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles. As Deputies will be aware, this has led to a range of additional supports being introduced for electric vehicles.

For instance, earlier this month, a new Electric Vehicle Public Awareness Campaign was launched by the SEAI. This campaign includes a website (www.DrivingElectric.ie) providing information on buying and driving an EV including the models available and links to dealers to arrange a test drive. There will also be an advertising campaign “The Face of Driving Electric” which will highlight how electric vehicles are compatible with virtually everyone’s daily lives. Public road shows and fleet trials will be rolled out later in the year providing more people the opportunity to trial electric vehicles.

A key focus of the work of the Taskforce is examining options for infrastructure, regulation and pricing including the examination of options to  facilitate the expansion of the public charging network. While the vast majority of EV charging happens at home, which aligns with both technology and patterns of use of vehicles, the National Policy Framework for Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017-2030 which was published in May 2017, sets out the need for increases in the number of domestic and public charge points to support the growth of electric vehicles.

The majority of the existing network of publicly accessible charge points was rolled out by the ESB, through its eCars programme. The  Commission for Regulation of Utilities approved an application from ESB Networks to recover the costs of this project to a maximum of €25 million from use of system charges.

Following a public consultation process, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities published its independent regulatory decision in relation to the ownership of this infrastructure in October 2017. A key outcome of the decision is that the charging network should not form part of the regulated asset base and therefore expansions of the network should not be funded from network charges. This is in keeping with the proposals set out by the European Commission in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package which was published in 2016.

The decision also set out the need for the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to operate on a commercial basis.  In the absence of State-led support, this is unlikely to happen in the near term.  Funding has, therefore, been allocated in my Department's budget this year to support the provision of public charging.  

The Low Emissions Vehicle Taskforce is examining how best to support the development of the public charging network. This has included examining options in relation to a competitive tendering process, as suggested by the Deputy, grant schemes, and other potential support measures. A stakeholder workshop held in November 2017 and meetings with relevant representative groups has helped inform this work.

The first phase of the Taskforce's work, which focuses on electric vehicles, is nearing completion and I expect to bring forward proposals that will support the provision of effective and efficient publically accessible electric vehicle charging.

Energy Policy

Ceisteanna (36, 60)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

36. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to aid householders in the reduction of emissions in view of the fact that reports in April 2018 highlighted that emissions and energy usage is on the rise in homes here. [18025/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

60. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he will take to support retrofitting across tenure and building types in view of the fact that experts estimate that Ireland must retrofit the vast majority of homes to a near zero energy standard by 2050 if the State is to meet its carbon emission reductions targets. [18034/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 36 and 60 together.

Ireland’s White Paper on Energy Policy, Ireland's Transition to a Low Carbon Energy Future 2015-2030, National Mitigation Plan (NMP) and Long Term Renovation Strategy (LTRS) all recognise the fact that extensive renovation of our building stock will need to take place in order to meet both national and international targets for energy savings and emissions reduction by 2050. These documents were informed by extensive stakeholder engagement and public consultation. The new SEAI report, Energy in the Residential Sector, is a timely reminder of the critical importance of energy efficiency to reduce energy use and enable the switch away from fossil fuels to renewable heating systems.

A number of actions which are outlined in the NMP and LTRS are already underway to promote deep renovation of buildings across all building types and tenure. Those actions which relate specifically to homes are outlined below.

The Better Energy Programme is funded by my Department and operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. It has been in place since 2009 and provides energy efficiency upgrades to homes. A short summary of the schemes under the programme is set out as follows.

- The Better Energy Homes Scheme provides grant aid to homeowners who wish to improve the energy performance of their home. Fixed grants are provided towards the cost of a range of measures. I recently expanded this scheme to support the transition away from fossil fuels, and achieve greater energy savings and emissions reductions, by providing a grant for heat pumps and increasing the funding for external insulation.

