Telephone Call Charges

Ceisteanna (204)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

204. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position on the use of 1850 and 1890 phone numbers by various State bodies; the policy on the issue; his views on the resulting costs imposed on persons accessing services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26934/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The matter raised by the Deputy is not an area in which I, as Minister, have a statutory function. The use and display of telephone numbers such as 1850 and 1890 numbers is an operational and customer service issue for each individual public body including Government Departments. My own Department operates both an 1890 lo-call option and a standard 01-6782000 access code.

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) manages and administers the National Numbering Scheme on behalf of the State. The Deputy may be interested in a Decision by ComReg in December last year to introduce measures to address consumer confusion and high costs of using Non-Geographic Numbers. Details of this Decision D15/18 (18/106) are available on ComReg’s website at www.comreg.ie.

ComReg is statutorily independent in the exercise of its functions and is accountable directly to the Oireachtas in accordance with section 34 of the Communications Regulation Act 2002.

Trading Online Voucher Scheme

Ceisteanna (205)

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

205. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of businesses that availed of the trading online vouchers scheme in 2018 and to date in 2019; the budget provided for the scheme in 2018 and 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27001/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Trading Online Voucher Scheme is specifically designed to support small and micro enterprises to trade online. The scheme offers financial assistance of up to €2,500, subject to matching funding, coupled with training, mentoring and networking supports to help small businesses to develop their online trading capability. Small businesses, with 10 or fewer employees and less than €2m in revenue, that have little or no capacity to trade online, are eligible to apply.

The Trading Online Voucher Scheme is funded by my Department and delivered on a nationwide basis by Enterprise Ireland, through the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) network. Businesses must be located within the jurisdiction of the LEO to which they apply.

The following table below outlines the voucher approvals and overall budget for the Scheme in the 2018/2019 period.

Year

Number of Businesses approved for funding

Budget for Scheme

2018

1,107

€1.954m*

2019

493 (to end of May)

€2.3m

*2018 Expenditure for the Scheme

In addition to the financial assistance element of the Scheme, in the 2018/2019 period over 5,000 businesses have received training provided by the LEOs under the Scheme, bringing the total businesses trained to over 16,000 since its launch in 2014.

Renewable Energy Generation

Ceisteanna (206)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

206. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the stock of renewable energy infrastructure owned by the State or semi-State organisations by category (details supplied); the value of the stock in each category; and the energy produced by the stock in each category. [27052/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Department itself does not own or operate any electricity generation assets of any technology.

The commercial semi-state companies operating in the energy markets own and operate different renewable generation technologies including wind, biomass and hydro technologies. In 2018, 32.5% of our electricity was generated from renewable sources, the majority from wind (27.6%).

While the information sought by the Deputy regarding the individual companies is an operational matter for each body, I will request the relevant companies to reply directly to the Deputy with the information requested in respect of their organisation.

Electromagnetic Fields Studies

Ceisteanna (207)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

207. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the research his Department has carried on the health implications on the roll-out of 5G technology; the body that carried out the research; the findings of the research; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27053/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

As Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, I have policy responsibility for matters pertaining to public exposure to non-ionising radiation. Irish policy in this area is informed by a substantial volume of internationally recognised scientific research and evidence. This includes the guidelines set down by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection, ICNIRP.

These guidelines provide scientifically-based exposure limits that are applicable to both public and occupational exposure from electromagnetic fields (EMF), including 5G. ICNIRP guidelines apply up to a frequency of 300 gigahertz (GHz), well above the maximum frequencies being considered for 5G. ComReg, the independent telecoms regulatory authority, ensures that licensed mobile operators comply with their licence conditions and do not exceed ICNIRP guidelines.

In 2015, the Irish Government commissioned a report by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment of the Netherlands (RIVM). This was published in 2016 and is entitled “Electromagnetic Fields in the Irish Context”. It examined and synthesised existing peer-reviewed research into clear findings, with particular focus on the potential health effects of electric and magnetic fields arising from high voltage power lines, and electromagnetic fields from base stations for mobile communication. This report reaffirms the overall conclusion of an earlier 2007 report, “Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields”, that there is insufficient evidence to establish a causal relationship between exposure to low-frequency electromagnetic fields and adverse health effects.

