Questions Nos. 46 to 49, inclusive, answered orally.

National Energy and Climate Action Plan

Question No. 51 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (50)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

50. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress being made in respect of the completion of the national energy and climate plan. [14287/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The preparation of a consolidated National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) is a requirement under the Governance Regulation of the Energy Union and Climate Action which brings together for the first time energy and climate planning and reporting requirements into a single national reporting framework.

Member States were given a template for the Plan as part of the Regulation and had to submit a first draft of the plan to the Commission by 31 December 2018 with the final plan to be submitted by 31 December this year.

As the deputy is aware projections indicate that Ireland will be far off target for emissions in 2020. The government is determined to address this and have asked me to draw up a whole of government action plan with the aim of getting back on track.

This plan will build upon the measures set out in the National Development Plan published by Government in March 2018.

I will also take into account the important work of;

- The Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action and its deliberations on the report of the Citizens’ Assembly entitled ‘How the State can make Ireland a Leader in tackling Climate Change’;

- Input from the Climate Change Advisory Council;

- Input from the public consultation on the initial draft National Energy and Climate Plan;

- Updated analytical input from Government Departments, ESRI, CSO, SEAI, EPA, Teagasc and other Government bodies

It is intended that new commitments and initiatives will be included in the All of Government Climate Action Plan which will in turn inform the finalisation of the NECP during the course of 2019.

Question No. 51 answered orally.

Citizens Assembly

Ceisteanna (52)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

52. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timeline for implementing the recommendations of the final report of the Citizens' Assembly, How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change, in view of the recent global student strike for climate action. [14012/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Climate Disruption is the greatest challenge facing humanity. That is why the Oireachtas requested the Citizens Assembly, which has played a great role in motivating change in our society, to examine Ireland's role in meeting this challenge.

Its recommendations are being taken very seriously both by the Oireachtas and by the government.

The Joint Committee on Climate Action was established by resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas on 3 July 2018 to consider the third report and recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly entitled 'How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change'. The Committee is due to report to both Houses by 28 March 2019. In the context of the consideration of each of the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly, it is a matter for the Joint Committee to consider and recommend whether and how each recommendation might be taken up by Government.

In parallel with the work of the Committee, and on foot of a Government Decision on 20 November 2018, work has been underway across all Departments to prepare a new All of Government Climate Action Plan to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change.

This involves working with colleagues across Government to develop new initiatives in electricity, transport, heat, and agriculture, as well as a range of other sectors. The new plan will have a strong focus on implementation, including actions with specific timelines and steps needed to achieve each action, assigning clear lines of responsibility for delivery. The new plan will also be informed by successful approaches in other countries.

This plan will build on the previous actions taken by Government, including in the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan, and is to be completed shortly.

In developing this Plan, I intend that it will address any recommendations that the Joint Committee include in their report.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (53)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

53. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he is satisfied that the commitment agreement progress update by a company (details supplied) is accurate. [14226/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

In November 2014 my Department published a 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 within the State intervention area.

In April 2017 the High Speed Broadband Map was updated. This update took account of the Commitment Agreement signed by eir with the Department to deploy high speed broadband to approximately 300,000 premises in rural Ireland on a commercial basis. These areas are categorised as LIGHT BLUE in the Map.

According to data for Q4 2018 submitted by eir to my Department the company has passed almost 225,000 of the committed 300,000 premises nationwide as part of its ongoing deployment.

eir provide my Department with a list of the premises, identified by Eircode, that have been confirmed as being passed in the 300k quarterly milestone report. My Department reviews the aggregate number of committed premises through analysis of eir’s progress report against the milestone targets outlined in the Commitment Agreement. The results are published on the updated High Speed Broadband map each quarter.

In addition, eir updates its database of all premises that are confirmed as being available for a high speed broadband service on a weekly basis. Premises passed as part of the 300k deployment are also included in these updates. In line with its regulatory obligations, this information is shared by eir with industry, along with my Department.

The company has indicated it intends to complete its deployment by the middle of this year. Officials from my Department are engaged with eir regarding this, and other matters related to the deployment on an ongoing basis.

National Broadband Plan

Questions Nos. 55 to 59, inclusive, answered orally.

Ceisteanna (54)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

54. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the national broadband tender process; when all homes and businesses in County Donegal will have access to high-speed broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14009/19]

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.

Since December 2015, total premises with access to high speed broadband in Donegal has increased from 48% to 64%. In total today, the number of premises in Donegal with access to high speed broadband is 65,212. Another 2,511 will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment of a high speed broadband network.

The remaining 34,107 homes, schools and businesses in Donegal are to receive access to high speed broadband under the Government’s 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 final tender was submitted to my department in September. As the deputy is aware from debates here in the house, there is a need for very thorough scrutiny of the submission. This work is being undertaken by my Department in consultation with DPER.

As the Deputy will be aware, 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 the coming weeks.

