Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (36)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

36. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the roll-out of the 300 broadband connection points will commence; the role these wi-fi hot spots will play in providing high speed broadband to communities in intervention areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49339/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government recognises the need to roll out high speed broadband as quickly as possible and is conscious that the full rollout of the National Broadband Plan State intervention area will take a number of years.

Broadband Connection Points are key National Broadband Plan (NBP) locations in communities across Ireland. Broadband Connection Points are locations of community importance such as community centres, parish halls and schools.

Approximately 300 Broadband Connection Points will receive an early connection in the roll out of the NBP.

The BCPs have been specifically selected by the local authorities so that they can provide public Wi-Fi and other facilities to support mini digital/enterprise hubs to the local community in advance of the main NBP deployment. Broadband Officers in each Local Authority were tasked with consulting with local communities and business to find the appropriate mix of locations to reap the maximum benefits.

All BCPs will have a free public Wi-Fi connection, some will also have hot-desks, and some will be digital hub business centres where digital training, business information events and other SME supports are organised.

It is anticipated that there will be between 7 and 23 BCP locations identified in each county and they will include 138 community centres, 14 tourism locations, 51 schools and 3 business parks.

Work will commence on the deployment of the Broadband Connection Points now that the NBP contract has been signed. It is expected that 298 Broadband Connection Points will be established and providing a high speed broadband service by the end of 2020.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Ceisteanna (37)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

37. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will implement the recommendation made by the Youth Assembly to implement a tiered tax system on large corporations for their emissions. [49323/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I welcome the initiative of the Oireachtas to hold the Youth Assembly on 15 November. It is heartening to see the active engagement and mobilisation to the climate crisis which is, without doubt, the defining challenge of our generation. I thank the members of the Youth Assembly for their recommendations for action to stop climate breakdown which I am currently considering.

In relation to the recommendation to implement a tiered tax system on large companies, 104 installations are currently included the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) in Ireland. The EU ETS is a cornerstone of the European Union's policy to combat climate change and its key tool for reducing industrial greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively. It is the biggest international system for trading greenhouse gas emission allowances and covers more than 11,000 power stations and industrial plants in 31 countries, as well as airlines. In addition, to the 104 stationary installations, 13 aircraft operators are also included under the scheme in Ireland.

The Government supports a strong EU ETS that promotes investment in decarbonisation in the power generation and industrial sectors in support of EU and Member States’ long-term decarbonisation objectives. Reforms to the ETS were introduced in 2018 in order to achieve a 43% reduction in ETS emissions by 2030 relative to 2005 levels. These reforms, including changes to the market stability reserve to address the prevailing surplus of allowances within the ETS, and improvements in the resilience of the ETS to major price shocks by provisions for periodic adjustments to the supply of allowances to be auctioned, are beginning to take effect. The reforms are already having an impact on the price of ETS allowances, with market prices currently in the region of €25 per tonne, up from just under €8 per tonne in January 2018.

In parallel with the strengthened EU ETS regime at EU level, the Climate Action Plan sets out a number of supplementary measures to reduce emissions from the sectors covered by the EU ETS in Ireland, including:

- delivering an early and complete phase-out of coal and peat fired electricity generation;

- increasing electricity generated from renewable source to 70%;

- working with the enterprise sector to support delivery of identified potential for cost-effective mitigation over the next decade.

Bord na Móna

Ceisteanna (38)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

38. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the meetings or discussions he has had with both Bord na Móna management and a person (details supplied) on the planned job losses at the company and the ending of peat harvesting; if the issue of negotiations with workers' representatives was discussed; if the issue of retraining workers affected was discussed or raised by him or his officials; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49390/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I have met with the Bord na Móna management and representatives of the Bord na Móna workers on a number of occasions in the last number of months. The most recent meeting was on Monday, 11 November, when myself and a number of my Cabinet colleagues visited the Lough Boora Discovery Park and Lough Ree Power station.

I met with Mr Kieran Mulvey, in his role as the Just Transition Commissioner, last Thursday and will continue to engage with Mr Mulvey as the details of his role as Just Transition Commissioner are finalised in the coming weeks.