- The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty.  I recently announced the expansion of the scheme to include internal and external wall insulation in order to increase the number of people that can receive upgrades and increase the energy savings and emissions reductions the scheme can achieve by enabling fuel switching.

- The Better Energy Communities scheme allows groups of buildings to apply for funding to improve their energy efficiency. This scheme has resulted in innovative approaches to renovation being developed, while also contributing to the overall reduction of energy usage and emissions from our building stock.

However, I am keenly aware of the need for a significant increase in effort in the post 2020 period and have introduced a number of initiatives to support this:

- The Deep Retrofit Pilot Scheme is investigating the how to create a scalable offering for the deep retrofit of Ireland’s housing stock to an A3 Building Energy Rating (BER). 

- The Warmth and Wellbeing Pilot Scheme, funded by my Department, is a joint policy initiative with the Department of Health, and is operated by SEAI and the HSE.  It will measure the health and wellbeing impacts associated with improved energy efficiency. Increasing awareness of the multiple benefits of energy efficiency is critical to encourage people to invest in and make their contribution to action on climate change.

The National Development Plan 2018 -2027 recognises that improving the energy efficiency of the built environment is a central plank of Ireland’s action on climate change. Energy efficiency will also realise benefits for air quality, health, social inclusion, business competitiveness and better public services, all of which will make a real and positive impact on people’s lives. Exchequer investment of €4 billion, along with taxation and regulatory measures, are provided for under the NDP, to ensure a step change in the energy performance in the residential sector, with upgrades to homes increasing from 30,000 to 45,000 per annum from 2021. In addition, the completion of a comprehensive €750 million retrofit programme would place the public sector built environment on a sound trajectory for 2050 and lead the way in developing Ireland’s sustainable energy supply chain.

Further details of all the SEAI funding available for energy efficiency are available on their website: www.seai.ie/grants/. 

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (37)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

37. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the commitment to provide high speed broadband to each house and business in County Donegal; the deadline for same; the number of homes and businesses which have access to high speed broadband; the number of additional homes and businesses which received access to high speed broadband in 2017; the number which will receive access in 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17842/18]

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 the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the 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.

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.

There are just over 101,000 premises in Donegal.  Nearly 34,000 (33%) fall within the AMBER area and will be covered under the State led Intervention. Some 56,500 (56%) of premises are in a BLUE area and fall to be covered by commercial providers, while 11,000 (11%) are LIGHT BLUE and fall to be covered by eir's planned rural deployment. Individuals can check which category their premises falls into by going to my Department’s website www.broadband.gov.ie and entering their eircode into the Map. 

Quarterly updates on eir's rural deployment are published on this website. Since beginning their rollout in Q4 2016, eir has passed a total of 121,000 premises, including some 15,000 in County Donegal. Approximately, a further 11,000 premises remain to be passed in Donegal by the end of this year.  By the end of eir's deployment approximately 67% of Donegal's premises will have access to a high speed broadband service.

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.  My Department will engage with the successful bidder on the most efficient roll-out of the network.

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.

Telecommunications Services Provision

Ceisteanna (38, 65)

James Lawless

Ceist:

38. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the upgrade of the national mobile telephone coverage plan; the steps he has taken to improve it in accordance with the measures and timetables set out in the programme for partnership Government; the way in which these actions have improved or impacted on the quality of telecommunications services for consumers here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17965/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

65. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the way in which the implementation of recommendations from the mobile telephone and broadband task force report is assisting persons in County Kildare who experience poor mobile telephone and broadband coverage; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18037/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 38 and 65 together.

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

Notwithstanding ComReg's independence, I recognise the frustration felt by Irish consumers where telecommunications networks are not always delivering the services people expect. Accordingly, I specifically included in the Programme for Government a commitment to a Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce.  The Taskforce worked with key stakeholders to produce a report in December 2016, available on my Department’s website, which contained 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, which attends as both an action owner, and in an observer capacity in its 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, that 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.

