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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 500-523
 Header Item Sheep Welfare Scheme Funding
 Header Item Beef Data and Genomics Programme
 Header Item Dairy Sector
 Header Item TAMS Funding
 Header Item Land Acquisition
 Header Item Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme Administration
 Header Item Food Harvest 2020 Strategy
 Header Item Agriculture Scheme Data
 Header Item Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme Administration
 Header Item Air Quality
 Header Item Waste Management
 Header Item Legislative Programme
 Header Item Departmental Bodies Expenditure
 Header Item Post Office Closures
 Header Item National Broadband Plan Implementation
 Header Item Mobile Telephony Services
 Header Item Renewable Energy Generation Targets
 Header Item Better Energy Homes Scheme Eligibility
 Header Item Fisheries Protection
 Header Item National Broadband Plan Implementation
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision
 Header Item Ministerial Functions
 Header Item National Broadband Plan Data

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 95 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 500-523

Sheep Welfare Scheme Funding

 500. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed if an additional €5 million funding for the Sheep Welfare Scheme will be provided in Budget 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42355/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed In December 2016, I introduced The Sheep Welfare Scheme to contribute to the continuing viability and sustainability of the sheep sector in Ireland. The Scheme complements the range of other supports available to sheep farmers under schemes such as the Basic Payment Scheme, GLAS, TAMS, Knowledge Transfer and the Areas of Natural Constraint scheme.

The details of the Sheep Welfare Scheme, including the amount of payment to participants, were approved by the European Commission in 2016.  The payment rates are based on the agreed costings underlying the actions to be undertaken in the scheme, and an increase in the funding allocated would thus require changes to the actions currently being undertaken by farmers, or the addition of new actions.  Any such changes to the details of the scheme would require the agreement of the European Commission via the formal Rural Development Programme amendment process.  Advance payments under the first year of the Sheep Welfare Scheme are due to commence issuing later this year..

Beef Data and Genomics Programme

 501. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to raise the suckler cow payment in Budget 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42356/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The Beef Data and Genomics Programme, BDGP, is the current main support for the suckler sector and makes provision for some €300 million of funding over the next six years to Irish beef farmers. 

I will continue to support this programme through the lifetime of the current RDP.  Any increase in the payment under the BDGP would require approval from the European Commission. This would be very difficult in the context of an innovative scheme, which has undergone an approval process relatively recently. Even in the event that such approval was obtained, it would be necessary to require farmers to undertake additional actions to justify any additional payment, making the scheme more complex and compliance more onerous.

 I have already in 2017 re-opened the BDGP to beef suckler farmers who were not already part of the scheme. The scheme, BDGP II,  also provides for six years of payments to farmers for actions which deliver accelerated genetic improvement in the national herd and improvement of its environmental sustainability. There are currently 25,669 participants in BDGP I and BDGP II.

Payment rates and actions for participants in BDGP II are the same as those in the original scheme, with the exception that the training and carbon navigator actions must be completed by 31 October 2017. Explicit provision has been made for new entrants. I should also point out there a range of other supports available to suckler farmers under the RDP, notably GLAS, ANCs and Knowledge Transfer groups..

Dairy Sector

 502. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the action he plans to take to protect farmers from price volatility in the dairy sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42357/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed As the Deputy is no doubt aware, the ending of the milk quota regime represented an exceptional opportunity for the dairy industry to increase milk output and reach the 50% target set out in Food Harvest 2020. In tandem with opportunity, challenges such as volatility must be faced.

The period between mid-2014 through to Q4 2016 was extremely challenging for the dairy sector. Factors contributing to global price volatility in 2015 and 2016 included the Russian Ban and the softening of Chinese demand on one side, coupled with increased production among key global producers including the EU on the supply side.

While the outlook in 2017 has been more positive, there are a number of factors which continue to contribute to price volatility in the sector, including political factors outside our control. Notwithstanding challenges on the horizon, among which Brexit is paramount, stakeholders in the Irish dairy sector are well-placed to benefit from expanding global demand.