In relation to industrial relations matters referred to in the Question, these issues are operational in nature and a matter for the Board and management of the company. As I have no statutory function, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on such matters.

Just Transition Fund

Ceisteanna (39)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

39. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the breakdown of the funds available for just transition; the source of each form of funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49222/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government recognises that early and complete phase-out of peat for electricity generation will have a significant impact on the workers, their families and the Midlands as a whole. In this context, the Government has committed to delivering a whole-of-Government approach to addressing this challenge, and to working with local stakeholders to ensure that people impacted can be best be supported.

Budget 2020 prioritised a number of just transition initiatives including:

- €6m Just Transition Fund targeted at the Midlands, to support the retraining and reskilling of workers and to assist local communities and businesses in the Region to adjust to the low carbon transition. In recognition of their longstanding relationship with communities in the Midlands, the ESB has agreed to contribute an additional €5 million to this fund bringing its total value to €11m. While details around the allocation of this fund are still being finalised, it is expected that it will support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses in the Midlands to adjust to the low carbon transition. There will be further consultation with the structures in place in the Midlands, including the Midlands Transition Team, on the application of the funding. In addition, I have invited the Just Transition Commissioner, Mr Keiran Mulvey, to make recommendations to me on the operation of the Just Transition Fund

- €5m for bog restoration and rehabilitation which will restore bogs to their natural habitat and become sinks that absorb carbon. This programme will support the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to restore 1,800 hectares of bog in 7 counties, resulting in 28m tonnes of carbon stored over the next 5 years. It will create 70 jobs in year one, rising to 100 as the programme develops.

- €20m to deliver new model, to group housing upgrades together, as set out in the Climate Action Plan. Targeted at the Midlands, this will support an estimated 400 jobs directly and indirectly, as well as significantly upgrading the social housing stock in the region during 2020.

In addition to the above, Budget 2020 included specific provisions for protecting the most vulnerable:

- A total of €52.8 million is being made available to retrofit the homes of people living in, or at risk of, energy poverty through the Warmer Homes Scheme. This represents the biggest ever allocation for the Warmer Homes Scheme – more than double the initial allocation for 2019. €13 million of this funding is ring-fenced revenue arising from the increase in the Carbon Tax.

- The changes to the Fuel Allowance Scheme led by the Department of Social Protection, will increase the income of households who get the fuel allowance by €2 per week which means an annual increase of €56.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (40, 55)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

40. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the funding from the SEAI to local authorities in 2020 to help retrofit social housing stock; the projected allocation and number of homes expected to be improved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49435/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

55. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the SEAI allocation to local authorities for energy efficiency measures and retrofitting in social housing stock since 2010; and the planned spending by the SEAI on future energy efficiency measures in social housing units. [49388/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 40 and 55 together.

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) is funded by my Department to administer energy efficiency grant schemes to support homeowners to improve the energy performance of their properties. Since 2000, over 400,000 homeowners have received direct support under these schemes.

Social housing upgrades are primarily a matter for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. A budget of €25 million has been allocated to that Department for the social housing energy efficiency retrofit programme in both 2019 and 2020.

Budget 2020 has also provided an additional €20 million from revenues arising from the increase in the carbon tax for the retrofitting of social housing in the Midlands. This scheme will operate in a different way to the traditional local authority retrofit scheme by focusing on upgrading much larger batches of homes in distinct, compact geographical areas and providing the opportunity for private homeowners to retrofit their homes. This will determine the savings that can be achieved through a larger scale and more structured approach to the renovation of our housing stock. It will also provide an economic stimulus for the region. The specific design of the project will be driven by the Retrofit Taskforce which is chaired by my Department.

Although Local Authorities have in recent years received some limited funding through the Better Energy Communities and Warmth and Wellbeing Pilot Schemes, the SEAI does not have a ring-fenced allocation for local authority homes. Since 2016, the total expenditure on the Warmth and Wellbeing Pilot Scheme is €26.3 million and the SEAI estimate approximately 15% of this amount has been spent on local authority homes. It is not intended to have an SEAI ring-fenced allocation for local authorities in 2020.

