Waste Disposal Charges

Ceisteanna (538)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

538. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the provision of an annual support towards the cost of bin charges for homes in which a family member uses incontinence pads; when details of the scheme will be announced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11643/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department is continuing the work of developing a mechanism to provide a support for vulnerable persons with a condition such as lifelong or long-term medical incontinence to help meet the average annual cost of disposing of their domestic waste. I am informed that this process has taken longer than envisaged, due to a number of issues, including data protection issues that have arisen since the introduction of GDPR. However, I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to introducing an annual support as soon as practically possible in conjunction with relevant agencies and stakeholders.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (539)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

539. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the date for the roll-out of high-speed broadband for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11709/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The premises referred to by the Deputy is in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP. This intervention is the subject of an ongoing procurement process.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, 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. These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (540)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

540. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if fibre broadband will be brought to Stamullen, County Meath. [11847/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In April 2017 my Department published an updated version of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map. This is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. The map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/Eircode:

- The AMBER area represents the parts of the country where commercial operators have no plans to build high speed broadband networks. Premises in the AMBER area will be provided with high Speed Broadband through a State Intervention.

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

- The LIGHT BLUE area represents eir's commercial rural deployment plans to roll out high speed broadband to 300,000 premises as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

There are 524 premises in Stamullen. 5% (28) fall within the AMBER area and will be served under the State led Intervention, while 95% (496) of premises are in a BLUE area and are, or will be, served by commercial providers. Information on categories of specific premises can be accessed on my Department’s website, www.broadband.gov.ie, by entering the relevant Eircode into the High Speed Broadband Map.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, 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. 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.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (541, 542)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

541. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the role of hedgerows acting as a carbon sink here; the position with regard to a national inventory system to facilitate the reporting of carbon sequestration by hedgerows in the landscape here to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11946/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

542. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the role of land use management, forestry, hedgerows and woodland patches in the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11947/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 541 and 542 together.

Greenhouse gas emissions and removals associated with land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF), as reported in Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory prepared by the Environmental Protection Agency, include activities associated with afforestation and forestry harvesting, grassland and cropland management under agricultural use, managed and unmanaged wetlands, and other land-use categories. While such emissions are not currently accounted for in relation to the calculation of compliance with Ireland’s emissions targets in the period to 2020, from 2021 onwards these emissions will be integrated into the EU framework for compliance with national emissions targets. It is, therefore, essential that Ireland has robust policies in place to manage emissions and enhance removals from relevant LULUCF sectoral categories.

Hedgerows are an important feature of the Irish pastoral landscape and can play a potential role in carbon sequestration. The latest estimates suggest that the hedgerow length in Ireland is over 600,000km. On the basis of the information available at the moment, hedgerows could potentially sequester somewhere in the region of 0.1 Mt carbon dioxide to 0.5 Mt carbon dioxide. In order to refine the figures to allow for inclusion in the National GHG Inventory, further remote sensing investigations would be required to create a national detailed inventory of hedgerows. Further hedgerow surveys would also be required to refine classifications and identify appropriate sites. Proposals for research along these lines are under consideration in the Environmental Protection Agency in the context of its 2019 research call.

I am currently preparing an All of Government Climate Plan which will set out the actions which must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. I am working with colleagues across Government to develop new initiatives in electricity, transport and heat, as well as a range of other sectors. I intend that the Plan will also include actions to develop and implement policies to manage emissions and enhance removals from relevant LULUCF sectoral categories.

Broadcasting Sector

Ceisteanna (543)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

543. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 435 of 5 March 2019, if he has raised with the European Commission the need to implement the recommendations of the Report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting and the need to establish a public service broadcast fund in the context of state aid rules and ensure that such rules would not inhibit such a development in view of the need to support the independent radio sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11982/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In light of the recommendations in the Report of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action & Environment Report on Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting, the Working Group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting was set up by Government decision in July 2018 to examine options for the reform of TV licence collection. The Group's work is ongoing and it is scheduled to report to me at the end of this month.