Questions Nos. 55 to 59, inclusive, answered orally.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (60)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

60. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the carbon emissions projections if and when the three peat-fired electricity generating stations here complete their planned transition to biomass combustion; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14247/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As set out in the National Development Plan, the Government intends that, by 2030, peat and coal will no longer have a role in electricity generation in Ireland in line with Ireland’s commitments under the Paris Agreement. The use of peat will be progressively eliminated by 2030 by converting peat power stations to low-carbon technologies. This includes the use of sustainable biomass in place of peat, which will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from these power stations during the remainder of their operational lifetime.

While the EPA projects that emissions from the three plants will progressively reduce to zero from the middle of the decade to 2030, in line with the National Development Plan and the companies' own plans, the specific emissions from each of the three peat plants during this period will be subject to year-on-year fluctuations arising from a number of factors, including:

- the technical availability of plants to run;

- the actual share of biomass in generation at any given point in time; and

- overall generation of electricity by the plants during the course of the year, which will depend on a number of factors, including relative wholesale fuel prices for power, ETS carbon prices and factors related to the operation of wholesale electricity market in Ireland.

The generation of electricity from peat has been supported at three power stations (West Offaly, Lough Ree and Edenderry) for security of supply purposes, with total emissions amounting to 2.36MT in 2018. Phase 3 of the PSO-funded Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff provides support for co-firing of biomass up to 30% of the capacity of each of the three power stations. This support provides a transitional period to allow Bord na Móna to plan and manage the move away from peat harvesting for electricity production. Since 2016, Edenderry has used the REFIT 3 support to co-fire biomass along with peat. This power station has statutory planning permission to continue to operate in this configuration until the end of 2023. The two ESB power stations are expected to begin co-firing using the REFIT 3 support scheme, once the existing peat-only PSO ceases in December 2019. These two power stations currently have planning permission to operate by co-firing biomass with peat, to December 2020.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Question No. 62 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (61)

Bobby Aylward

Ceist:

61. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timeline for the commencement of works on the ground under the national broadband plan; the measures contained within same to ensure rapid roll-out of broadband services for rural areas, communities and regional towns; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14217/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As I have outlined to the House, the NBP procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the State intervention network is now at the final stage. I intend to bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

With regard to the deployment of infrastructure for the network, in the event a preferred bidder is appointed and contract is subsequently awarded and signed, deployment will commence with activity across all counties at the earliest possible opportunity.

Given that deployment is likely to take a number of years, the bidder will be required to provide almost 300 broadband connection points across all counties in the first year of deployment. These broadband connection points have been selected by local authorities and are locations of community importance such as schools and community centres. They will provide communities with access to high speed broadband services pending a high speed broadband solution to the home being achieved under the NBP.

Under the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, Local Authority Broadband Officers act as a single point of contact between local authorities and commercial operators. The work of Broadband Officers is reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements between Local Authorities and commercial operators.

During the roll out of the State Intervention network, Broadband Officers will be in a position to increase the efficiency of deployment through improved communication between the Bidder and Local Authorities and communities.

Question No. 62 answered orally.

Renewable Energy Generation Targets

Questions Nos. 64 and 65 answered orally.

Ceisteanna (63)

John Curran

Ceist:

63. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to set a 70% target for renewable electricity by 2030; the interim targets and actions required to ensure a 70% target is achieved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14003/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The renewable energy sector has undergone a considerable transformation over the last 10 years, with the share of renewable electricity generation more than doubling to 30.1% in 2017. However, we must step up the scale of our ambition even further in order to meet our climate ambitions. It is my intention to set a target of 70% for renewable electricity by 2030.

I am currently developing an all of government Climate Action Plan, to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, with actions across all areas such as heat, electricity, transport and agriculture according to strict timelines.

Transitioning to green energy is an integral part of that Plan. Analysis and modelling to underpin the Plan is assessing a range of options to ensure that Ireland meets its 2030 climate and energy ambitions. It is my intention that our ambition in terms of renewable electricity will step up significantly from the 55% set out in the draft National Energy and Climate Plan up to the new target of 70%. The plan will identify a range of technical, regulatory, legislative and economic factors that arise in going beyond this figure. The impact on the costs of electricity, affordability for consumers and business competitiveness of setting higher renewable electricity targets also has to be considered.

In order to meet the 70% RES-E target, major capital investment will be needed in new generation capacity, system service infrastructure and electricity transmission and distribution networks. A review will also be needed to the policy and regulatory framework to incentivise electricity storage, which will be critical to absorbing high levels of renewable generation on to the system. In addition, increased interconnection will be required to facilitate the large upscaling in onshore and offshore wind required so that we can balance the grid and ensure supply security.

The new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is critical to meeting Ireland's contribution to the EU's 2030 renewable energy targets and will be designed to achieve its targets in the a cost competitive way. Private sector funding though corporate contracting will also be essential for meeting higher levels of ambition to increase renewable energy supply and deliver on long term decarbonisation of the electricity sector. This will also reduce consumer costs through a reduction in the Public Service Obligation levy.

The intention is to finalise and publish the whole of Government Climate Action Plan within the next few weeks and this in turn will feed into the National Energy and Climate Plan process, which is due to be finalised and submitted to the Commission in December.

Questions Nos. 64 and 65 answered orally.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (66)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

66. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which the provision of broadband nationally is progressing in line with expectations; if the provision of services to the blank spaces between services within a reasonable time is anticipated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14202/19]

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.

