Air Quality

Ceisteanna (466, 470, 476, 478)

James Browne

Ceist:

466. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the position regarding the implementation of the smoky fuel ban here, particularly in County Wexford; when he plans to implement a nationwide ban; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39537/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

470. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the delivery of a legally robust smoky coal ban which will improve air quality and was promised in early April 2019. [39600/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

476. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of plans to introduce a nationwide ban on smoky coal; and the areas covered by such a ban. [39808/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Curran

Ceist:

478. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the progress made to date on extending the smoky coal ban nationwide; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39864/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 466, 470, 476 and 478 together.

Transitioning away from fossil fuels and to more renewable, sustainable energy sources is at the heart of the Climate Action Plan.

Currently 40% of homes use coal and peat to heat their homes (many in combination with other fossil fuel heating systems). By 2030, we will upgrade a third of all homes to at least a B2 energy standard, installing approximately 400,000 heat pumps. Currently over 99% of our vehicle fleet is fuelled by fossil fuels. By 2030, nearly a million fully electric or hybrid vehicles (35%-40%) will be on our roads. These measures will significantly improve air quality by reducing emissions of harmful pollutants.

Extending the ban on the use of smoky coal would have a positive impact on air quality, particularly in built up areas.

The ban on the marketing, sale and distribution of bituminous coal, or ‘the smoky coal ban’ as it is commonly known, was first introduced in Dublin in 1990, and subsequently extended to our major cities.

Following a public consultation process, it was further extended in 2012, and now applies in 26 urban areas nationwide. The ban has proved very effective in reducing particulate matter and sulphur dioxide levels and has had the effect of significantly improving public health. Research indicates, for example, that the ban has resulted in over 350 fewer annual deaths in Dublin alone.

Regarding the proposed national extension of the smoky coal ban, a number of coal firms have indicated that they would challenge the proposal of two former Ministers to expand the smoky coal ban.

This is particularly disappointing, given the impact poor air quality can have on human health and the environment and the emphasis the government is putting on transitioning to a low carbon society.

The basis of their challenge is that a nationwide smoky coal ban cannot be introduced without a nationwide ban on the burning of peat, turf and wet wood because these products produce similar levels of pollution. The legal threat is not only to take down any new nationwide ban, but to remove the existing ban which is in currently in place in cities and many towns around the country.

The Attorney General has provided legal advice on this matter. I am working with the Attorney General to finalise a legally robust plan, which will improve air quality by reducing air pollution, without jeopardizing the existing ban.

I also intend to publish a Clean Air Strategy, which will set out a number of policies to improve air quality nationwide in the coming months.

My Department is also funding the Environmental Protection Agency’s roll-out of the Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (AAMP), which will greatly improve the data available on air pollution in Ireland, facilitating the design and targeting of appropriate policy measures to tackle it.

Climate Action Fund

Ceisteanna (467)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

467. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount allocated to the climate action fund in the first round; when the next round of funding will be announced; the value of the fund; the percentage of the funding for public sector applications under the first round allocations; and the percentage allocated to private industry. [39567/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Project Ireland 2040 sets out the Government’s commitment to create the Climate Action Fund with an allocation of €500 million for the period 2018 to 2027. Seven projects were successful under the First Call for Applications from the fund. Funding was allocated following a competitive process with public and private sector organisations eligible to apply. The seven projects will, in total, receive support of up to €77 million. Of this €33.5 million (circa 44% of the total) has been allocated to commercial State Bodies, €42 million (circa 55% of the total) to the Local Authority sector and €1.4m (circa 2% of the total) to non-Government organisations. Further detail on the projects is set out on my Department's website at the following link: https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/climate-action/topics/climate-action-fund

The Climate Action Plan, which was published in June, provides that a second call for applications under the Climate Action Fund will take place by the end of this year.

National Oil Reserves Agency

Question No. 470 answered with Question No. 466.

Ceisteanna (468, 469)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

468. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the current levy to fund the National Oil Reserve Agency; the amount raised in each year since 2007 from the levy; the cost of running the agency each year since 2007; the legislative parameters enabling the charging of a levy to fund the agency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39589/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

469. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the amount held in the National Oil Reserve Agency; if he is considering transferring this money to the climate action fund; if his Department has considered potential state aid implications in relation to same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39590/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 468 and 469 together.