All of these initiatives should assist in enhancing the quality of mobile phone and data services, particularly in rural areas.

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.

In terms of tackling broadband deficiencies, 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 so that 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

North-South Interconnector

Ceisteanna (39, 40)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

39. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the concerns of communities in counties Cavan and Monaghan about the North-South interconnector particularly in respect of health, tourism, heritage, land and property devaluation; if the project will be underground; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17846/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

40. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the two independent studies into the proposed North-South interconnector will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18011/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 39 and 40 together.

The North South Interconnector, as proposed as an overhead line, now has full planning permission in both Ireland and Northern Ireland.

I have listened carefully to the issues raised in relation to this project, particularly those living in close proximity to the proposed project. In February and March 2017, two motions calling for an updated independent study into the north-south interconnector were passed by Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann.  I met with the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee and North East Pylon Pressure Campaign, together with Oireachtas members from Cavan, Monaghan and Meath in February 2017. I subsequently met with Oireachtas members in May 2017 and most recently again in January of this year. In addition, my officials have held separate meetings with the Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee and North East Pylon Pressure Campaign in March and April last year.

All of these engagements – together with the motions - were important in my decision to commission two independent studies into the project. The studies are designed to address the main points of the motions as well as key concerns expressed by those parties opposed to the development of an overhead line. Some impacts such as environmental and health concerns will not be assessed since the statutory planning process is the appropriate method by which such impacts are assessed and evaluated.

The Consultants undertaking the two studies have finalised their reports and once considered in my department and submitted to me it is my intention that these will be brought to Government and made publicly available. This process will take a number of weeks.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (41)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

41. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress made in implementing the 12 key actions recommended in the national adaptation framework; the measures implemented to ensure the oversight and reporting recommendations (details supplied) at national level are fully functional; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18013/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Implementing Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework (NAF) is a key priority for both my Department and indeed the whole of Government. I am very happy to report that significant progress has been made in the relatively short time that has elapsed since I published the Framework in the offices of Sligo County Council in January of this year.

The NAF identifies 12 priority actions and related supporting objectives that are to be progressed in order to support and advance the implementation of climate adaptation policy at national, regional and local level in Ireland. These 12 priority actions are being advanced in line with the timelines given in the table of actions on pages 89 and 90 of the NAF.

Under the NAF, Government Departments with responsibility for priority sectors are required to prepare sectoral adaptation plans in line with the requirements of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. The NAF identifies twelve key sectors under the remit of seven Government Ministers where sectoral adaptation plans are to be prepared. On 27 March 2018 the Government requested, in line with its obligations under the Climate Act, those Ministers to begin the preparation of their sectoral plans and to submit final plans to Government no later than 30 September 2019.

On foot of that Government decision, I have written to the relevant Ministers outlining the deadline for the submission of plans to Government, including a summary of the requirements on Ministers when preparing those plans and the oversight arrangements that will be in place to support implementation of NAF and the development of sectoral plans. In this regard the National Adaptation Steering Committee is currently being reviewed and restructured so as to ensure that a coordinated, comprehensive and coherent approach continues to operate in implementing actions under the NAF. This Steering Committee will now report into the High Level Steering Group established under the National Mitigation Plan (NMP) which I chair, and which has now been renamed the National Climate Action High Level Steering Group so as to address both climate mitigation and adaptation.

This oversight structure will be further supported by statutory oversight mechanisms in the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, including those referred to on page 88 of the NAF.

Local understanding is also crucial to getting adaptation right. In this regard, and in order to further  advance key actions identified under both the NAF and the National Mitigation Plan (NMP), I announced back in January funding of €10 million to be provided over five years to set up four Regional Local Authority Climate Action Offices. My Department is currently engaging with the City and County Management Association and the Local Government Management Agency to progress the establishment of this regional structure as efficiently as possible and ensuring that proper oversight and governance arrangements are put in place.