In terms of market returns to primary producers, raw milk prices remain in the region of 35 to 36 cents per litre, which is ahead of the EU average and over 50% ahead of where prices were this time last year. Peak production months have passed in Ireland and by the of end of September, circa 80%-plus of the average dairy farmer’s annual production has been completed. This combination of good prices and stronger supply means that 2017 can be expected to be a very good year for Irish dairy farmers in terms of market returns for their raw milk, which is welcome in the context of a very difficult 2016 in particular.

I remain conscious of the pressure volatility in dairy markets can exert on farmers, and I can assure the Deputy that I am committed to utilising measures at our disposal, including EU market measures such as intervention, aids to private storage and exceptional market measures, as necessary.  The legislative provisions underpinning these measures were finalised during the Irish Presidency of the European Union in 2013.  

I have already outlined the measures taken to assist Irish farmers, including  dairy farmers, on a number of occasions. These include the launch of a €150 million low-cost Agriculture Cash-flow Support Loan Scheme, increased funding under the Rural Development Programme, as well as the allocation of additional €6.75 million to Bord Bia to provide supports to companies in terms of diversification of markets. My Department continues to support and fund initiatives that help Irish farmers verify the high standards and quality of their production, including Origin Green and the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme.

In recent years, dairy markets have been characterised by periods of both high and low prices, and the challenge is to ensure that farmers have the tools available to manage their enterprises through the more difficult periods. The industry itself has a critically important role to play, and I welcome initiatives such as fixed price and margin contracts, which offer producers stability for a proportion of their supplies of milk going forward. In our taxation policy, we have made it possible for farmers to average their income over a period of five years.

I will continue to carefully monitor market developments and engage with the European Commission, with other Member States and with industry stakeholders, to ensure that measures are in place to help farmers through periods of uncertainty and volatility.

I recently hosted the fifth meeting of the Dairy Forum with key stakeholders from the Irish dairy sector to discuss how best to future proof the sector by formulating a cohesive approach to dealing with ongoing challenges.

I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to work closely with the dairy sector, EU colleagues and international counterparts to ensure the development and maintenance of a sustainable dairy sector in Ireland..

TAMS Funding

 503. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to increase funding for TAMS and increase investment aid for commercial horticulture in Budget 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42358/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The budget allocation for TAMS II for 2018 will be confirmed later today.

  Under the TAMS II scheme, support is provided under a suite of seven measures:

  - Young Farmers Capital  Investment Scheme;

  - Dairy Equipment Scheme;

  - Organic Capital Investment Scheme;

  - Animal Welfare, Safety and Nutrient Storage Scheme;

  - Low Emission Slurry Spreading;

  - Pig and Poultry Investment Scheme;

  - Tillage Capital Investment Scheme.

  A wide range of investment items are available under each of these measures to help Irish farmers to improve their farms.

  The scheme is co-funded by the National Exchequer and the EU's European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development under Ireland's Rural Development Programme. The total allocation for the TAMS II Scheme in the 2014-2020 Rural Development Plan is €395 million.

  The online payment claim system for TAMS II opened in July 2016. Payment claims for approved investments continue to be submitted to this system and processed for payment. These claims were received and processed at an average rate of €1 million per week in the past few weeks following the busy construction period over the summer months.

  To date, 11,400 approvals have issued since the Schemes were launched in 2015, with an estimated commitment value of €172 million. Payments amounting to over €24.2 million have issued in respect of 1,762 payment claims received from the approved applicants. The total number of payment claims received to date is over 2,300. This means that there are 9,000 approvals out there with farmers under this scheme where payment applications have not been received by my Department. It is only when these applications are received that we can make payments. I would strongly urge all approved participants in the Scheme who have completed their approved works to submit their payment claims to the online system so that payments can issue without delay.

  My Department has contributed significantly to the support of the Horticulture sector through its grant aid Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector.  In 2016, €3.85 million in grant aid was paid to horticultural growers.  The grant aid paid supported some €9.7 million in investment by these growers.

