Proposed Legislation

Questions Nos. 441 to 443, inclusive, answered with Question No. 439.

Ceisteanna (440)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

440. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the heads of the climate action (amendment) Bill will be published to address necessary climate targets and budgets as committed to the Climate Action Plan 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46145/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

On 17 June 2019, the Government published the Climate Action Plan 2019, which commits, inter alia, to bringing forward a new Climate Action (Amendment) Bill to amend the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. The objective of the Bill is to significantly strengthen the statutory framework for governance of the climate challenge, and ensure delivery of successive Climate Action Plans and Long-term Climate Strategies, supported by a system of carbon budgeting and sectoral targets with appropriate oversight by Government, the Oireachtas and a new Climate Action Council. The Climate Action Plan identifies a number of provisions to be incorporated in the new Bill including:

- Establishing the 2050 target in law

- Making the adoption of carbon budgets a legal requirement

- Requiring the Government to set a decarbonisation target range for each sector, with the Minister with primary responsibility for each sector identified being accountable for delivering the relevant actions to meet the sectoral targets

- Establishing the Climate Action Council as a successor organisation to the Climate Change Advisory Council

- Establishing that the Climate Action Plan shall be updated annually

- Establishing that a Long-Term Climate Strategy, to match the period covered by the three five year carbon budgets, shall be published

- Ensuring that the proposed governance arrangements retain sufficient flexibility to allow necessary reorientation of policy in the light of changing technologies, circumstances, challenges and opportunities over the period to 2030 and beyond

The General Scheme is currently being prepared on the basis of the provisions outlined above with a view to seeking Government approval for the scheme before the end of 2019. This will allow for the publication of the Climate Action (Amendment) Bill in quarter 1, 2020 as committed to under the Plan.

Questions Nos. 441 to 443, inclusive, answered with Question No. 439.

Commencement of Legislation

Ceisteanna (444)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

444. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when all sections of the Minerals Development Act 2017 will be commenced; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46153/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department is working on the development of Regulations in order to commence the Mineral Development Act 2017. Regulations to commence Part 2 of the Act relating to Prospecting are at an advanced stage of drafting. This is expected to be completed by the end of 2020. Following on from that the Regulations to commence the remaining Part of the Act will be completed.

National Broadband Plan Administration

Ceisteanna (445)

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

445. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment further to Parliamentary Question No. 216 of 17 April 2019, the status of the over 300 sites that have been identified for early connection under the national broadband plan. [46208/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government appointed National Broadband Ireland (NBI) as the Preferred Bidder for the National Broadband Plan (NBP) in May 2019. Since then my officials have been performing the necessary financial and contractual due diligence work needed before a contract can be concluded. The Department’s work is well progressed and, pending Government approval, I expect to sign the contract before the end of the year after which deployment will commence.

The Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are included in the overall scope of the National Broadband Plan and NBI’s solution which was submitted and evaluated as part of their final tender submission. In the first year of roll out, the NBI will deploy over 300 BCPs across all counties. It is anticipated that between 7 and 23 BCPs will be deployed in each county. BCPs will provide communities with a high speed broadband service, enhancing online participation and allowing for the establishment of digital work hubs in these locations.

Warmer Homes Scheme

Ceisteanna (446)

James Browne

Ceist:

446. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when SEAI warmer homes scheme works will be carried out for a person (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46276/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme is funded by my Department and administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The Scheme delivers a range of energy efficiency measures free of charge to low income households vulnerable to energy poverty, who meet the defined eligibility criteria.

The processing of applications under the Warmer Homes Scheme is an operational matter for SEAI and I, as Minister, have no role in such matters. However, officials from my Department have contacted the SEAI in relation to the application referenced by the Deputy.

I have been informed that the applicant applied for works under the Scheme in October 2018 and had a survey carried out in January 2019. SEAI have indicated that it is intended to assign a contractor to this home in January 2020, who will contact the homeowner directly to schedule works.

Since the expansion of the scheme in 2018 to include ‘deeper’ and more expensive upgrade measures such as external wall insulation and internal wall insulation, demand for the scheme is very high. SEAI advise that due to this demand, the average wait time for applicants, between making an application and being allocated to a contractor, can be approximately 18 months.

A budget of €52.8 million has been allocated to the Scheme for next year. This represents the biggest ever budget for the Warmer Homes Scheme – more than double the initial allocation for 2019.

Departmental Offices

Ceisteanna (447)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

447. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of vacant desk spaces available in accommodation allocated to his Department in civil service accommodation outside Dublin city; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46289/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department currently occupies office space in 2 locations outside Dublin.

The current number of vacant desk spaces available in each location is set out in the following table;

Office Location

Vacant Desk Spaces

Cavan

12

Wexford

3

Telecommunications Infrastructure

Question No. 449 answered with Question No. 434.