I have written to the Chief Executives of each of the four lead Local Authorities concerned, outlining the obligations and governance arrangements for the Local Authority sector in relation to climate action, including with regard to the preparation of Local Authority adaptation strategies.

I am also aware of the need to ensure that our relevant sectors, including Local Government, are supported in their efforts to develop their respective adaptation plans and strategies under the framework. In this regard, I intend to publish Sectoral Planning Guidelines for Climate Change Adaptation in the coming weeks, with a view to following up later this year with the publication of Local Adaptation Strategy Guidelines. I am also looking at how best to develop a Climate Information Platform (Climate Ireland) for Ireland which can act as a long-term operational support for climate action in Ireland. Such a platform can also play a key role in facilitating our National Dialogue on Climate Action. This will be critical in terms of continuing to raise awareness of the key issues pertaining to climate adaptation and resilience.

I am fully committed to ensuring we continue to implement all relevant actions under the NAF and I am working across the whole of Government to embed climate resilience into everything we do - whether through our new National Planning Framework or through our National Development Plan - and in doing so continue the process of making appropriate preparations so as to ensure we are climate resilient well into the future.

National Broadband Plan Funding

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 31.

Ceisteanna (42, 50, 53)

Martin Heydon

Ceist:

42. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the impact the investment of €500 million from the European Investment Bank will have on the national broadband plan; the timelines in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18010/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

50. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the terms of the investment announced by the European Investment Bank in the national broadband plan; and his views on the implications of same for ownership of the State's broadband infrastructure. [17893/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

53. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the terms of the investment announced by the European Investment Bank in the national broadband plan; and the implications for ownership of the State's broadband infrastructure in this regard. [17844/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 42, 50 and 53 together.

On 12th April 2018, the European Investment Bank (EIB) announced it had allocated finance of €500 million to the rollout of a high speed broadband network for the National Broadband Plan.  EIB financing is only offered to projects which contribute to EU Economic policy objectives, such as the improvement of EU transport and telecommunications infrastructure and which also meet the EIB’s requirements for overall quality and soundness.  It would not be appropriate for me as Minister to comment on the terms of investment of EIB finance, when I do not have a statutory function in the matter.

Nevertheless, I welcome the announcement from the EIB as an endorsement of the NBP State led intervention as it enters its final stages.  The allocation of €500m in EU financing from the EIB provides the project with the potential to access reliable and affordable finance from a recognised European financial institution under the Investment Plan for Europe.  It brings us a step closer to achieving our ultimate goal of the plan which is to connect 542,000 premises regardless of location.

Question No. 43 answered with Question No. 31.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (44, 46)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

44. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the national broadband plan; the date by which the contract will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18032/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

James Lawless

Ceist:

46. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the national broadband plan; the date on which the contract will be awarded; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17966/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 46 together.

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 the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the 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 areas 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.

There are over 2.3 million premises in the State. Approximately 540,000 fall within the AMBER area. Over 1.6 million premises are in a BLUE area and approximately 180,000 are LIGHT BLUE.

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. My Department will engage with the successful bidder on the most efficient rollout of the network.

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.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 44.

Ceisteanna (45)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

45. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the measures in either the national policy plan or the national mitigation plan that deal with the necessary reductions in the areas of manufacturing combustion, industrial processes, F-gases, waste sectors or in energy industries other than electricity, including petroleum refining, solid fuel manufacture and fugitive emissions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17967/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Official inventories of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions are prepared annually by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The most recent data, for the year 2016, was published in April 2018 and is available on the EPA's website at: http://www.epa.ie/pubs/reports/air/airemissions/ghgemissions2016/.

According to this data, the breakdown of emissions by sector in 2016 is as follows:

Sector

Mt CO2eq.

