Exploration Licences

Ceisteanna (71)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

71. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he or his officials have held discussions with representatives of a company (details supplied) prior to its plans to drill off the south coast in June 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14195/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

On 14 November 2018, my Department received an application from CNOOC Petroleum Europe Limited (formerly known as Nexen Petroleum U.K. Limited) to drill an exploratory well within Frontier Exploration Licence 3/18 in the Porcupine Basin. The Licence is operated by CNOOC Petroleum Europe Limited and ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Ireland (Offshore South) Limited has a 50% non-operating interest in the Licence. This application is currently under consideration.

Neither I nor Minister Bruton have held discussions with representatives of Exxon Mobil or CNOOC Petroleum Europe in respect of this application.

In fulfilling their functions in respect of the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production activities, my officials would have cause to meet with representatives of companies holding petroleum authorisations in the Irish Offshore. In that context, my officials have met with representatives of both CNOOC Petroleum Europe Limited and ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Ireland (Offshore South) Limited.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 68.

Ceisteanna (72)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

72. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he is satisfied that recent submissions to the European Commission under the climate and energy governance regulation and national energy and climate plans will ensure that Ireland will meet the EU 2030 climate and energy targets; the quantitative assessment and modelling carried out to ensure the measures are robust and specific enough to achieve these targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14204/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Ireland's draft National Energy and Climate Plan, submitted to the European Commission in December 2018, indicates that Ireland will not meet its emissions reduction targets for 2021 to 2030 on the basis of policies and measures currently in place or planned.

The Deputy is aware that I am currently preparing an All-of-Government Plan on Climate Action which will set out how Ireland will increase its ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so that its targets for 2021 to 2030 can be achieved.

I am working with colleagues across Government to develop new initiatives in electricity, transport, heat, and agriculture, as well as a range of other sectors. The All of Government Plan will build on the previous actions and framework put in place by both the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan and 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. It will also be informed by successful approaches in other countries, where such approaches could be adapted for implementation in Ireland. The new initiatives identified in the All of Government Plan will be incorporated into Ireland's finalised National Energy and Climate Plan, which is to be submitted to the European Commission by year-end.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 68.

Energy Infrastructure

Ceisteanna (74)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

74. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the policy in regard to grants of permission for the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure such as the plan to build a large industrial terminal on the Shannon Estuary will be reviewed in view of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. [14011/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Successive governments have underlined the commitment to move from a fossil fuel-based electricity system to a low-carbon power system. Almost two thirds of renewable energy used in Ireland comes from renewable electricity.

It is widely recognised that Ireland needs to make a step change in its climate ambitions and I have secured Government approval to develop an all of Government plan which will set out the actions which must be taken to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change. This Plan will include the steps which we must take in order to achieve this and I am working with colleagues across Government to develop new initiatives across electricity, transport and heat, as well as a range of other sectors.

In all projected transitions to a low carbon economy by 2050, gas will continue to play a role in sustaining the transition. It plays an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the power generation, industrial and commercial, residential and transport sectors by replacing more CO2-intensive fossil fuels. In Ireland, gas powered generation also provides an important back-up for intermittent renewable wind generation. An LNG facility would further enhance Ireland’s energy security by increasing import route diversity and there is currently no plan to review energy policy surrounding the construction of such facilities.

Decisions on consents for the construction of an LNG plant would be a matter for the relevant consenting authorities, but it is widely known that commercial developers have proposed a number for development, including the Shannon LNG project and another project in Cork. Final investment decisions for these projects and compliance with any legal and regulatory requirements in relation to consents or permits are the responsibility of the project promoters.

The production, sourcing, buying and selling of natural gas produced outside this jurisdiction would also be an operational matter for the undertakings involved. Any undertaking would be required to comply with EU law in this area.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (75)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

75. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he has identified and proposed action on the issue of climate change and the need to accelerate a programme to address the issues concerned, including a clear and substantial commitment to specific objectives in respect of non-fossil electricity generation capacity, with particular reference to specific targets that meet urgent requirements without damaging the national economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14201/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Since my appointment as Minister I have secured Government approval to prepare an All of Government Plan which will set out the actions which must be taken 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.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (76)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

76. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the engagement he is undertaking with all local authorities in respect of their climate change adaptation strategies; and the progress being made in respect of such plans. [14227/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Ireland’s first statutory National Adaptation Framework, published in January 2018, sets out the context to ensure local authorities, regions and key sectors can assess the main risks and vulnerabilities of climate change, implement climate resilience actions and ensure climate adaptation considerations are mainstreamed into policy making.