This is an area that is kept under review, and in this regard, I have recently assigned a new statutory function to the Environmental Protection Agency to provide general information to the public on matters pertaining to public exposure to non-ionising radiation, to monitor international scientific developments and provide independent advice to my Department in this area.

Electromagnetic Fields Studies

Ceisteanna (208)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

208. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the research that has been carried out by his Department on the environmental impact of 5G technology; the body that carried out the research; the findings of the research; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27054/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I have no function in the matter raised by the Deputy.

The roll-out of 5G in Ireland is a matter for private mobile network operators, operating on a commercial basis. Mobile network operators function in a liberalised market in Ireland, regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). The regulation of these service providers, to the extent permitted by law, is a statutory function of ComReg in accordance with the Communications Regulation Act 2002. This role includes management of the radio spectrum and the issuance of Wireless Telegraphy Licences required to operate mobile services.

The assessment of any environmental impact of the roll-out of 5G infrastructure or other types of private sector telecommunications networks and services, is a matter in the first instance for the operators concerned and secondly for planning authorities to consider through the planning permission process. I have no role in the planning process.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (209, 210)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

209. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the carbon emissions from public hospitals; and the way in which this compares with EU averages. [27127/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

210. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the new initiatives that will be rolled out to improve the energy efficiency of public hospitals as referenced in the Climate Action Plan 2019. [27128/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 209 and 210 together.

The Public Sector Energy Efficiency Strategy mandates the public sector, including the Health Service Executive and voluntary hospitals, to improve energy efficiency by 33% by 2020. Progress is reported annually by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the most recent report, covering the period to 2017, is available at:

https://www.seai.ie/resources/publications/Public-Sector-Annual-Report-2018.pdf

This records that, by the end of 2017, cumulative energy efficiency improvements of 24% were achieved, equivalent to a cumulative emissions saving of 3.6 million tonnes CO2 eq.

Specific results for the health sector are also published by SEAI online at:

https://www.seai.ie/energy-in-business/monitoring-and-reporting/public-sector-results/health-sector-energy-cons/

This records that the HSE and acute hospitals in 2017 accounted for 1,542 GWh, or 15% of total energy demand (including electricity consumed), in the public sector in 2017. Based on energy savings achieved, relevant bodies have achieved cumulative emissions savings of 463,000 tonnes CO2 eq. Energy and emissions savings data in 2017 for individual organisations, including those in the health sector, is also available online at https://psmr.seai.ie/public.

SEAI actively supports energy efficiency in hospitals, helping those bodies save energy through a structured management approach. Targeted capital supports are also provided for developing project pipelines. For the HSE specifically, SEAI funds an Energy Bureau, which includes the following supports:

- energy awareness teams

- targeting the top 50 energy-using facilities

- developing a project pipeline

- behavioural and low cost projects

- energy strategy development for 2020 and 2030

I am informed that the monitoring and reporting system employed by SEAI for the purposes of the Public Sector Energy Efficiency Strategy is unique to Ireland, and there is currently no basis for comparing energy-related emissions from public hospitals in different EU Member States.

I published the Government's Climate Action Plan on 17 June. The Plan sets out, for the first time, how Ireland can reach its 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and also puts Ireland on the right trajectory towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The Plan commits to reducing public sector emissions by 30% and improving the public sector energy efficiency by 50% by 2030.

The Plan also includes a commitment to require each public body to adopt a Climate Action Mandate. The mandate will involve a ‘core’ group of requirements that every public body will have to meet, and a wider set that should be pursued by larger organisations. The core requirements will have specific timelines for their introduction, be clearly measureable against a set of key performance indicators, and may include the following:

- every public building with public access to display an up-to-date Display Energy Certificate

- pursuing and reporting on resource efficiency actions across all public facilities, including measures to reduce food waste, promote water conservation, waste segregation, reuse and recycling practices

- collaborating with suppliers and service providers in joint decarbonisation initiatives, including working with clients to adopt low carbon approaches such as the development of clusters