Online Safety

Ceisteanna (41)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

41. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he will appoint a digital safety commissioner. [49432/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

On 4 March 2019 I launched a public consultation seeking views on the content of the proposed Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. The public consultation closed on 15 April 2019. A wide range of responses were received to the consultation from members of the public, NGOs, industry and government agencies. These responses, which were published on 27 June 2019, are currently being considered to inform the development of the Bill. Furthermore, a thematic analysis of the submissions identifying key themes and issues was published on 25 July 2019.

This legislation will set a clear expectation for online platforms to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the users of their service. A regulator, an Online Safety Commissioner, as part of a wider Media Commission, would oversee the new system.

This new regulatory system will address the proliferation of harmful online content, including cyberbullying material, material promoting suicide and self-harm and material promoting eating disorders, alongside the design and processes adopted by online services which lead to the proliferation of such material.

The regulator will have a number of significant compliance and enforcement powers, including the power to audit the compliance of services, publication of the fact of non-compliance, the power to issue administrative fines and the power to block offending services in certain cases.

My officials are currently pursuing an extensive programme of policy analysis to inform decision making around preparatory heads of the Bill. I intend to bring the draft heads to Government by end-2019.

While it would be impossible to protect people from every danger online, this Bill will ensure, for the first time, that robust regulation is in place and end the era of self-regulation by online platforms.

Renewable Energy Generation Targets

Ceisteanna (42)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

42. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the estimated cost to rapidly transition Ireland to 100% wind, solar, wave and hydro energy by 2030; and his views on whether Ireland could reach this goal. [49325/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Climate Action Plan launched in June 2019 sets out the comprehensive suite of actions to ensure Ireland can meet the 2030 climate commitments putting us on a trajectory to be net zero by 2050. Ireland has abundant, diverse and indigenous renewable energy, which will be critical to decarbonising our energy system and enhancing our security of supply.

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) under development is critical to delivering on the ambitious target of 70% of electricity demand by 2030. To achieve 70% renewable electricity will require the grid to be able to recieve almost 100% electricity from renewables when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining. The 70% is an average figure, reflecting that there will be times when wind and solar final are not available.

The Scheme is being designed to achieve its targets within a competitive framework which will put downward pressure on the costs to end consumers. The RESS auctions will ultimately determine the precise mix and cost of renewable projects and technology diversity, including onshore and offshore wind, solar, hydro and ocean technologies, will occur naturally as the scheme matures.

Private sector funding through corporate contracting will also be essential for meeting higher levels of ambition to increase renewable energy supply. The Climate Action Plan commits to a 15% target for the renewable industry to develop projects through subsidy free corporate power purchase agreements by 2030.

Long term decarbonisation of the electricity sector will require significant investment in Ireland’s potential in offshore renewables including harnessing the potential to export power generated offshore to other EU Member States. Further reinforcement of the grid (including greater interconnection to allow electricity to flow between Ireland and other countries), and putting systems in place to manage intermittent sources of power through developing a range of storage technologies will be essential.

While significant investment will be required to meet long term targets in decarbonisation of electricity, rapidly falling costs of renewable energy technologies will help reduce the costs to energy consumers. The Department will ensure that the costs of electricity from renewable energy sources will be kept under review and that RESS auctions will be informed by up-to-date Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) analysis.

Natural Gas Imports

Ceisteanna (43)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

43. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to intervene on a project in Cork Harbour pursuing an LNG facility. [49430/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I understand that in July 2017 US company NextDecade announced it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Port of Cork to develop a Liquid Natural Gas import terminal in Cork harbour, using a floating storage and regasification unit. NextDecade’s “Inisfree” project is a private sector project.

Final investment decisions for this project and compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements in relation to consents or permits will be the responsibility of the project promoter. Any undertaking would be required to comply with EU law in this area.

As I have previously advised the House, the Climate Action Plan, which I launched in June, sets out an ambitious course of action to address the challenge of climate disruption and the impacts on our environment. This includes a commitment to deliver 70% renewable electricity by 2030. In the context of this transition to a carbon neutral economy, I have initiated the process of commissioning a comprehensive independent energy sustainability and security review. This review, which will be completed during 2020, will examine the fuel mix necessary, including the role of gas in electricity generation and how and from where it is sourced, and the role of other technologies such as interconnection and battery storage as back-up for renewables, to ensure security of supply.

