Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 42.

Nuclear Safety

Ceisteanna (54)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

54. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his engagement with his UK counterparts on proposed nuclear developments at Hinkley Point and on the impacts of Brexit on UK nuclear safety standards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18035/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Ireland enjoys a close working relationship with the United Kingdom (UK) on radiological matters of mutual interest. This relationship is formalised 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, as well as officials from the Isle of Man administration.

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.  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 – 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.  Senior officials from my Department and the EPA also visited the Hinkley Point C site in October 2017 to learn more about the project.

The UK exit from the Euratom Treaty, as part of Brexit, has also been discussed at recent meetings of the Group, including at the latest meeting in Dublin on 18 April. The on-going Brexit negotiations, including matters relating to the UK's decision to leave the Euratom Treaty, are being conducted bilaterally between the European Union, represented by the European Commission, and the UK. Ireland contributes to the process through its representation at the European Council Article 50 Working Party which meets regularly to discuss Brexit related issues, including Euratom. 

In March of this year, I received a letter from the UK Minister for Energy and Industry in relation to the UK's exit from Euratom which outlined planned future UK arrangements on civil nuclear power. This letter provided significant assurances in relation to nuclear safety standards. I have welcomed this information from my UK counterpart which is indicative of the constructive relationship Ireland enjoys with the UK in this area.

There are currently no safety or security concerns for Ireland arising from the UK withdrawal from the Euratom Treaty. In the first instance, the UK remains a member of Euratom, and the UK nuclear industry remains subject to oversight by the EU institutions, until such time as their withdrawal from the EU is finalised. 

Last year the UK transposed Euratom's revised Nuclear Safety Directive which requires EU countries to give the highest priority to nuclear safety at all stages of the lifecycle of a nuclear power plant.  It aims to improve the existing regulatory framework for the safety of nuclear installations, following lessons learned from the Fukishima accident in Japan.  In addition, the UK is a signatory of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Convention on Nuclear Safety and applies the strict standards on safety and security set down in the Convention. This will continue to be the case after the UK withdraw from the Euratom Treaty.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ceisteanna (55)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

55. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the work of his Department with regard to the sustainable development goals; and his views on whether there will be sufficient adequate data. [18006/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, I have lead responsibility for promoting and overseeing the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a whole-of-Government basis, and for the establishment of a robust SDG implementation and reporting framework.

In line with this whole-of-Government approach, all Ministers retain responsibility for implementing those SDGs relating to issues under their areas of responsibility.  Therefore, in addition to my coordination role, I also have responsibility for: Goal 7 on Affordable and Clean Energy, Goal 12 on Sustainable Consumption and Production, and Goal 13 on Climate Action.

A Senior Officials’ Group (SOG) established to coordinate and monitor SDG implementation is chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, with support provided by my Department. My Department has also established an SDG Interdepartmental Working Group, comprised of representatives from all Departments.  

My Department has prepared Ireland's first SDG National Implementation Plan in consultation with other Departments through the SDG Interdepartmental Working Group.

I will formally launch the SDG National Implementation Plan on Thursday, 26 April 2018.

Under this Plan, there are 19 Actions to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda, for which my Department has overall responsibility.

My Department is currently preparing, in consultation with other Departments though the SDG Interdepartmental Working Group, Ireland’s first Voluntary National Review, a SDG progress report to be submitted to the United Nations.

I will present Ireland’s Voluntary National Review to the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2018. 

In preparing the Voluntary National Review, Ireland will report progress using available official data provided by the CSO. The CSO have provided data for all EU indicators, which my Department will incorporate into the Voluntary National Review. I consider this to be an appropriate level of data to assess Ireland’s implementation and to provide a comprehensive report to the UN.

Cyber Security Policy

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 35.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 32.

Ceisteanna (56)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

56. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will report on the work and challenges faced by the national cyber security centre; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16264/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is located within my Department and serves to provide a range of cyber security services to owners of Government IT infrastructure and Critical National Infrastructure (CNI). The areas of online safety and cyber defence also fall under the remit of other Government Departments, including the Department of Defence and the Department of Justice and Equality.