Under the National Adaptation Framework, each local authority is required to develop a local adaptation strategy in line with “Local Authority Adaptation Strategy Development Guidelines” which were launched by Minister of State Canney on 3 December 2018 and are available on www.dccae.gov.ie. Local authorities have been set a deadline for the completion of local strategies by 30 September 2019.

In January 2018, my Department also entered into a funding commitment of €10m over 5 years to establish four Climate Action Regional Offices. This recognises the significant obligation which has been placed on local government to develop and implement its own climate action measures – both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

A key priority for the Climate Action Regional Offices in 2019 will be to support the local authorities within their region to develop their local adaptation strategies and ensure they align with national adaptation policy and sectoral priorities. Work is underway across all local authorities on the preparation of local adaptation strategies in line with the five-step methodology set out in the Guidelines. The development and approval of the strategies themselves will, however, be the responsibility of each individual local authority.

My Department is working closely with local government in supporting the adaptation planning process and will monitor overall progress on the development of local adaptation strategies at local authority level via the National Adaptation Steering Committee and the Climate Action High Level Steering Group, as well as through the implementation of the All of Government Climate Action Plan, which is soon to be published and which addresses climate resilience at national, regional and local level.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (77, 82)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

77. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress made on the roll-out of the national broadband plan. [14224/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

82. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when it is expected that a decision will be made regarding the national broadband scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14144/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 77 and 82 together.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure high speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) 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.

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 and I will bring a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (78)

Charlie McConalogue

Ceist:

78. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the commitment to provide high-speed broadband to all houses and businesses in County Donegal; the deadline for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14010/19]

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, the number of premises with access to high-speed broadband in Donegal has increased by 16,964, a 16% increase. In total, the number of premises in Donegal with access to high speed broadband is now 65,212, which equates to 64% all premises in the county. 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 will 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 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.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (79)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

79. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress in rolling out fibre broadband by a company at locations (details supplied); if the new timelines for the deployment of broadband at the locations have been approved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14241/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

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.

In April 2017 my Department published an updated version of the 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 NBP. 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 rollout high speed broadband to 300,000 premises as part of a Commitment Agreement signed with my Department in April 2017.

The three premises referenced by the Deputy fall within the Light Blue, Blue and Amber categories respectively.

For the specific premises which falls within the Light Blue area of the map, further information on eir's commercial deployment, including timelines, is provided on that company’s website, www.fibrerollout.ie.

The specific premises within the Blue area of the Map is categorised as a blue dot in a light blue area. This means it is a premises indicated as having been passed by eir as part of their rural deployment of high speed broadband. Therefore, that premises should be in a position to order a high speed broadband connection from a provider offering services on that network.

I advise people living in blue areas who are experiencing difficulty in obtaining a high speed broadband service to contact the NBP customer service team at broadband@dccae.gov.ie directly, providing their name, phone number, email address and Eircode, as well as details of any issues they are experiencing getting connected.

For the final premises referenced by the Deputy, 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 relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

Renewable Energy Projects

Ceisteanna (80)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

80. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to consider initiatives, or if his officials have worked with other Departments, on establishing an indigenous biomass crop supply chain to the peat plants in the future and to complement biomass currently being used for electricity generation to help maintain security of supply. [14006/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The three peat-fired electricity generating stations in Ireland, one owned by Bord na Móna and two by ESB, were awarded support for biomass combustion under the REFIT3 Scheme for up to 30% of the installed capacity up to 2030. Bord na Móna commenced co-firing at its Edenderry Plant with biomass in 2008, and it is expected that ESB will commence co-firing at its 2 peat fired plants with biomass in 2020, subject to obtaining the necessary planning permission.

In relation to the supply of biomass, I am advised that Bord na Móna’s BioEnergy division sources sustainable biomass that is used at the Edenderry power station and that up to 80% of the biomass used in the Edenderry power station is from domestic sources. However, in the event that all three of the electricity generating plants referred to have planning permission to co-fire with biomass, it is unlikely that the amount of biomass required will be supplied from indigenous sources. It is likely that the supply deficit would be met initially by imports.

In addition to the three power stations, there is demand for biomass for use in industry and in residential heating, and the Government’s Support Scheme for Renewable Heat will also create a demand for biomass supplies in the coming years.

As pointed out by COFORD, the advisory body appointed by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to advise the Minister and his Department on issues related to the development of the forest sector in Ireland, in its recent reports on Wood Supply and Demand to 2025, and Mobilising Ireland’s Forest Resource, the key challenge is to ensure a balanced approach to the development of wood resource to best meet demand. Mobilising the private supply of indigenous resources is a key factor. As the supply of indigenous biomass increases, supported by the forestry programme and other measures, imported biomass will be displaced.