As I noted in the Dail last week, EU state aid rules prohibit the setting up of the sort of fund envisaged by the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI). However, the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill includes proposed amendments to Sections 33 and 123 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to allow the Broadcasting Authority (BAI) to be allocated public funding from TV Licence fee receipts towards meeting its operating expenses. It is intended that the consequent reductions in levy contributions, up to a maximum of 50% would be applied 'across the board' so that all broadcasters would benefit in equal proportion from the measure. Drafting is at an advanced stage by Parliamentary Counsel and I intend to publish the Bill in quarter 2 this year.

The independent radio sector already benefits from the BAI Sound and Vision Scheme which is funded from 7% of the net TV Licence fee receipts. The Scheme provided over €494,000 towards 77 different radio projects for broadcast on independent commercial stations in 2018.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (544, 546)

Hildegarde Naughton

Ceist:

544. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if it is possible under EU law to ask a semi-State company, such as the ESB, to roll out broadband under the national broadband plan; if this would require a new procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12032/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kate O'Connell

Ceist:

546. Deputy Kate O'Connell asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if it is possible under EU law to ask a semi-State company, such as the ESB, to roll out the national broadband plan; if this would require a new procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12050/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 544 and 546 together.

The Attorney General has advised that there are significant legal risks in relation to both procurement law and state aid law, if the State was to mandate and fund directly outside a procurement process any economic undertaking, including a commercial semi-state body such as the ESB, to carry out the National Broadband Plan.

Furthermore, engagement between officials of my Department and DG Competition, which is the Directorate General of the European Commission with responsibility for state aid matters, has clearly established that it is the view of DG Competition that it would not be possible to provide a State subsidy to a commercial semi-state body, such as the ESB, to roll out the National Broadband Plan without undertaking a new public procurement process.

National Broadband Plan

Question No. 546 answered with Question No. 544.

Question No. 547 answered with Question No. 545.

Ceisteanna (545, 547)

Hildegarde Naughton

Ceist:

545. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason provided by companies (details supplied) for withdrawing from the national broadband plan; if the prospective level of subsidy available was provided as a reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12033/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Kate O'Connell

Ceist:

547. Deputy Kate O'Connell asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason provided to his Department by a company (details supplied) for withdrawing from the national broadband plan; if the prospective level of subsidy available was provided as a reason; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12051/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 545 and 547 together.

I have been clear that the level of State subsidy for the National Broadband Plan State intervention will be determined through the NBP procurement process and the nature and cost of the solution required to deliver the State intervention network would only become known through extensive engagement with bidders during the procurement process.

SIRO withdrew from the National Broadband Plan State intervention procurement process on 26 September 2017. In its formal communication to the Department SIRO stated it "could not develop a business case to justify continued participation in the NBP bid process".

Eir withdrew from the NBP procurement process on 30 January 2018. In its formal communication to my Department it stated its withdrawal was due to "commercial, regulatory and governance issues".

Both companies made the reasons for their withdrawal from the NBP procurement process public at the time.

I note that in a recent appearance before the Public Accounts Committee the CEO of eir referenced the company’s withdrawal from the NBP procurement process. In this appearance, the potential level of investment to be provided by the State was not cited as a reason for that withdrawal.

Question No. 546 answered with Question No. 544.
Question No. 547 answered with Question No. 545.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (548)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

548. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of high-speed broadband in an area (details supplied) in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12054/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The premises referred to by the Deputy is in the AMBER area on the National Broadband Plan (NBP) High Speed Broadband Map, which is available on my Department's website at www.broadband.gov.ie. The AMBER areas represent the target areas for the proposed State led Intervention under the NBP. This intervention is the subject of an ongoing procurement process.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

For those premises currently awaiting access to high speed broadband, 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. 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.