  Since its establishment in 2011, the focus of the NCSC has been on developing capacity and engaging with national and international stakeholders around sharing information, securing systems and responding to incidents. The NCSC also works to collate and analyse data from cyber-attacks and to coordinate with those targeted to introduce mitigation measures, and it continues to work with utility operators and with similar bodies in other jurisdictions to ensure that risks to infrastructure in Ireland are managed appropriately, including the active management of ongoing issues.

The NCSC is also home to the national Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT-IE) and is responsible for acting as a conduit for information to constituents (including operators of Critical National Infrastructure, Government Departments and Agencies), providing expert advice and analysis on cyber security issues and for coordinating significant incidents. Like similar bodies in other jurisdictions, the NCSC acts as a central contact point in the event of a government or nation-wide cyber security incident affecting the State. The CSIRT received International Accreditation in 2017.

From 9 May 2018, European Union Directive 2016/1148, concerning measures for a high common level of security of network and information systems will place a number of significant responsibilities on the NCSC in respect of Cyber Security, and will require my Department to establish a list of key critical infrastructure operators, known as Operators of Essential Services (OES) in the energy, transport, banking, financial market infrastructures, health, drinking water supply and digital infrastructure sectors. These OES will be subject to a set of binding security obligations and reporting requirements in relation to cyber security incidents affecting them.

In addition, the State will be required to apply a new regulatory regime to Digital Service Providers (DSPs), who include cloud computing providers, search engines providers and providers of online market places. As a consequence of this, and in a similar manner to that for data protection, the State will have responsibility for applying the provisions of this Directive in respect of security of services provided by some multinational companies across the European Union, as a consequence of their European headquarters being located in Ireland.

Question No. 57 answered with Question No. 35.
Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 32.

Fuel Sales

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 36.

Ceisteanna (59)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

59. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of prosecutions that have been taken against persons selling non-compliant high sulphur solid fuel in the past three years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16266/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Enforcement action against breaches of the Air Pollution Act (Marketing, Sale, Distribution and Burning of Specified Fuels) Regulations 2012, as amended, is a matter for Local Authorities and my Department does not compile statistics in relation to prosecutions taken or fines imposed.

These Regulations prohibit the placing on the market, sale or distribution of solid fuels for residential use within the State unless:

- the sulphur content of the bituminous coal is less than 0.7% by weight on a dry ash-free basis;

- the sulphur content of low smoke solid fuels and low smoke biomass products is less than 2% by weight on a dry ash-free basis;

- the solid fuels are supplied in sealed bags; and

- the person or body concerned holds records confirming the product contains less than the permitted sulphur content for that fuel.

The Regulations also prohibit the burning of bituminous coal within designated areas.

Under the Environmental Protection Agency Act (Registration of Coal Bagging Operators and Solid Fuel Suppliers) Regulations 2012 (S.I. No. 454 of 2012), as amended, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a register for each coal bagging operator who supplies bagged solid fuels for use in the Irish residential market. This register aids the Local Authorities in its enforcement activities in this area. Additionally, if the EPA is not satisfied that the product being supplied is compliant with the legal requirements it may refuse or revoke the registration of the bagging operator or fuel supplier.

Fixed payment notices (or ‘on the spot fines’) introduced under the Environment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 are in operation for certain offences relating to the supply and sale of solid fuel. Persons found to be marketing, selling or distributing smoky coal in breach of the Regulations are liable for a fixed payment notice of €1,000. Fixed payment notices of up to €500 can be applied against solid fuel wholesalers, distributors and obligated retailers who are not registered with the EPA.

Complaints regarding the sale of prohibited fuels, smoky emissions or other breaches of the regulations should, in the first instance, be reported to the Environment Section of the Local Authority concerned.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 36.

National Clean Air Strategy

Ceisteanna (61)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

61. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the publication of the national clean air strategy which was due to be published in the fourth quarter of 2017; the reason for the delay in its publication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18014/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Clean Air Strategy will provide an overarching policy framework within which clean air policies can be formulated and given effect in a manner consistent with national, EU and international policy considerations and priorities. The Strategy will address priority air pollutants in Ireland in an integrated manner, and will complement the stated objectives of the National Mitigation Plan on Climate Action.

  Comprehensive analysis of the replies received to the public consultation has only recently been completed, and my officials have been engaging with other Departments, Agencies and stakeholders in order to complete the drafting of the Strategy.