In addition, large public bodies may be required to commit to other measures such as:

- achieving formal environmental accreditation, such as EMAS or ISO 14001, and ISO 50001

- a proportion of energy to come from certified renewable sources and/or onsite renewables

- active management of equipment containing refrigerant gases, including maintenance and disposal planning

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (211)

Noel Grealish

Ceist:

211. Deputy Noel Grealish asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his attention has been drawn to the complete pro-energy retrofit packages available from some credit unions in the market; if his intent in the Climate Action Plan 2019 is that persons should refrain from retrofitting in the interim and wait for grant schemes to be in place; if such schemes will have retrospective funding options; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27145/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Proenergy project is supported by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) under the Better Energy Finance Pilot Programme. The project is a collaboration between Retrofit Energy Ireland Limited (REIL), the Credit Union Development Association (CUDA) and the Solution Centre, together with over 20 credit unions across the Dublin, South West and Galway regions (including a number of staff-based credit unions).

The project offers a one stop shop to Credit Union members to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes.

Under the project, REIL will provide a free survey and advice on a home upgrade, and will arrange quotes and quality assure works, as well as discounting the SEAI grant from the cost of works. They are partnering with CUDA and 20 Credit Unions to provide low cost finance at a maximum of 6.9% interest rate, for the costs of works. In addition, REIL will cover the cost of the first year’s finance with the Credit Union on behalf of participating householders. It is hoped to upgrade over 200 homes under this pilot project.

The Proenergy project is the latest in a series of trials and pilots on financing conducted under the Better Energy Finance Pilot Programme. Other initiatives supported by the Programme include testing employer salary incentive schemes and deep retrofit projects with bank finance. In 2018, this has extended to a number of pilots with a consumer finance house, flexifi.

The Better Energy Finance Pilot is, in turn, part of the Better Energy Programme, which is funded by my Department and operated by the SEAI. The Programme consists of three main schemes which provide grants to homeowners to improve their energy efficiency: Homes, Warmer Homes and Communities. These schemes are supplemented by two pilot schemes exploring the multiple benefits of energy efficiency and the challenges of moving to deeper retrofit: Warmth and Wellbeing Scheme and the Deep Retrofit Pilot. I have allocated €85m to this Programme in 2019.

The recently published Climate Action Plan sets ambitious targets of 500,000 retrofits as well as the installation of 400,000 heat pumps in existing homes. The Plan commits government to developing a new retrofitting delivery model, which will group retrofits together to achieve economies of scale, leverage private finance, and ensure easy pay-back methods. The savings on electricity bills from using less energy can help fund this, while homes will be warmer and produce less emissions. An area based retrofit programme, not unlike aspects of the Proenergy project, would seek to capitalise on critical mass, leveraging economies of scale that would benefit both householders and the supply chain. This type of programme would focus on designated areas in both rural and urban environments and could be designed and delivered to include local authorities, approved housing bodies or other strategic delivery partners. It would also take account of the priorities to achieve greater depth of retrofit and the targeted replacement of oil boilers with renewable alternatives. The lessons learned from the Better Energy Finance Programme and wider Better Energy Programme will be of great assistance in designing the policies and approaches required to deliver on this target. The Climate Action Plan also highlights the need for urgent action given the critical nature of the climate challenges that face us. For that reason, I would encourage homeowners to avail of the supports and financing options currently available.

Rail Network

Ceisteanna (212)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

212. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the updated strategic rail review as promised in the Climate Action Plan 2019 will include a Navan to Dublin rail line; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27021/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The Climate Action Plan 2019 outlines a number of actions for my Department which will be implemented in line with the commitments given within the Plan.

I intend to very shortly present to Government the findings of the most recent Rail Review, including the views of the public and other stakeholders as regards the potential of the rail network to meet the economic, environmental and social needs of the State in the future.

Separately my Department will next year commence an evaluation of the economic benefits of high-speed rail on the main inter-urban network against improvements to existing line speeds, as committed to under Project Ireland 2040.