The levy, charged on the sale of most petroleum products at the point of sale, is collected and paid by the oil companies on a monthly basis to the National Oil Reserves Agency, to fund its activities. The levy is currently set at the rate of 2 cent per litre. The levy income and the operating costs and expenses incurred by the Agency, since 2007, are listed in tabular form:

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Levy Income (€m)

46.7

81.4

93.3

139.7

129.7

122.8

123.4

121.3

130.4

131.8

130.4

134.2

Costs and Expenses (€m)

62.9

321.2

49.9

104.2

212.3

126.4

51.2

64.7

86.6

39.5

78.6

39.4

Total costs include operating costs, finance costs, corporation tax charges and strategic stock purchases

The National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007 provides for the statutory provisions for the payment of the levy. Section 37 of the Act places a liability on oil companies and oil consumers to pay a levy to the Agency each month, on their relevant disposals of petroleum product in the preceding month. Section 44 of the Act provides for the setting of the rate of the levy, by regulation, by the Minister, having consulted with the Minister for Finance.

At the end of August 2019 the National Oil Reserves Agency held a total cash balance of €221.7m. This balance will be utilised to meet the expenses of NORA, including for the purchase of strategic oil stocks, for the refurbishment of oil storage facilities, and to provide a contingency which may be required to cover the cost of replacing stocks used in an oil supply emergency.

Currently legislation is being developed to amend the National Oil Reserves Agency Act 2007 to provide for the expansion of the purpose of future levy funds collected, to both fund the Agency’s expenses and contribute to climate action, through the Climate Action Fund.

All projects that will be supported under the Climate Action Fund will be subject to compliance with European Union State Aid regulations/rules.

Question No. 470 answered with Question No. 466.

Energy Conservation

Ceisteanna (471)

Darragh O'Brien

Ceist:

471. Deputy Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the SEAI deep retrofit scheme 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39667/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Deep Retrofit Pilot Scheme was launched in 2017 as a time bound pilot to investigate the challenges and opportunities of deep retrofit in Ireland. The scheme was intended to run for 3 years and closed for applications on 19th July in line with the published Application Guidelines. The scheme is funded by my Department and operated by the SEAI. The Pilot provides 50% funding for energy upgrades to an A BER rating with 95% funding provided for low-income households. The total budget for the scheme this year is €10 million – double the amount spent on the scheme last year. The SEAI have informed me that 6 letters of offer have issued to successful applicants in September and that evaluation of the remaining project applications is on-going. €1.99 million has been paid in grants under the scheme in 2019.

While the Deep Retrofit Pilot is now closed to new applications, a number of other grants for energy efficiency works remain available. Further information on the grants available from SEAI can be found on their website. Since 2000, over 400,000 homeowners have received direct support under these schemes to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. This year €100m has been allocated to these schemes.

The Government’s Climate Action Plan commits to reviewing and redesigning the existing grant schemes to ensure alignment with Government climate objectives and value for money. The Plan also sets an ambitious target of 500,000 energy efficiency retrofits by 2030. Achievement of this target will be supported by the Project Ireland 2040 allocation of €3.7 billion as well as the range of measures identified in the Plan.

I recently announced the establishment of a Taskforce that will drive the achievement of this target. The Taskforce will oversee the development of a new national delivery model, which will group homes together, create easy pay back mechanisms and find smart financing. Development of the new model will be informed by the experience from existing schemes in Ireland as well as best practice in other jurisdictions. The first meeting of the Taskforce took place on 30 September.