National Broadband Plan Expenditure

Ceisteanna (44)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

44. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the expenditure to date on the broadband tendering process; the costs associated with the competitive tendering process and subsequent legal and consultancy advice; and the breakdown of fees paid to external agencies. [49387/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The contract that I signed with National Broadband Ireland on 19 November is the Government’s plan to rollout high speed broadband to the 1.1 million people living and working in the nearly 540,000 premises including almost 100,000 businesses and farms, along with 695 schools, where commercial operators will not commit to deliver the service.

The total amount spent to date on the National Broadband Plan is €28.833 million. This amount comprises the cost of external advisers and the costs associated with the procurement process and subsequent tender evaluation process. As part of their role to support my Department's team during the procurement process, these external advisers have provided essential expertise including, technical advice, financial and procurement advice, legal advice, economic and strategic advice, environmental advice and insurance and tax advice. The total amount paid to external advisers since the start of the National Broadband plan is €28.161 million.

A breakdown of the fees paid to external advisers is set out in the following table.

Table 1: Total Payments for advisory services by firm

Company

Service/Advice

Costs

Achilles Procurement Services

Procurement

€5,166.00

Analysys Mason

Technical

€4,680,035.42

Deloitte Ireland LLP

Tax and VAT

€95,478.75

Doyle Kent Planning Partnership Ltd

Environmental

€7,995.00

Here and Now Business Intelligence

Communications

€29,520.00

KPMG

Financial/Procurement

€8,866,428.59

KPMG

Specialist personnel

€3,977,680.90

Marsh Ireland

Insurance

€68,203.50

Mason Hayes & Curran

Legal

€6,720,184.03

MON Legal Consulting

Legal

€4,095.90

Park Town Consulting

Technical

€6,089.25

Pricewaterhouse Coopers

Economic/Strategy

€2,411,020.69

PRISA Technologies Ltd

Technical

€1,131,563.12

RPS Consulting Engineers

Environmental

€130,887.99

Vilicom Engineering Ltd

Technical

€26,502.01

TOTAL

€28,160,851.15

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Ceisteanna (45)

David Cullinane

Ceist:

45. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the decision making role that local communities and trade unions will have in the just transition plan; the differences between the decision making role from a consultative role they may have; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49219/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government has appointed Mr Kieran Mulvey as the Just Transition Commissioner on a non-statutory basis to facilitate discussions and work with stakeholders to develop, mobilise, and deliver opportunities for the Midlands.

A key objective of the new Commissioner will be to collaborate with, and build on the work undertaken by, the existing local taskforces to ensure that locally generated ideas and projects are brought forward for consideration for funding from the Just Transition Fund.

In this respect, I have invited the Commissioner to engage with all relevant stakeholders, including local community organisations, Bord na Móna, ESB, the Midlands Transition Team, local authorities and public representatives, and relevant trade unions and workers representatives.

The Commissioner will report to Government through me and I have asked him to consider specifically the following matters in relation to recommendations to be made:

- Delivery of the Just Transition measures provided for in Budget 2020, in particular an operating model for the new Just Transition Fund

- Optimal structures or processes to support co-ordinated and effective delivery of a Just Transition in the Midlands, including developing liaison channels between institutions in the region and central government

- Implementation of other actions underway, or planned, by Government Departments, Agencies, and Companies, including the four competitive funds under Project Ireland 2040

- Any additional actions or measures that he considers appropriate for Government consideration

The Commissioner has also been invited to take account of relevant existing plans and programmes, such as Bord na Mona's Brown to Green Strategy, the Regional Enterprise Development Plan for the Midlands, as well as provisions made in Budget 2020 to support a Just Transition in the region, comprising:

- €20 million for a new energy efficiency retrofitting scheme with retrofitting the social housing stock in the region at its core, while enabling private homeowners to opt-in to the scheme

- €5 million for peatland rehabilitation

- €11 million Just Transition Fund, with the Government contributing €6 million and the ESB contributing an additional €5 million

The Commissioner will not have a direct role in relation to industrial relations matters in Bord na Móna who will continue to work with the Joint Industrial Relations Council established under the Workplace Relations Commission, and with the Workplace Relations Commission as necessary.