The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of all 2.4 million Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. Today, 74% of premises can access high speed broadband.

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 intend to bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

Renewable Energy Incentives

Ceisteanna (67)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

67. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if a time-limited grace period will be applied to REFIT 2; if REFIT 3 will be extended to relevant wind and solar projects; and if not, the estimated increase in EU non-compliance costs and penalties to be met by the State for failing to reach its EU 2020 renewable electricity commitment by an even larger amount. [14174/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The REFIT 2 and REFIT 3 schemes closed to new applications in 2015 in line with the relevant EU state aid notifications and any new aid granted must comply with the EU State Aid Guidelines for Environment and Energy 2014-2020.

A number of extensions to both the REFIT 2 and REFIT 3 deadlines were granted in recent years. Following examination of relevant evidence including consumer electricity costs, I decided in February not to grant a request for a further extension to the REFIT 2 deadlines.

It is vitally important that Government does not crowd out private sector investment through extending subsidy schemes particularly at a time when corporate contracting of renewable energy is becoming an increasing feature of the global energy transformation. Corporate power purchase agreements should provide an alternative route to market for competitive renewable electricity projects.

The Department is working closely with ESB Networks, EirGrid and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities to ensure that scheduled renewable electricity projects are connected as soon as possible to the electricity grid and that the current deadlines are met in order to maximise their contribution to the 2020 renewable energy targets.

I am currently focused on the preparation of an all of government Climate Action Plan which will provide for a substantial step up in our climate ambition for 2030 and any shortfall in meeting Ireland's 2020 targets would likely to be more economically met through the EU cooperation mechanisms or through other routes to market than supporting projects through the REFIT schemes.

Any requirement for statistical transfer purchase will be undertaken against a background of discussions with the EU Commission and relevant member states. As any purchases arising would be made over a number of years, the costs to the Exchequer of acquiring statistical transfers to meet any potential shortfall would be spread over a period of time and in any event the cumulative costs would not be known until 2021, the deadline for completion of all purchases.

While contingency planning has commenced in the Department, the focus remains firmly on meeting our 2020 renewable targets and on the implementation of existing and new renewable energy measures.

National Broadband Plan Data

Ceisteanna (68, 73)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

68. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when details of the decision by the broadband procurement team on the remaining bidder tender will be announced; the costs to date of the broadband procurement process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14169/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

73. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans for the roll-out of rural broadband nationally in the event the procurement team does not give the tender for rural broadband to the one remaining bidder; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14196/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 68 and 73 together.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment and a State led intervention.

The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector. In 2012, less than 700,000, or 30% of all 2.4 million Irish premises had access to high speed broadband. Today, 74% of premises can access high speed broadband.

The NBP procurement process is now at the final stage. I will bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks. I do not propose to pre-empt the outcome of my Department's assessment, nor any decision that Government may make.

Expenditure on the National Broadband Plan since 2013 is €25.4M (including VAT). This expenditure includes the cost of corporate and economic advice, technical support and network design, the cost of legal and environmental advice. These services were procured by way of competitive tender. In addition, the Department has staff and other administrative costs related to the NBP.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (69)

James Browne

Ceist:

69. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding the roll-out of the national broadband plan with specific reference to County Wexford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14000/19]

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.

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.

Since December 2015, the number of premises with access to high-speed broadband in Wexford has increased by 19,070, a 21% increase. In total, the number of premises in Wexford with access to high speech broadband is 59,620, 72% of total premises in the County. Another 1,154 will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment.

The remaining 21,761 homes, schools and businesses in Wexford will be connected under the Government’s National Broadband Plan State intervention. The NBP State intervention procurement process is now at the final stage.

My priority is to bring the procurement process to a fair and impartial conclusion and bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

Waste Management Data

Ceisteanna (70)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

70. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the estimated number of households here without a waste collection service; and the actions he is taking to help address this issue. [14007/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The most recent Central Statistics Office figures (2016) state that there are over 1.7 million households in the state. A Report from September 2018 prepared by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) on the household waste collection industry suggests a non-participation rate of 23% based on an analysis of data from the National Waste Collection Permit Office and the CSO. This would imply some 1.3 million households avail of a waste collection service. The remainder may bin share, may not have a collection service available or may choose to dispose of their waste at a civic amenity site and home compost.

Funding has been provided under the 2018 Anti-Dumping Initiative to support a pilot project undertaken by Sligo County Council aimed at tackling and addressing the source of illegal dumping through an Eircodes investigation. It is anticipated that this approach will facilitate the process of trying to deal with illegal dumping, the burning of waste and unauthorised waste management. This will form a model of best practice for other Local Authorities to adopt, which in turn will work towards curbing illegal dumping activity nationally.

It should be noted that many local authorities have already introduced bye-laws and that the Regional Waste Management Planning Offices have prepared a template to help standardise bye-laws on the presentation of waste. The template bye-laws place the onus of proof on the householder to prove that they are managing their waste correctly by signing up to a waste collection service or providing receipts for the deposit of waste in authorised facilities.