Maoiniú Chraoltóirí Seirbhíse Poiblí

Ceisteanna (472)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

472. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Dara Calleary den Aire Cumarsáide, Gníomhaithe ar son na hAeráide agus Comhshaoil ar son na hAeráide agus Comhshaoil cén sciar den cheadúnas teilifíse a thugtar do RTÉ, do TG4 agus don Chiste Craolacháin faoi seach; cén bunús ar a ndéantar an t-airgead sin a roinnt; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [39706/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Dáiltear ioncam ó cheadúnais teilifíse de réir Alt 123 den Acht Craolacháin 2009, ar RTÉ go príomha chun cur i bhfeidhm a chuspóirí seirbhíse poiblí, atá leagtha amach in Acht 2009 freisin, a éascú. An t-ioncam go léir ó cheadúnais teilifíse a bhailítear ó dhíolacháin dhíreacha, íocann An Post le mo Roinn é agus íocann an Roinn Gnóthaí Fostaíochta agus Coimirce Sóisialaí ranníocaíocht i leith ceadúnais teilifíse ‘saor in aisce’ a eisíonn an Roinn sin chucu siúd a bhaineann leas as an Scéim Sochar Teaghlaigh. As na hollfháltais seo, íocann mo Roinn coimisiún leis An Post i leith na ngníomhaíochtaí ceadúnas teilifíse a dtugann An Post fúthu ina ról mar ghníomhaire bailiúcháin. Ina theannta sin, íoctar 7% de na glanfháltais le hÚdarás Craolacháin na hÉireann as feidhmiú Scéim an Chiste Craolacháin. In 2018, fuair TG4 €4.245m ó ioncam ó cheadúnais teilifíse freisin ach tá an craoltóir maoinithe go hiomlán ón Státchiste anois. Íoctar an t-ioncam eile ar fad le RTÉ.

Taispeántar dáileadh an airgid in 2018 sa tábla seo a leanas.

2018

€M

Iomlán na bhfáltas

219.3

An Post

12

An Ciste Craolacháin

14.5

TG4

4.245

RTÉ

188.6

Maoiniú Chraoltóirí Seirbhíse Poiblí

Ceisteanna (473)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

473. D'fhiafraigh Deputy Dara Calleary den Aire Cumarsáide, Gníomhaithe ar son na hAeráide agus Comhshaoil ar son na hAeráide agus Comhshaoil an bhfuil iarratas déanta ag TG4 ar mhéadú ar an maoiniú a fhaigheann siad ón Roinn don bhliain 2020; má tá, cad é an méid airgid atá iarrtha agus cén uair a dhéanfar cinneadh ar an iarratas; agus an ndéanfaidh sé ráiteas ina thaobh. [39707/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Tá TG4 ag fáil maoiniú Státchiste €36.233m i mbliana. Cuimsíonn sé sin maoiniú reatha €34.233m agus maoiniú caipitil €2m. Níor cinneadh an leithdháileadh maoiniúcháin do TG4 le haghaidh 2020 go fóill agus foilseofar é san Imleabhar Meastachán Athbhreithnithe i mí na Nollag.

Broadcasting Sector

Ceisteanna (474)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

474. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the current and capital expenditure allocations to TG4 in each years 2016 to 2018 and to date in 2019, in tabular form [39708/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Details of TG4 Funding is published in its Annual Reports and Accounts which are available on TG4 website at www.TG4.ie.

Funding for the period 2016-2018 is set out in the following table:

Year

Current Exchequer funding €m

Exchequer funding for Capital Projects €m

TV Licence fee funding €m

Total €m

2016

23.295

2.820

9.245

35.360

2017

28.545

1.450

4.245

34.240

2018

29.545

2.985

4.245

36.780

As of 2019, TG4 is fully funded by the Exchequer and has been allocated €34.233m current funding and €2m capital funding this year.

Exploration Licences Data

Question No. 476 answered with Question No. 466.

Ceisteanna (475)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

475. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of licences for oil and gas exploration issued in each of the past five years; if oil and gas exploration will be phased out in the Irish and Celtic Sea; if so, the date from which; and if no further oil exploration licenses will be available in the Atlantic sea. [39792/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The number of Licensing Options and Exploration Licences for oil and gas exploration granted over the last five years is outlined in the following table:

Year

Licensing Options and Exploration Licences Issued

2015

1

2016

34

2017

3

2018

12

2019

3

The Taoiseach and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment requested advice from the Climate Change Advisory Council on what the future of oil and natural gas offshore exploration and recovery should be in the context of the newly published Climate Action Plan. In responding, the Council noted that the Government’s Climate Action Plan envisages a major shift away from oil combustion within heat and transport sectors towards renewables in the coming decade. Therefore, the Council advises that the exploration for, and recovery of new offshore oil reserves is not compatible with a low carbon transition. The Council have further advised that the continued exploration for, and extraction of new offshore natural gas reserves can be consistent with a low carbon transition. On 23 September the Taoiseach and the Minister stated that this advice is accepted and will be acted upon. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment will bring proposals to Government shortly setting out the next steps in terms of how this advice will be implemented.