Climate Change Policy

Ceisteanna (46)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

46. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the extent to which he expects to meet the challenges of climate change and reduction of greenhouse gases over the next 12 years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49409/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Climate Action 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 has been informed by the work of the Citizens’ Assembly and the All Party Committee on Climate Action. The Plan sets out over 180 actions, together with over 600 sub-actions, and embraces every relevant sector: electricity, enterprise, housing, heating, transport, agriculture, waste and the public sector.

The plan has a strong focus on implementation, with clear timelines and steps needed to achieve each action, assigning clear lines of responsibility for delivery. A Climate Action Delivery Board has been established and will hold each department and public body accountable for the delivery of actions set out in the plan.

Amongst the ambitious actions which are being pursued under this plan are:

- Move to 70% renewable electricity by 2030;

- Deliver a new Retrofit Plan to retrofit 500,000 homes, with large groups of houses being retrofitted by the same contractor to reduce costs, underpinned by smart finance options, and easy pay back methods;

- Deliver an intensive programme of retrofitting to install 400,000 heat pumps in homes and businesses;

- Bring 950,000 electric vehicles onto our roads and deliver a nationwide charging network;

- Eliminate non-recyclable plastic and impose higher fees on the production of materials which are difficult to recycle, and implement measures to ban single-use plastic plates, cutlery, straws, balloon sticks and cotton buds;

- Establish a new micro-generation scheme, allowing homeowners to generate their own electricity and sell what they don’t use back to the national grid; and

- Every public body to be given a climate action mandate.

The publication of the first progress report on 31 October 2019 demonstrates robust delivery of the actions set out in the Plan. A completion rate of 85% has been achieved, incorporating 149 measures across sectors. The Climate Action Delivery Board will continue to monitor progress and identify challenges to delivering the remaining actions not yet achieved.

I am confident that the Climate Action Plan will ensure Ireland meets the multi-faceted challenges that climate change presents both at home and abroad, and will contribute to the global effort to lower emissions and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Energy Efficiency

Ceisteanna (47)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

47. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the funding that will be made available from the SEAI for energy efficiency measures in social housing units in mid-western areas of Dublin in the coming years; if the warmth and well-being scheme will be extended to other areas; the number of homes retrofitted under the scheme in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49438/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Social housing upgrades are primarily a matter for the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government. A budget of €25 million has been allocated to that Department for the social housing energy efficiency retrofit programme in both 2019 and 2020. Although Local Authorities have in recent years received some limited funding through the Better Energy Communities and Warmth and Wellbeing Pilot Schemes, the SEAI does not have a ring-fenced allocation for local authorities.

The Warmth & Wellbeing Pilot 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.

Since 2016, approximately €26.3 million has been invested under the Scheme in upgrading over 1,200 homes in the pilot areas of Dublin 8, 10, 12, 22 and 24. The SEAI estimate approximately 15% of this amount has been spent on local authority homes.

It is expected that an interim report on the health impacts of the scheme, which is being undertaken by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, will be completed in the coming months with the final evaluation scheduled for completion in 2021. A process for determining the next steps for the Scheme is nearing completion.

National Broadband Plan Administration

Ceisteanna (48)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

48. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if it will be ensured that planned fibre optic broadband proposals agreed to under the national broadband plan will be placed under the ownership of the State. [49054/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

Five alternative Ownership options were considered in the July 2015 public consultation on the Intervention Strategy for the National Broadband Plan.

In December 2015 two possible ownership options were recommended to government, one of which was the gap funded model (where public funds are made available to make private investment commercially viable). An inter-departmental group was then established to recommend the best way to proceed to assess the most appropriate ownership model.

The deliberations of the Sub-Group were informed by the Department’s financial advisors’ (KPMG) expert report, which provided detailed scenarios of the likely cost to the State of the various ownership options in real and nominal terms. Based on the ownership report from the Sub-Group, the Department recommended the gap funded model, and that was then adopted by Government in July 2016.

Our telecoms infrastructure is almost entirely privately owned and the Intervention has been designed to ensure that as much as possible of the network infrastructure will comprise the re-use of existing poles and ducts, which NBI will lease from existing infrastructure owners.