There is a wide range of Government Departments, agencies and State bodies that are critical enablers for the development of bioenergy by virtue of their responsibility for areas such as forestry, agriculture, waste, research funding and business development. The Bioenergy Steering Group, chaired by my Department, promotes co-operation and co-ordination across these policy areas in order to support the development of the bioenergy sector in Ireland.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 77.

Ceisteanna (81)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

81. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on a recent report (details supplied) that estimated that the elimination of carbon emissions by 2060 would give a 66% chance of global warming staying below 1.5o Celsius above pre-industrial levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13997/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The report the Deputy refers to echoes the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5C, published in October 2018, on the urgency of ambitious action to tackle the challenges of climate change.

Addressing climate change, whether through decarbonisation of our economy, or preparing to adapt to the impacts of climate change, is one of the most significant challenges of this century. Science has confirmed the absolute urgency of achieving deep cuts in our greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades.

The EU has in place a set of greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets for the period to 2030 which are one of the most ambitious of any party to the Paris Agreement. These targets are supported by an underpinning policy framework at EU level in the key sectors of energy, buildings and transport, through the Climate and Energy legislative package. It is important that EU Member States now put in place the necessary domestic policy framework to enable them to deliver on their respective non-ETS targets which have only recently been finalised at EU level.

In order to meet Ireland’s target for 2030 that we will reduce emissions in the non-ETS sector by 30%, and building on the framework put in place by both the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan, I am currently developing 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.

The All of Government 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. It will also be informed by successful approaches in other countries, where such approaches could be adapted for implementation in Ireland.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 77.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (83)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

83. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he is reviewing plans to combat climate change in view of the international climate strike of children and the support here for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14243/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

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 across electricity, transport, heat, and agriculture, as well as a range of other sectors.

The All of Government 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. It will also be informed by successful approaches in other countries, where such approaches could be adapted for implementation in Ireland.

The Plan will build on the previous actions and framework put in place by both the National Mitigation Plan and the National Development Plan, and is to be completed in April.

Legislative Process

Ceisteanna (84)

James Lawless

Ceist:

84. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill 2017; if a money message will be issued to allow it proceed to Committee Stage and support its passage through remaining Stages (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13996/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

An interdepartmental group, chaired by the Department of the Taoiseach, has been established to examine the risks to our electoral security, identify mitigating factors and to identify gaps and potential proposals to address these gaps.

The Group published its first report in June 2018, which found that, while risks to the electoral process in Ireland are relatively low, the spread of disinformation online posed a more substantial risk. The report commits to engaging with stakeholders on risks to the electoral process and disinformation, and to develop proposals for regulation of the transparency of online political advertising. In this context, a public consultation on electoral security and online political advertising and an Open Policy Forum, held on 6 December 2018, were organised by the Department of the Taoiseach. The interdepartmental group is currently considering next steps in the context of the outputs of the consultation and the Open Policy Forum.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (85)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

85. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans in respect of areas that are deemed to have broadband coverage that fall outside the remit of the national broadband plan but are subject to market failure. [14225/19]

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 NBP. The Map is colour coded and searchable by address/Eircode:

The BLUE area represents those areas where commercial providers are either currently delivering or have plans to deliver high speed broadband services. These premises are therefore not included in the NBP State intervention area (AMBER on the Map).

My Department monitors deployment of high speed broadband on an ongoing basis as part of the NBP and this monitoring continues in parallel with the NBP procurement process. The NBP High Speed Broadband Map can be updated during the procurement, or following award of an NBP contract, to reflect new commercial plans, or to update areas where previous plans have failed to materialise. In the event commercial operators’ plans for premises in BLUE areas do not materialise it may become necessary for my Department to intervene.

To assist with this monitoring, where a citizen living in a Blue area is unable to obtain a high speed broadband service, I would encourage them to email my Department at broadband@dccae.gov.ie with their Eircode and details of the service providers they have contacted and the issues encountered in respect of accessing high speed broadband.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

Ceisteanna (86, 88)

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

86. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase the provision of fibre broadband in rural Ireland. [14239/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

88. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase fibre broadband provision in County Meath. [14238/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 86 and 88 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 to those areas where commercial investment is unlikely. These are mostly rural areas.