% of total 2015 emissions

Agriculture

19.851

32.2%

Energy Industries

12.557

20.4%

Transport

12.294

20%

Residential

6.047

9.8%

Manufacturing Combustion

4.555

7.4%

Industrial Processes

2.150

3.5%

F-Gases

1.267

2.1%

Commercial Services

0.994

1.6%

Waste

0.958

1.6%

Public Services

0.873

1.4%

Total ETS

17.748

29%

Total Non-ETS

43.798

71%

Total for all sectors

61.546

100%

Ireland’s first statutory National Mitigation Plan, which I published in July 2017, specifically addresses action in four key sectors of the economy: Electricity Generation; the Built Environment; Transport; and Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use. These sectors account for the vast majority of Ireland's greenhouse gas emissions and action in these sectors will be paramount to building the foundations for Ireland’s low carbon transformation considering the cross-cutting nature of the climate challenge.

A number of different sources of emissions, comprising manufacturing combustion, industrial processes, f-gases, and the waste sector, are not specifically addressed in this National Mitigation Plan. Some of these sources comprise relatively small volumes of greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, contribute relatively little to Ireland’s total emissions.  Emissions from a number of these sources are also already controlled by regulation at national and EU level. 

Emissions from manufacturing combustion and industrial processes arise from a variety of sources, including the combustion of fuels in industry and construction as well as process emissions from cement manufacture. These sources are, in the main, regulated in Ireland under the EU Emissions Trading System.

Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) are regulated in the EU under EU Regulation 517/2014. This Regulation includes provisions for a phase down of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) use (all HFCs placed on the EU market are now controlled through an EU quota system); a number of equipment use bans; and service and maintenance bans for high Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants.  The relevant sources of such emissions in Ireland include production, use and disposal of equipment containing these fluids (e.g. refrigerators, mobile air conditioning systems, metered dose inhalers and electrical switch-gear).

In relation to emissions from the waste sector, Government waste policy is predicated on the waste hierarchy as set out in the Waste Framework Directive and seeks to minimise the generation of waste. A number of specific measures have been, and will continue to be, introduced to reduce the volume of waste generated in the State in line with Government policy. The Waste Management Act 1996 contains a number of key legal obligations, including requirements for waste management planning, waste collection and movement, the authorisation of waste facilities, measures to reduce the production of waste and/or promote its recovery. According to the most recent projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published by the EPA in April 2017, emissions from the waste sector are projected to decrease by 36% by 2020 on 2015 levels. This is primarily attributable to methane emissions from landfill reducing significantly, and is underpinned by increased recovery (including recycling and energy recovery) of waste materials and adherence to Food Waste Regulations which reduces the organic content of landfilled waste and thus its greenhouse gas production potential.

Sources of emissions in energy industries not already regulated by the EU Emissions Trading System are subject to a national carbon tax, currently set at €20 per tonne of CO2 emitted. The carbon tax was introduced in 2010 and applies to kerosene, marked gas oil, liquid petroleum gas, fuel oil, natural gas and solid fuels.  The Government is committed to carbon pricing as a core element of the suite of policy measures to address and reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time. Carbon pricing has the potential to drive reductions in consumption of fossil fuels and encourage energy efficiency improvements by households and businesses. The Minister for Finance has commissioned further analysis on the carbon tax to inform the policy direction of the tax, with an examination of its mitigation and distributional impacts forming part of an assessment of possible future pathways for incremental increases.

Question No. 46 answered with Question No. 44.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (47, 202)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

47. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if an all Government approach to the issue of climate change is being taken in view of the climate ambition of An Taoiseach. [17851/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

202. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans in the context of climate action with a view to meeting the various challenges; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18319/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 47 and 202 together.

I published Ireland's first statutory National Mitigation Plan in July 2017. This is a whole-of-Government Plan, reflecting in particular the central roles of the Ministers responsible for the sectors covered by the Plan (Electricity Generation, the Built Environment, Transport and Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use), and drawing on the perspectives of a range of other Departments. The 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.