I am pleased to advise that the final Strategy is near completion and I intend to launch it in the coming weeks.

Electricity Generation

Ceisteanna (62)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

62. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the high level of subsidy provided for peat fired electricity as revealed by the CSO; his plans to address the balance in favour of environmental subsidies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17843/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Public policy supports for peat-fired electricity generation promote energy security of supply, one of the three primary pillars of Irish energy policy.

 The overarching objective of the 2015 Energy White Paper and of the 2017 National Mitigation Plan is to transition to a low carbon energy system which provides secure supplies of affordable energy to consumers. This involves transitioning to lower or zero carbon renewable energy technologies. The scheduled removal of government supports from peat-fired generation is line with the White Paper and the Plan.

PSO support for Bord na Móna’s Edenderry peat plant expired in December 2015. PSO support for the two ESB power stations ends in 2019. The Edenderry plant now generates electricity using around 30% renewable biomass. Bord na Móna is to cease harvesting energy peat by 2030.

I would also note that greenhouse gas emissions from power generation, including the peat plants, are regulated by the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). Recently agreed reforms to the ETS for the period covering 2021 to 2030 are expected to increase the cost of carbon emissions and incentivise cleaner power generation. 

The Government has adopted a range of policy measures and schemes to incentivise the use of renewable energy.  The primary support mechanism in the electricity sector is the Renewable Energy Feed-In-Tariff (REFIT) schemes, which support the development of a range of renewable electricity technologies.

My Department is developing a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contributions out to 2030.

I have secured Government approval for the introduction of a Support Scheme for Renewable Heat which is designed to financially support the adoption of renewable heating systems by commercial, industrial, agricultural, district heating and other non-domestic heat users in the non-ETS system. The scheme is planned to commence operation later this year subject to State Aid approval.

Additional supports and funding are available via the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), to assist domestic energy consumers improve their energy efficiency.  I have secured approximately €107m in capital funding for energy efficiency schemes in 2018, a 34% increase on the 2017 allocation.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 32.

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 38.

Ceisteanna (63)

James Browne

Ceist:

63. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timeframe for full implementation of the national broadband plan in County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17809/18]

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 by the end of this year as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with me in April 2017.

There are just over 82,000 premises in County Wexford.  Some 21,500 (26%) fall within the AMBER area and will be covered under the State led Intervention. Approximately 51,000 (62%) of premises are in a BLUE area and are, or will be covered by commercial providers, while more than 9000 (12%) 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 High Speed Broadband Map.

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.

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.

Question No. 64 answered with Question No. 32.
Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 38.

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (66)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

66. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the discussions he has had with his counterparts in Europe regarding the growing international movement to combat plastics pollution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14028/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Discussions between my Department and the EU in relation to actions on plastics have been in the context of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy, which the Commission published on 16 January 2018. The strategy is built around 4 key actions:

- Improving the economics and quality of plastics recycling

- Curbing plastic waste and littering

- Driving innovation and investment towards circular solutions and

- Harnessing Global Action.

The strategy focuses on plastics production and use and sets a goal of ensuring all plastic packaging is recyclable by 2030.  The strategy lists future EU measures and recommends measures to national authorities and industry for the attainment of its goals. I am committed to full engagement with this Strategy and indeed expressed my commitment to Commissioner Karmenu Vella in a letter to him last February.

In my letter to Commissioner Vella, in the context of the EU plastic strategy, 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.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (67)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

67. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his Department has had a direct contact with Eir regarding recent redundancies and the possible implications for the roll-out of high speed broadband to rural Ireland. [18028/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

eir is a private company operating in a liberalised market.  Accordingly, management decisions such as those relating to staffing levels is an operational matter for that company and not one in which I, as Minister, have a statutory function.

As the Deputy is no doubt aware, 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. 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 of the committed premises as of December 2017.  Figures for Q1 2018 are expected to be published in May.

I am aware that eir has stated publicly that the voluntary redundancy plan recently announced by them does not in any way impact on its ability to deliver on its  contractual commitments in respect of its planned rural deployment of  high speed broadband to 300,000 homes and businesses and I welcome this.  My Department will continue to monitor the rollout in line with the Commitment Agreement.