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (549, 554)

Michael Harty

Ceist:

549. Deputy Michael Harty asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the perceived inadequate number of ESB electric car charge points nationally will be recognised and remedied, in particular in County Clare (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12086/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niall Collins

Ceist:

554. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to roll out electric vehicle charging stations in towns and villages across County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12166/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 549 and 554 together.

Providing adequate charging infrastructure is critical to ensure the continued growth in the uptake of electric vehicles.

Home charging is the primary method of charging for the majority of electric vehicles both internationally and in Ireland. Charging at home at night is the most cost-effective and eco-friendly way to charge an electric vehicle. Given the high proportion of homes with driveways and dedicated parking spaces, Ireland has greater capacity for home charging than many other countries. A Government funded grant of up to €600 is available, via the SEAI, to the purchasers of new and second-hand electric vehicles to support the installation of home chargers.

There are currently 668 standard public charge points as a part of the ESB eCars Network and circa 80 fast chargers, mainly on national routes to facilitate longer journeys. In addition, there are a number of location/destination charging points located at hotels, shopping centres, visitor attractions, places of employment, private car parks etc.

Under the first call for applications from the Climate Action Fund, I approved funding of up to €10 million to support ESB eCars to develop a nationwide, state-of-the-art electric vehicle fast charging network. The project successfully completed the assessment stage and is now going through the validation stage. On completion of this stage further detail on the project, including information in relation to the location of chargers and an implementation timeline, will be set out.

The key elements of the project include:

- Six high speed charging hubs on motorways capable of charging eight vehicles simultaneously

- 16 high speed charging hubs capable of charging four vehicles simultaneously

- Additional high power chargers at 34 current fast charger locations

- Upgrading 50 standard chargers to fast chargers

- Replacing up to 264 standard chargers (totalling 528 charge points) to next generation high reliability models

At the end of 2017, there were 3,799 electric vehicles (including battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) on the road in Ireland. This increased to 7,647 at the end of 2018 – a doubling of the number of electric vehicles on the road. It is estimated that the implementation of the ESB eCars project will provide the necessary fast charging infrastructure to support at least 40,000 electric vehicles.

Funding for public charging in local communities is available through the Better Energy Communities Scheme. The scheme, which is administered by the SEAI, supports community-based partnerships, many of which include local businesses and enterprises.

In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the SEAI, is working on how best to support the provision of greater levels of on-street public charging.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (550)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

550. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding the roll-out of broadband under the national broadband plan in County Laois; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12144/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The National Broadband Plan aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across the country, and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest.

Since December 2015, the number of premises with access to high speed broadband in Laois has increased by 1,934. Today in total, the number of premises in Laois with access to high speed broadband is 24,415, 62% of total premises in the County. Another 2,066 will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment.

The remaining 12,772 homes, schools and businesses in Laois will be connected under the National Broadband Plan.

In April 2017 my Department published an updated High Speed Broadband Map, which is available at www.broadband.gov.ie. This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area under the National Broadband Plan. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address or Eircode.

The procurement process to appoint a bidder for the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

Waste Management

Ceisteanna (551)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

551. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has considered a different model of household waste collection. [12145/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

A review of "A Resource Opportunity - Waste Management Policy in Ireland" will be initiated in 2019. This review process will take account of a number of initiatives, such as the European Circular Economy waste and plastics legislation framework and the reports from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission and the Price Monitoring Group. This process will inform the development of future national waste management policy, including our environmental goals, regulatory and market structures, and policy instruments and tools.

Nuclear Waste

Question No. 554 answered with Question No. 549.

Ceisteanna (552, 553)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

552. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on reports that the British Government was examining the construction of a geological disposal facility for the dumping of nuclear waste in the Mourne Mountains and at Slieve Gullion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12161/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

553. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the correspondence he has had with the British Government outlining his views regarding the construction of a nuclear waste facility on the island of Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12162/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 552 and 553 together.

I refer to the reply to Questions Nos. 563, 578 and 585 on February 12th 2019. The position is unchanged.

Question No. 554 answered with Question No. 549.