Infrastructure re-use in this manner ensures the State complies with State Aid guidelines and environmental sustainability best practice. It minimises costs and ensures that the network development is integrated into that evolving system. The model of subsidising the rollout out of fibre rather than owning it was chosen deliberately to ensure the operator would continually invest to deliver to the highest standard.

Ownership of any other network assets procured by NBI will reside with NBI. NBI will be required to manage these assets over the lifetime of the project, and will be liable for the associated costs where network assets are required to be maintained or replaced.

National Broadband Plan Data

Ceisteanna (49)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

49. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the estimated cost of the national broadband plan in excess of the amount allocated in the national development plan in each of the years 2020 to 2025; the potential cost if the national broadband plan were to be found to be in breach of state aid rules; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46969/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department has a capital allocation in 2020 for the National Broadband Plan of €119 million.

The multi-annual expenditure ceilings for Capital Expenditure for my Department are published in the Budget 2020 Expenditure Report. The total capital expenditure ceiling for my Department for 2021 is €517m and for 2022 is €611m.

The detailed allocations required for the NBP for 2021 and for subsequent years of the NBP, to deliver high speed broadband to more than 1.1 million people in the intervention area, will be settled in the context of the annual Estimates process.

With regard to compliance by the NBP with State aid rules, on 15 November last, Ireland received a positive decision from the European Commission in this regard.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (50)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

50. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he is satisfied that the national broadband plan is fit for purpose. [49433/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The availability of high speed broadband services can have a transformative effect on communities. High speed broadband will allow citizens and businesses in rural communities to enjoy broadband speeds comparable to communities in urban areas. This will enable rural communities to avail of the opportunities presented by the digital economy including in healthcare, education, farming, rural development and tourism.

Since July 2013, the Department has engaged in an extensive process of mapping broadband availability in Ireland in order to identify premises requiring State intervention. The mapping exercise has been supported by a number of public consultations which have elicited significant response from industry and the public.

The NBP contract, which was signed on 19 November, provides that the future proofed high speed broadband network to be deployed by National Broadband Ireland will also pass and connect new premises built in the intervention area over the next 25 years. The network will keep pace with developments outside the intervention area and minimum services offered will be reviewed every three to five years to ensure the network is keeping pace with demand.

The tender submitted by National Broadband Ireland committed to a network that will initially provide services of 150Mbps to the majority of homes and up to 1Gbps to heavy data users and Small and Medium size Enterprises. Services on the network will be upgraded for consumers to 300Mbps by year 6 and 500Mbps by year 10 while businesses and heavy users will also get an upgrade to 2Gbps by year 11 and incrementally beyond that.

Carbon Credits

Ceisteanna (51, 56, 206)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

51. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the estimated amount of carbon credits Ireland will need to purchase in 2020 in order to comply with its international obligations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49386/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

56. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if spending needed to purchase carbon credits to comply with international obligations will affect other projects under his Department; the projected amount of funding needed in the coming years to purchase carbon credits; the areas from which the carbon credits for 2019 came; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49436/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

206. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the net cost of carbon credits up to the end of 2019; the projected cost of those credits in 2020 including revenues received by Ireland under the Kyoto protocol effort sharing programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49614/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51, 56 and 206 together.

Under the 2009 Effort Sharing Decision 406/2009/EC (ESD), which put in place binding annual emissions targets for each year between 2013 and 2020 for sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading System, Ireland must achieve a reduction of 20% relative to 2005 levels of emissions. These targets cover emissions from sectors such as transport, agriculture, buildings and waste. The latest projections of greenhouse gas emissions, published earlier this year by the EPA, indicate that emissions from those sectors of the economy covered by the ESD could remain between 0% and 1% below 2005 levels by 2020.

The ESD allows Member States to meet their targets by means of unused emissions allowances from earlier years, or through purchasing allowances from other Member States or on international markets.