Question No. 476 answered with Question No. 466.

Electric Vehicles

Question No. 478 answered with Question No. 466.

Questions Nos. 479 and 480 answered with Question No. 450.

Ceisteanna (477)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

477. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if cost mitigation measures will be introduced on domestic electricity rates to incentivise the purchase of more electric cars; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39829/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

A major advantage in owning an electric vehicle is the reduced running costs. When charging using night rate electricity, savings of circa 80% are achievable when compared to an equivalent fossil fuel powered vehicle. For example, SEAI estimate the cost of charging an electric vehicle to travel 400km is circa €7.30, compared to €40.80 to fill an equivalent petrol car to cover the same distance. The roll-out of the National Smart Energy Metering programme will also allow domestic electricity consumers to make further savings by choosing a tariff and charging their electric vehicles when electricity prices are at their lowest. The price of electricity, whether via existing meters or smart meters, is a matter for electricity suppliers.

The Climate Action Plan, which sets a target of 936,000 electric vehicles on the road in Ireland by 2030, sets out a range of actions to support the uptake of electric vehicles which includes:

- introducing a capital support that will be provided to Local Authorities for the development of on-street public chargers;

- commencing the ESB Electric Vehicle High Power Charging Infrastructure Development Project, supported by the Climate Action Fund;

- expanding the Electric Vehicle Home Charger Grant to include shared parking (e.g. in apartment blocks); and

- introducing legislation to ban the sale of new fossil fuel cars from 2030.

There is a wide range of supports already available to support the uptake of electric vehicles including purchase grants, tax relief and discounted tolls. Information on the benefits of switching to electric vehicles can be found on www.drivingelectric.ie .

Question No. 478 answered with Question No. 466.
Questions Nos. 479 and 480 answered with Question No. 450.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Ceisteanna (481)

Michael McGrath

Ceist:

481. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the final agreed tender price, the date of the tender for the contract and the final overall amount actually paid and the date of the final payment in respect of each capital expenditure project completed since 1 January 2014 by his Department or an agency under the remit of his Department and which ended up costing €10 million or more in tabular form; the reason the final amount paid exceeded the final tender price; the details available in respect of projects in which construction is not complete to date or in which the final settlement account has not been agreed to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39919/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The information requested by the Deputy, regarding capital projects completed by my Department since 1 January 2014 and costing €10 million or more, is set out in the following table.

Capital project

Date of tender

Final tender price

Date of final payment

Final amount paid

Comments

INFOMAR, National Marine Mapping Programme

[Phase 1]

2006

€27m

2016

€35.7m

This project was jointly managed by the Department’s Geological Survey and the Marine Institute. The final cost includes grant funding of €13m provided to the Marine Institute.

National Broadband Scheme

2008

€79.8m

2014

€79.5m

100 Mbps Schools Broadband

2009

€14m

2014

€13.3m

The information requested in relation to the agencies under the aegis of my Department is an operational matter for each agency. The Department will request the relevant bodies to reply directly to the Deputy with the information requested in respect of their organisations.

Travel Trade Sector

Ceisteanna (482)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

482. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the recourse Irish consumers and businesses have regarding holiday bookings made with a company (details supplied) that has ceased trading. [39281/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

The company concerned was a British global travel group. All the companies in its group ceased trading on 23 September 2019. All holidays and flights provided by these companies were cancelled and are no longer operating. The company had no physical presence in Ireland, however it is understood that that a relatively small number of Irish citizens may have been impacted by the collapse.  