Ceisteanna (448)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

448. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if commercial operators will be barred from commercial roll-outs in the intervention area in the event that the contract for the national broadband plan is signed. [46380/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The telecoms market in Ireland is fully liberalised and regulated by the Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg. The development and rollout of telecoms infrastructure is primarily a matter for private operators, operating on a commercial basis.

The National Broadband Plan (NBP) aims to ensure that every home, school and business in Ireland, regardless of how remote or rural, has access to high speed broadband. This is being achieved through a combination of commercial investment across Ireland and a State intervention in those areas where commercial operators acting alone are unlikely to invest, such as rural areas.

My Department recently conducted a public consultation to close the ongoing Intervention Area mapping exercise, seeking submissions from operators who wish to have their existing high speed broadband networks, or who have developed plans to invest in high speed broadband networks over the next 7 years, to be included on the Department’s High Speed Broadband Map. The findings of the consultation, which will be available in the coming weeks, will ensure that the State Intervention Area is up to date in advance of a contract being signed later this year.

Question No. 449 answered with Question No. 434.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (450)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

450. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the 14 areas in which a contingency can be paid under the terms of the contract for the national broadband plan; and the capped subsidy for each of the contingency payments. [46386/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The contingency fund within the NBP subsidy can only be drawn down in 14 specific circumstances, both during the deployment period and after the deployment is completed. This contingency fund can only be sought by NBI where additional, unanticipated costs have been proven to have occured for these specific circumstances.

The contingency fund is capped at €480m (excluding VAT) with caps for specific categories or groups of categories and with the risk of additional costs resting with NBI.

These categories are primarily construction related, for example relating to the state or condition of existing infrastructure in the intervention area which will only be fully established when on site surveys are conducted by NBI.

The contract includes very detailed provisions governing the conditions that would apply in the case of any request to access the contingency subsidy related to any of the 14 categories.

The amount of subsidy as well as the specific terms and conditions under which NBI may seek access to this contingency subsidy are commercially sensitive as, for example, it could influence commercial operator actions in the wider market.

Trading Online Voucher Scheme

Ceisteanna (451)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

451. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the cost of increasing the maximum amount to be drawn down under the digital trading voucher scheme based on the latest annual participation rates up to amounts (details supplied). [46391/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Trading Online Voucher Scheme is an initiative specifically designed to support small businesses to trade online. Funded by my Department and administered by Enterprise Ireland through the national network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), the scheme offers financial assistance of up to €2,500, subject to matched funding, to help small businesses develop their online trading capability. This is coupled with training, mentoring and networking supports. Small businesses, with 10 or fewer employees, less than €2m in turnover, and that have little or no capacity to trade online, are eligible to apply.

The Scheme is demand-led and as such the take-up, level of financial assistance per business in terms of redeemed voucher costs, and thus total cost to the Exchequer will vary from year to year. As such it is difficult to accurately predict the total cost of the Scheme under a range of different financial assistance maxima. For information, in 2018, an average of €1,923 was paid in respect of the 921 businesses that benefitted from the vouchers.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (452)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

452. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has received conclusions from research carried out by a body (details supplied) on the operation of the deep retrofit scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46404/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has been engaged to undertake research on the Warmth and Wellbeing Scheme. The Warmth & Wellbeing Scheme is a joint policy initiative between my Department and the Department of Health under the Government’s Strategy to Combat Energy Poverty and the Healthy Ireland Framework.

The main aim of the Scheme is to validate, in an Irish context, the strong international evidence that making homes warmer, drier and more energy efficient can have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of people living with chronic respiratory conditions. The scheme was launched in 2016 as a time bound pilot for 3 years, but has remained open for applications into 2019 in order to recruit a sufficient sample of participants for the health impact evaluation of the scheme. The Scheme is being delivered by a team comprised of officials from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and Health Service Executive (HSE). Over €23 million has now been invested in upgrading over 1,200 homes in the pilot area.

The process of evaluating the Scheme is on-going and is being overseen by a Steering Group comprised of my Department, the Department of Health, SEAI and HSE. Initial reports from the HSE have indicated that the upgrades are delivering benefits to the health and wellbeing of participants. An initial review of the energy impacts of the scheme has shown that the average Building Energy Rating of participating homes improved from a D2 to a B3 with carbon emissions reducing by on average 2.2 tCO2/year.

It is expected that an interim report on the health impacts of the scheme by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will be completed over the coming months with the final evaluation scheduled for completion in 2021.

Waste Disposal

Ceisteanna (453)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

453. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the roll-out of brown bins to all homes nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46405/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Under the European Union (Household Food Waste and Bio-waste) Regulations 2015, household waste collectors are required to provide, or arrange for the provision of, a separate collection service for food waste from households in designated brown bin areas. In accordance with the Regulatory Impact Assessment prepared for these Regulations, the roll-out of the brown bin has been phased in on a progressive basis, commencing on 1st July 2013. The timetable for when the regulations took effect is as follows:

- 1st July 2013 for population centres greater than 25,000 persons;

- 31st December 2013 for population centres greater than 20,000 persons;

- 1st July 2014 for population centres greater than 10,000 persons;

- 1st July 2015 for population centres greater than 1,500 persons, and

- 1st July 2016 for population centres greater than 500 persons.