I subsequently published Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework in January 2018.The Framework sets out the national strategy to reduce the vulnerability of the country to the negative effects of climate change and to avail of positive impacts. Under the Framework, seven Government Departments and Agencies, with responsibility for the twelve priority sectors identified in the Framework, will be required to prepare sectoral adaptation plans in line with the requirements of the Climate Act and Framework policies.

Implementation of the both National Mitigation Plan and National Adaptation Framework is overseen by a High Level Climate Action Steering Group which I chair and which reports, in turn, to the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, Environment and Climate Action.

Building on these strategies, 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 with a strong focus on strategic investments in the areas of transport, renewable energy, grid development and interconnection, the built environment, and flood risk management, to address the significant climate change challenges that Ireland faces. 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.

Renewable Energy Incentives

Ceisteanna (48, 51)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

48. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to publish the renewable energy support scheme in view of the fact that public consultation was opened in September 2017 and closed on 10 November 2017; the gigawatts he plans to allocate to the various technologies, that is, wind, solar and biomass; and if the design of the auction system will be technology neutral or technology specific. [17850/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

51. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the date by which the renewable energy support scheme will be finalised and published, respectively; if this scheme will support varied technology types; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18033/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 51 together.

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.   

Increasing renewable technology diversity is one of several policy objectives of my Department. To date, onshore wind has been the largest driver of growth in renewable energy electricity, primarily down to its cost effectiveness when compared to other renewable technologies.  My Department is currently developing a proposed new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which will be designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contributions out to 2030.

The design of the new scheme included an extensive independent economic appraisal which compared the cost of supporting a range of commercial renewable technologies, at various scales to ensure that the new scheme delivers value for money for energy users whilst also delivering on the energy pillars of sustainability and security of supply. The assessment included analysis of the optimum financial support mechanisms for renewable technologies, in line with the 2014 EU State Aid Guidelines. The analysis indicates that a number of renewable technologies have converging and in some cases overlapping cost ranges, and I note with interest the continued falling costs of renewable technologies over the past year, such as offshore wind and solar PV.

My Department received 1,250 submissions to the final consultation on the RESS which closed in November and analysis of these is now complete. I am keen that this new Scheme encourages the diversification of renewable energy technologies in Ireland, while mindful of the need to minimise the costs on the consumers through the Public Service Obligation. At this stage no final decisions have been made as regards which technologies or scales will be supported under the new RESS.

A final design proposal will shortly be brought to Government for approval, including the overall costs and technologies to be supported. Subsequent to a Government decision, a formal application for State Aid clearance from the European Commission will commence. The new scheme is expected to open in 2019.

Television Licence Fee Collection

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 42.

Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 48.

Ceisteanna (49)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

49. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the steps he is taking to reduce television licence fee evasion and to address the broader issue of the funding of public service broadcasting. [18036/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The current level of TV licence evasion 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 were considered under Pre-Legislative Scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action & Environment and I received their report on 8 March. My officials are considering the contents of this report and it is also being considered by Parliamentary Counsel in the drafting process.

As the Deputy is also aware, 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.It was debated in the Dail on 29 March and I intend to bring proposals to Government shortly. 

Question No. 50 answered with Question No. 42.
Question No. 51 answered with Question No. 48.

Television Licence Fee Collection

Ceisteanna (52)

Eamon Ryan

Ceist:

52. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timeline and nature of the tendering process he plans to introduce for the collection of television licence fees. [18002/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Section 145 (1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 defines 'issuing agent' as An Post "or another person designated by the Minister" under Section 145 (3) of the Act.

The Act does not currently provide for the tendering of licence fee collection and I obtained Government approval in May 2017 for the drafting of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill which includes an amendment to allow for tendering of licence fee collection. 

The Bill was examined under pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action & Environment who published their report on 8th March.  My Department and the OPC are considering the Report in the context of the drafting process which is now underway.  The Bill is on the list of priority legislation for this session.