The UK  company was part of the ATOL scheme administered in the UK by the Civil Aviation Authority. The UK Government and the UK Civil Aviation Authority are working together to support passengers and it is understood that a  repatriation programme is well underway. Any Irish customers who booked a cancelled package through an Irish travel agent should be covered under the UK ATOL scheme and they are advised to contact the Irish Travel Agent they booked with. Further information is available on the following CAA web site https://thomascook.caa.co.uk/

Haulage Industry

Ceisteanna (483)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

483. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider introducing a grant or capital allowance scheme in order to assist road haulage companies to transition their fleet to more carbon neutral Euro VI standard vehicles; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39528/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

Climate considerations have been placed at the heart of Government’s policy-making and decision-making processes.  The Climate Action Plan clearly recognises that Ireland must significantly step up its commitments to tackle climate disruption. The transport sector, which accounts for a fifth of Ireland's greenhouse emissions annually and which has a heavy reliance on fossil fuel usage, has an important role to play in this national decarbonisation effort.

The movement of goods by road is the second biggest source of transport emissions after private car use. According to the most recent emissions inventory, heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) alone contributed over 18% of Ireland's total land transport emissions in 2017. Clearly, emissions from the freight sector are difficult to address – HDVs account for only around 5% of vehicles on EU roads but they are responsible for some 25% of all EU road transport emissions. Without significant policy action, their emissions trajectory is projected to continue to rise by almost a fifth between 2010 and 2050.  This trajectory may be even steeper in Ireland where there has been a steady annual increase in road freight activity levels and the number of additional new goods vehicles being licensed in recent years.  Accordingly, developing measures to help address emissions from this sector is critical.

The quickest way to avoid freight emissions is to streamline operations and ensure that vehicle loads and journey routes are optimised.  Freight companies are adept at optimising logistical operations and these practices should be encouraged to continue. In tandem, using the most efficient and lowest emitting vehicles is also essential in limiting freight emissions. For this reason, Ireland was very supportive of the introduction of new EU Regulations that set maximum fleet emission averages for new HDVs. New vehicles must emit 15% and 30% less CO2 by 2025 and 2030 respectively relative to average emissions over the period July 2019 to June 2020.  Similar legislation has proved to be a very effective approach in other jurisdictions (e.g. Japan, the USA and Canada) and has already been demonstrated to deliver marked emission reductions with cars/vans in Europe. 

As well as making the vehicles more efficient, lower emitting fuels must be employed. Although the Euro VI standard for HDVs represents a considerable improvement over older and more polluting Euro standards, for climate and air quality reasons Ireland must begin to move beyond the use of fossil fuels.  A range of new alternative fuel solutions are emerging across the fleet spectrum. The Low Emission Vehicle Taskforce recently concluded its deliberations on the potential role of alternative fuels, including compressed natural gas (CNG) as a pathway to biomethane, biofuels, and hydrogen in the freight sector. The Taskforce has made recommendations to help accelerate the uptake of alternative fuels and technologies, which are being presented to the Government in advance of Budget 2020.  This is especially important as new vehicles entering the fleet over the coming years will likely remain in the fleet for most or all of the coming decade.   

At present there are a number of incentives in place to encourage the uptake of lower emitting alternatives, namely:

- a low excise rate for natural gas and biogas for a period of eight years,

- an accelerated capital allowance scheme for gas-propelled vehicles and related equipment, and

- support for the roll-out of refuelling infrastructure for alternative fuels and technologies.

In addition, my Department is supporting a range of research into decarbonising the freight sector.  Two freight projects are also approved for funding under the Climate Action Fund.

We are focusing our finite resources on supporting the uptake of new lower emitting alternatives.  Furthermore, more energy, fuel and emissions efficient fossil fueled vehicles should have no purchase price premium and lower running costs for operators and, accordingly, should need no incentive from Government to support uptake.  Accordingly, I have no immediate plans to introduce a grant or capital allowance scheme to assist road haulage companies to buy new diesel vehicles.

Road Safety Authority

Ceisteanna (484)

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

484. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; if the matter will be referred to the RSA for investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39282/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

This is a matter for the Road Safety Authority.  I have referred the question to the Authority for direct reply.  I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response is not received within 10 days.