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 engage a company to build, operate and maintain the State Intervention network is now at the final stage. The assessment of the Bidder’s final tender solution is ongoing and I intend to bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

As required by the State Aid Guidelines for Broadband, the NBP procurement process has adopted a technology neutral approach. It does not mandate the delivery of service by any specific material or infrastructure. However, it is noteworthy that all bidders in the process proposed a predominantly fibre to the home solution.

With regard to the availability of high speed broadband in county Meath, since December 2015 the number of premises with access to high speed broadband has increased by 32,000, or a 36% increase. In total, the number of premises in Meath with access to high speech broadband is 63,370, 74% of total premises in the county. A further 2,395 premises will be served by eir under that company’s ongoing rural deployment.

The remaining 20,256 homes, schools and businesses in Co. Meath will be connected under the State led intervention. It is my intention to bring a recommendation to Government in relation to the NBP in the coming weeks.

Electric Vehicles

Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 86.

Ceisteanna (87)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

87. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the list of the location of e-car chargers and the implementation timeline approved under the climate action fund will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14240/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

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

Home charging is the most cost-effective way to charge an electric vehicle and is the primary method of charging for the majority of electric vehicles both internationally and in Ireland. A Government 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 over 650 standard public charge points and 78 fast chargers as a part of the ESB eCars network. In addition there are public chargers provided by local authorities, retail outlets and private companies.

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 includes the installation of 90 high-power chargers, upgrading 50 existing standard chargers to fast chargers and replacing over 250 existing standard chargers with next generation high reliability models.

At the end of 2018, there were over 7,600 electric vehicles on the road in Ireland – a doubling of the total from the previous year. 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.

This project successfully completed the assessment stage and the validation stage is now underway. On completion of this stage further detail on the project, including information in relation to the location of chargers and a timeline, will be set out.

Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 86.

Renewable Energy Generation

Ceisteanna (89, 94)

John Curran

Ceist:

89. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when in 2019 he expects the first renewable electricity auction to take place under the renewable electricity support scheme, RESS; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14002/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

94. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timeline with specific dates for implementation of the first RESS auction; the status of the associated EU state aid approval and release of the detailed design paper on the scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14173/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 89 and 94 together.

The high level design of the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) was approved by Government in July 2018. The RESS has been designed to deliver Ireland’s renewable electricity contribution towards an EU-wide renewable energy target of 32% out to 2030, within a competitive auction-based, cost effective framework.

The high level design set out an indicative timetable of RESS auctions, with the first proposed to open in 2019 and the second in 2020. However the ultimate auction timetable and volumes to be procured within each round will be determined based on the analysis carried out as part of the development of the National Energy and Climate Plan, the trajectory targets for renewables under the Governance Regulation, as well as assessment of the supply pipeline of eligible projects to ensure competitive outcomes for consumers.

Since the RESS high level design was approved by Government, my Department has been progressing the RESS design across several work streams including the EU state aid approval process; the development of an enabling framework for community participation; and the detailed design of the first auction. In parallel, the All of Government Climate Plan, which is due to be finalised shortly, will include a number of proposals that may need to be accommodated within the final detailed RESS design. 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 intention is to obtain Government approval for the final RESS design including the first RESS auction once final policy decisions have been determined. The Scheme will then be subject to State Aid clearance from the EU Commission.

Once the final design has been approved by Government, further relevant stakeholder engagement will take place to ensure the delivery of RESS in a clear and transparent manner for all.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (90)

Timmy Dooley

Ceist:

90. Deputy Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has met with representatives of companies (details supplied) to discuss the roll-out of broadband in areas covered by the national broadband plan; if the size of the area will change; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14170/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I welcome recent announcements of further commercial investment in high speed broadband infrastructure by telecommunications operators. While I have not had direct engagement with either company, officials from my Department have met with representatives of these operators and have received high level presentations from both with regard to their commercial deployment plans. To date, neither operator has published, or provided my Department with, detailed commercial or technical plans identifying individual premises to be served.

In order for premises to be removed from the State intervention area, a commercial operator must make a submission to my Department outlining its plans and commitments to provide these premises with a high speed broadband service. This is consistent with the State aid rules applying to State interventions to ensure the availability of high speed broadband services. Any such submission must satisfy the criteria set down by my Department in the mapping process that was published in 2015 on my Department’s website, before the NBP procurement process commenced. Details of the mapping process are available at the following link

https://www.dccae.gov.ie/documents/Managing%20IA%20Map%20-%20Consultation%20Paper%20FINAL%2021-12-15.pdf).