The latest projections indicate that Ireland will cumulatively exceed its obligations by 14.8Mt over the 2013-2020 period. Ireland has, over the period since 2007, already acquired 5.3 million allowances that will be required for compliance. However, Ireland will need to purchase additional allowances to meet projected shortfalls in 2019 and 2020. My Department currently estimates the cost of this requirement to be in the region of €6m to €13m, depending on the price and final quantity of allowances required. Provision will be made in my Department's Vote for this purpose.

This cost estimate is in addition to the costs already incurred from previous purchases and agreements entered into by the State, amounting to some €121m in total since 2007, a proportion of which was used to meet Ireland's obligations under the Kyoto Protocol in the period 2008-2012.

Waste Disposal Charges

Ceisteanna (52)

John Curran

Ceist:

52. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the reason for the considerable delay in introducing an annual support of €75 for the disposal of medical incontinence wear for vulnerable persons to help meet the average annual cost of disposing of domestic waste; when the support will be implemented; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49076/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department has been examining this issue in detail and has engaged with relevant stakeholders, including representative organisations and the HSE, in an effort to see how best to provide a financial support to persons with long-term incontinence with respect to the disposal of medical incontinence wear. However, there are complex issues at play in this area, which are understandable given the sensitive nature of the medical data in question.

Since mid-2017, a range of charging options have operated, which encourage householders to reduce and separate their waste. This provides flexibility to waste collectors to develop various service-price offerings that suit different household circumstances. Mandatory per kilogramme 'pay by weight' charging was not introduced. A Price Monitoring Group (PMG) was established in mid-2017 to monitor the on-going cost of residential waste collection to homeowners across Ireland as the ‘flat-rate structure’ was being phased out. While fluctuations in prices and service offerings have been observed, the overall trend has been relative price stability. Results from the PMG are available on my Department's website.

Television Licence Fee

Ceisteanna (53)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

53. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his views on the need for the immediate introduction of the household charge in order to create the conditions required for the sustainability of public service media and the sustainability of the independent production sector here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49174/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Government has accepted the recommendations of the Working Group on the Future Funding of Public Service Broadcasting, that TV Licence collection be put out to public tender for a period of 5 years and then replaced with a device independent broadcasting charge.

I will be bringing an amendment at Committee Stage of the Broadcasting (Amendment) Bill to provide for the tendering for licence fee collection. This will help to reduce the evasion rate and increase the level of funding available for public service broadcasting and the Sound and Vision Scheme which is open to the independent production sector.

Offshore Islands

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 40.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 51.

Ceisteanna (54)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

54. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the details of his policies on the islands as requested by the interdepartmental committee on the islands; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49410/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

The Interdepartmental Committee on Island Development is the first cross-Government policy developed for the islands in 23 years and will set a roadmap for the long-term sustainability and development of our offshore communities.

Our coastal islands are an integral part of our cultural heritage. Island communities need to continue to be sustainable and to realise their potential. The voices and views of islanders will be central to the process.

At a special event on Saturday 23 November 2019, on Sherkin Island, An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Coveney T.D., in conjunction with the Government Chief Whip and Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Seán Kyne T.D. launched a consultation process aimed at formulating a new national policy for the future development of the islands.

My Department has supported this initiative by outlining the breadth of policies relevant particularly to the Islands including those in the communications, energy, climate action and fisheries areas.

The National Broadband Plan aims to deliver access to high speed broadband to every premises in Ireland, regardless of location, including offshore islands. Provision of advanced communications services and innovation in smart agriculture, e-health, education, tourism and improved supports for emergency services, all offer potential island applications.

The NBP deployment plan will be finalised shortly. All counties will see premises passed in the first 2 years and over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years.

Approximately 300 Broadband Connections Points (BCPs) in community centres such as schools, library hubs and local sports halls in every county in Ireland, including on some islands, will be connected to high speed broadband during 2020, to enable communities to quickly get free public access to high speed broadband.

These include for example;

- Tory Co-Op, West Town, Tory Island, Co. Donegal, F92FD66

- Inishbofin Community Centre, Middlequarter, Inishbofin, Co. Galway, H91TC6C

- Scoil Caomháin, An Tra, Inis Oirr, Co. Galway, H91C967

- Valentia Island Community Centre, Chapeltown, Valentia, Co. Kerry, V23H240

- Keel Community Centre, Keel, Achill, Co. Mayo, F28XA33

There are many opportunities for the islands to become pioneers in initiatives designed to deliver our Climate Action Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals. My department has active programs for community participation.