A full public consultation on Ireland’s Circular Economy strategy will be launched before the end of this year which will seek views on all matters waste related, including the provision of a brown bin collection service in all other areas of the country.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (454, 456)

Martin Kenny

Ceist:

454. Deputy Martin Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the number of climate action regions set up here; the counties that are grouped together to make up the regions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46424/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

David Cullinane

Ceist:

456. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the regional climate action offices that have been established to date; the location, staffing levels and funding allocated to each office, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46494/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 454 and 456 together.

In January 2018, my Department entered into a five-year financial commitment of €10m to establish four Climate Action Regional Offices (CAROs). Building on a business case prepared by the Local Government sector itself, this commitment recognises the significant obligation which has been placed on Local Government to develop and implement its own climate action measures, as well as the need to build capacity within the sector to engage effectively with climate change – both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

The establishment of these offices is enabling a more coordinated engagement across the whole of Government and will help to build on the experience and expertise which exists across the sector. The following table sets out the locations of the offices in terms of the lead authorities and the functional areas they work within.

Climate Action Region

Local Authority Functional Areas

Lead Authority

Atlantic Seaboard North

Donegal, Sligo, Mayo and Galway City and County

Mayo County Council

Atlantic Seaboard South

Clare, Limerick, Kerry, Cork County and Cork City

Cork County Council

Dublin Metropolitan Region

South Dublin, Fingal, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and Dublin City

Dublin City Council

Eastern and Midlands

Louth, Meath, Wicklow, Wexford, Kildare, Carlow, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Westmeath, Longford, Leitrim, Tipperary, Cavan, Monaghan, Roscommon and Waterford

Kildare County Council

Under the five year financial commitment entered into in 2018, €2 million has been assigned across the four CAROs for 2019. Each regional office has a coordinator in place to coordinate actions across both the CARO structure itself and also with the other Local Authorities in its respective region. The regional coordinators are supported by small dedicated teams within each CARO, the staffing of which is a matter for each individual lead Local Authority to consider within the funding allocated to support the work of these offices. With the publication of the Climate Action Plan in June of this year, a revised work programme for the CAROs for 2020 will now be agreed during Q4 2019.

Freedom of Information Data

Question No. 456 answered with Question No. 454.

Ceisteanna (455)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

455. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the disclosures log made by his Department under freedom of information was last updated; if this is in line with the disclosure policy of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46463/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Freedom of Information Disclosure Log for my Department was last updated on 11 November 2019. The log, which contains details of all valid non-personal FOI requests received, is updated and published on a weekly basis, or more frequently as required. This exceeds the requirement provided for in the Code of Practice for Freedom of Information for Public Bodies, which requires that Disclosure logs in relation to non-personal requests are published on a regular e.g. quarterly basis.

Question No. 456 answered with Question No. 454.

Electric Vehicles

Ceisteanna (457)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

457. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if the SEAI will provide grants to apartment owners and of management companies of apartment complexes to apply for electronic vehicle charging points for the complexes. [46510/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Climate Action Plan, which was published in June, sets out a range of actions to support the delivery of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. These actions include expanding the Electric Vehicle Home Charger Grant, provided by the SEAI, to include locations with shared parking such as apartments.

Budget 2020 provided €36 million in funding to my Department to support the uptake of electric vehicles including €6 million specifically for charging infrastructure. Of this, €0.5 million was allocated to support the expansion of the Electric Vehicle Home Charger Grant to include apartments. As set out in the Climate Action Plan, this is expected to be in place in the first quarter of 2020 at which point further details - including how to apply - will be available.

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Ceisteanna (458)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

458. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his attention has been drawn to the sale of a company (details supplied) as per section 28B of the Competition Act 2002; if this was notified to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission; if a decision has been made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46563/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Following approval by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission on competition grounds, notification of the proposed transaction referenced in the question was received by my Department on 22 October 2019.

I have 30 working days from the notification date of 22 October 2019 to conduct an initial, or phase 1, assessment of the case on media plurality grounds. Following this assessment I have three options under the legislation, which are to allow the merger to proceed, to allow the merger to proceed with conditions, or to ask the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to conduct a more in-depth, or phase 2, examination of the proposed merger.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the case until the aforementioned assessment process is completed.

Air Quality

Ceisteanna (459)

John Curran

Ceist:

459. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the status of the delivery of a clean air strategy and the possible nationwide ban on smoky coal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46576/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I refer the Deputy to the replies to Questions Nos 462 of 1 October, and 58 of 16 October. The position is unchanged.