My Department monitors deployment of high speed broadband on an ongoing basis as part of the NBP and this monitoring continues in parallel with the NBP procurement process. In line with the process set out above, the NBP High Speed Broadband Map can be updated during the procurement, or following award of an NBP contract, to reflect new commercial plans, or to update areas where previous plans that have failed to materialise. This flexibility allows for an increase or decrease in the number of premises included in the State Intervention area.

The State Intervention area for the NBP procurement process, contains approximately 540,000 premises. This remains as set out on my Department’s High Speed Broadband Map, available at www.broadband.gov.ie.

The NBP procurement process is in its final stage and I intend to make a recommendation to Government in the coming weeks.

North-South Interconnector

Ceisteanna (91)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

91. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the North-South interconnector project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14014/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The North South Interconnector is critical to improving the efficient operation of the Single Electricity Market and increasing security of electricity supply across the island of Ireland. A resilient and well connected energy infrastructure is vital for Ireland’s economic wellbeing and the ability to respond to the future needs of energy consumers.

In December 2016 An Bord Pleanála granted planning permission for the project in Ireland, while in January 2018 full planning permission was granted for the section of the line that lies in Northern Ireland. Both of the planning decisions have been subject to legal proceedings in each jurisdiction.

In Ireland, a Supreme Court appeal of the planning permission was dismissed on 19 February 2019.

In Northern Ireland, on 8 February 2019, the Department for Infrastructure asked the High Court to quash the planning permission given so the planning application can be re-determined under new legislation introduced by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in November 2018.

There are currently a number of on-going procurements in relation to the project being undertaken and managed by ESB Networks, such as tower design. However no critical procurement contracts such as construction will be concluded until all planning issues in Northern Ireland are resolved. The earliest possible date for construction to commence is early 2020.

Renewable Energy Projects

Ceisteanna (92)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

92. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if renewable energy projects are in place or at the planning stages to match the projected increase in national electricity consumption that will come directly from data centre projects coming online between March 2019 and 2026; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14248/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Data centres are a key dimension of electricity demand growth in Ireland. While data centres have until recently accounted for less than 2% of Ireland’s total electricity demand, EirGrid in their Generation Capacity Statement 2018-2027 project that demand from data centres could account for 31% of all demand by 2027.

Data centres consume very large amounts of energy and have a flat, predictable demand profile meaning that they use the same amount of electricity throughout the day and night and therefore require a range of generation technologies to meet their demand. Given the quantum of electricity required to power data centres, it is important that renewable projects are developed to meet the demand for additional renewable electricity generation and the costs of this are minimised for consumers. The Government Statement on the role of data centres in Ireland's Enterprise Strategy, 2018 recognises that a plan-led approach is needed to develop a range of measures to promote regional options for data centre investment, minimising the need for additional grid infrastructure.

Significant increases in volumes of renewable generation capacity will be required to meet the Ireland’s increasing electricity demand including from data centres. Ireland’s first National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) will include trajectories for renewable energy (including renewable electricity ambitions), energy efficiency, and national emissions, as well as the measures required to achieve these trajectories. The new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is being designed to assist Ireland in meeting its renewable energy contribution to EU-wide targets out to 2030.

The ultimate auction timetable and volumes to be procured will be determined based on the analysis carried out as part of the NECP and in line with the ambitions set out in the all of Government Climate Action Plan. This will be informed by an assessment of the supply pipeline of eligible projects to ensure competitive outcomes for consumers. In addition, corporate power purchase agreements, where large demand users such as data centres contract directly with renewable energy projects, will be an important driver for bringing new projects on line. It will be critical that there is a strong supply of renewable energy projects coming through the planning and grid connection processes to meet our 2030 ambitions.

Nuclear Waste

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 89.

Ceisteanna (93)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

93. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the communications he has made in recent months with officials in Britain regarding their plans to place nuclear waste material on the island of Ireland. [14008/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Senior officials from my Department, and from the Environmental Protection Agency, meet twice yearly with their counterparts from the United Kingdom (UK) through the UK-Ireland Contact Group on Radiological Matters. The matter of the storage and disposal of radioactive waste, and in particular the Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) project, whereby this material is stored in an underground facility, is a standing item on the agenda for the Group. At the most recent meeting of the Group, in November 2018, officials from the UK confirmed that the working policy on the location of potential sites for a GDF relates to England only. It does not include Northern Ireland.

Further confirmation on this was received in writing from UK officials in February of this year. I can, therefore, categorically assure the Deputy that there are no plans by the British authorities to place nuclear waste in Northern Ireland.

My officials will continue to monitor developments and to engage with their UK counterparts, at national and regional levels, to ensure that our views in this matter continue to be represented.

Question No. 94 answered with Question No. 89.