- Sustainable Energy Communities operated by SEAI

- Waste reduction and recycling

- Sound and Vision Ireland operated by BAI

Question No. 55 answered with Question No. 40.
Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 51.

Broadband Service Provision

Ceisteanna (57)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

57. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the role a company (details supplied) will have in connecting premises and encouraging take up of high speed broadband; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49340/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

On 19 November, the Government signed the contract with National Broadband Ireland (NBI) to provide access to high speed broadband to the 1.1 million people living and working in 537,537 premises, including 44,000 businesses and over 54,500 farms and 695 schools, where commercial operators will not commit to deliver the service.

National Broadband Ireland will set up a wholesale open access company dedicated to the rollout of a predominantly fibre to the premises (FTTP) network in the Intervention Area, which will be capable of delivering a future-proofed high speed broadband network, initially providing services of 150Mbps to the majority of homes and up to 1Gbps to heavy data users and Small and Medium size Enterprises.

Work by NBI will begin immediately and over 90% of premises in the State will have access to high speed broadband within the next four years.

Approximately 300 community centres, schools, library hubs and local sports halls across every county in Ireland will be connected to high speed broadband during 2020, to enable communities to quickly get free public access to high speed broadband.

By the end of 2021, NBI plans to pass approximately 115,000 premises. Approximately 70,000-100,000 premises will be passed each year thereafter, with the final premises to be completed in 2026.

The take up of recently built fibre to the home networks in rural areas indicates strong and accelerating demand for services. NBI will ensure equal access to the network for all wholesale and retail operators. Under the National Broadband Plan contract there are also obligations on NBI to engage with stakeholders and to raise awareness of the rollout of the service.

The initial connection charge and the monthly charges from service providers to those living in rural Ireland will be similar to those paid by residents in urban areas with the ability to avail of services such as voice, broadband, TV from the same service provider.

National Broadband Plan

Ceisteanna (58)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

58. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if his attention has been drawn to a legal challenge to the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49385/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I am not aware of any legal challenge that has been made to the National Broadband Plan.

As a State intervention, the NBP must comply with the requirements of the European Commission’s Guidelines on the application of the State aid rules on broadband networks. The Guidelines require, amongst other things, that Member States carry out a detailed mapping exercise to identify as far as reasonably possible those areas where intervention is required.

My Department recently conducted a public consultation to close the ongoing mapping exercise and the findings of that consultation informed the NBP State aid notification. Following receipt of a positive State aid decision on 15 November, the NBP contract was awarded on 19 November.

Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (59)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

59. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has met with representatives from social media companies in the past two months; and if so, the companies he met with. [49431/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

I have not met with any social media companies in the period referred to by the Deputy.

On 4 March 2019 I launched a consultation in relation to the proposed Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. This legislation will set a clear expectation for online platforms to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of the users of their service. A regulator, an Online Safety Commissioner, as part of a wider Media Commission, would oversee the new system.

I intend to bring the draft heads of Bill to Government by end-2019. My Department will consult further with stakeholders, including social media companies, in early 2020 in relation to the detail of these proposals.

RTÉ Expenditure

Ceisteanna (60)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

60. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to address the ongoing funding crisis at RTÉ; if he has met a person (details supplied) to discuss the plans of RTÉ since publication of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49383/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Communications)

My Department is in ongoing contact with senior management in RTÉ regarding their financial position and their proposals for reform, a number of which will require my consent as Minister and will be submitted to me in due course for consideration. The detail of these matters is being considered by my officials, in Conjunction with NEWERA officials and officials from DPER. I have met with the chair and the director general in recent months and expect to do so again in the coming period.

An additional €10m in public funding has been allocated to RTÉ over the past two budgets. This includes an additional €8.6m made available in Budget 2019 through a combination of an increase in exchequer funding for Public Service Broadcasting, which replaced TG4's TV Licence funding, and an increase in the amount paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for free TV Licences. This builds on the increase in funding for Public Service Broadcasting in 2018, funded through a €1.64m increase in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection contribution for free TV licences.