The Deputy is also aware that within the Greater Dublin Area, there is a statutory transport strategy, the Transport Strategy for the Greater Dublin Area 2016 to 2035, prepared by the National Transport Authority pursuant to the Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008 (as amended). It is this statutory Strategy that provides the basis for particular transport initiatives within the region and the issue of the Navan rail line will be specifically considered as part of the statutory review of the current Strategy which I understand will commence during 2020.

Road Projects Status

Ceisteanna (213)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

213. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if an application has been received from Mayo County Council to fund the construction of a relief road around Ballina, County Mayo, linking the N26 to the N59; if his attention has been drawn to the urgent need for the project; and if the necessary funding will be provided. [26948/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015, the planning, design and construction of individual national roads is then a matter for Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.

Noting the above position, I have referred your question to TII for a detailed reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.

Greenways Funding

Ceisteanna (214)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

214. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the capital expenditure allocated between 1 January and 30 April 2019 under code E7 greenways; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27012/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Between 1 January and 30 April 2019, to advance its work on the Maynooth to Galway Greenway, which is part of the overall Dublin to Galway Greenway, €5,744,928 was allocated to Transport Infrastructure Ireland. This funding will bring the Greenway down to the banks of the Shannon in Athlone. Other projects have drawn down funding this year, but these would have been allocated funding in previous years.

On June 21st 2019, funding of €40m was allocated for 10 new Greenways projects. While some of this will be drawn down in 2019, the majority will be drawndown in 2020 and beyond.

Crime Prevention

Ceisteanna (215)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

215. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the measures he plans to protect taxi drivers from violence in the course of their work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27051/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

I am keenly aware of the utmost importance of ensuring the safety of small public service vehicle (SPSV) drivers. However, I should explain that matters of a criminal nature, are for my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. As assault is a criminal matter, it can only be investigated by members of An Garda Síochána.

The regulation of the SPSV industry is a matter for the National Transport Authority (NTA) under the provisions of the Taxi Regulation Act 2013

Rural Transport Programme Expenditure

Ceisteanna (216)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

216. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the 2019 budget allocation to the rural transport programme and Local Link; and the estimated first and full-year cost of a 15% increase on a straight line basis for each of the years 2020 to 2024, in tabular form. [27057/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The total allocation in 2019 to the Rural Transport Programme (RTP), which now operates under the "Local Link" brand, is €20.935 million. This includes €6m for rural regular services funded from Public Service Obligation (PSO) funding.

This is the confirmed RTP allocation for this year, and any percentage increases over whatever timeframe, using whatever basis, may be calculated from it. However, as I have previously advised the Deputy, I would caution that whatever calculations the Deputy might use, such figures would only be speculative. Future funding levels for the programme will be subject to the annual Estimate and Budgetary processes.

Public Service Obligation Services

Ceisteanna (217)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

217. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the 2019 PSO subvention and monetary increase of increasing this figure by percentages (details supplied). [27058/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport in Ireland.

The award of public service obligation (PSO) funding falls under the independent statutory remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA). The allocations to the transport companies are decided by the NTA in exercise of its statutory mandate and in accordance with the various contract arrangements that it has in place with PSO service providers.

The Exchequer allocation for PSO services to be delivered in 2019 is €287m which, if increased by 5%, would rise to approximately €301m, by 10% to €316m, by 15% to €330m, by 20% to €344m and by 25% to €359m.

Public Service Obligation Services

Ceisteanna (218)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

218. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the annual subvention to CIÉ in each of the years 2008 and 2019, in tabular form; and the individual amounts allocated to Iarnród Éireann, Bus Éireann, Dublin Bus, Go-Ahead and other operators. [27059/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for policy and overall funding in relation to public transport in Ireland.

In Budget 2019, I secured €287m in Exchequer funding for Public Service Obligation (PSO) service delivery in 2019. Since 2010, the PSO subvention is no longer paid directly by my Department to transport operators. The award and subvention of PSO contracts now falls under the statutory remit of the National Transport Authority (NTA). The allocations to the transport companies are decided by the NTA in exercise of its statutory mandate and in accordance with the various contract arrangements that it has in place with PSO service providers. I have therefore forwarded the Deputy's question to the NTA for direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a response within ten working days.