  Under the 2017 Scheme of Investment Aid for the Development of the Commercial Horticulture Sector, the budget is €5 million. Payments under this scheme are being made as early as possible, so as to try to alleviate any financial pressure that growers are currently facing.

  The scheme assists capital investments on farms to promote the specialisation and diversification of on-farm activities, improve the quality of products and facilitate environmentally friendly practices and improve working conditions on farms. The scheme has made an immense contribution to the growth and development of the horticulture sector across all areas – protected crops, field vegetables, nursery crops, mushrooms, soft fruit, apples and beekeeping.

  To ensure ongoing support for the sector, my Department has extended, under EU sanction, the Scheme to run until 31 December 2019.

  The EU Producer Organisation Scheme is also a vital support for horticultural growers. This scheme provides an important mechanism for growers to achieve greater bargaining power in the marketplace by becoming part of a larger supply base. Between 2005 and 2016, a total of €44.6 million was paid to producer organisations as part of the EU Producer Organisation scheme.

Land Acquisition

 504. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to provide funding to the NPWS to compensate farmers who have their lands designated; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42359/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I would like to clarify that my Department has no role in the designation of lands.  That function is exercised through the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.  The question of compensation does not arise, therefore, in the context of any schemes or measures introduced by my Department. That is entirely a matter for the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to decide upon, as is the provision of funds for any such purpose. My Department does not fund the National Parks and Wildlife Service.  

That said, many of these designations are for species or habitats whose conservation is encouraged under various schemes operated by my Department, such as GLAS, the Burren Programme or some of the newer locally-led schemes being rolled out at present like the Hen Harrier Scheme. Farmers in these areas have an opportunity to avail of a range of support packages under these schemes which can provide an important additional income stream for those affected.

Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme Administration

 505. Deputy Carol Nolan Information on Carol Nolan Zoom on Carol Nolan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to make low-cost loans available for farming enterprises over a five-year period to fund both ongoing working capital requirements and on-farm investment; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42361/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed One of my priorities has been to address the impact of the volatility in the sterling exchange rate and lower commodity prices in some agriculture sectors. I see lower cost finance as an effective way of doing this and we developed the, “Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme”, with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, SBCI.

The Scheme made €150 million available to farmers at interest rates of 2.95%. Distributed and administered through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, the Scheme provides farmers with a low-cost, flexible source of working capital, allowing them to pay down more expensive forms of short-term debt, ensuring the ongoing financial sustainability of viable farming enterprises.

The SBCI have recently reported that, to the end of August 2017, there have been 3,920 loan draw-downs amounting to a total of €128,199,316. This is an average loan amount of €32,704. Some 57% of the loans are for terms of three years or more. The participating banks have advised that all of the remaining €150 million is committed and is in the process of being drawn down. I am pleased at the very positive reaction by farmers to the Scheme, which has proved that significant demand exists for low-cost flexible finance.

I have met with the chief executives of the participating banks to discuss this and other access to finance issues relating to the agrifood sector. I have asked the banks to respond positively to the demand that has been demonstrated by reducing interest rates and providing more flexible terms for cash-flow loans in the future.

I believe that this Scheme demonstrates the importance of lower cost and more flexible finance as a response to competitive pressures, and I hope that it will be a model for possible future measures..

Food Harvest 2020 Strategy

 506. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the latest data with regard to progress on attaining baseline targets set down for the agrifood sector and in each sector in which data is available in the Food Harvest 2020 strategy, by new jobs to be created, primary output, export levels and value added in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42442/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The main targets set out in the Food Harvest report published in 2010 were, by 2020, to increase the value of primary output by 33% and agrifood exports by 40% (both from a 2007-09 average baseline); and to increase value added production by 40% (from a 2008 baseline). In addition to these value increases, the dairy industry targeted a 50% increase in milk production by 2020, to be progressed following the abolition of milk quotas in April 2016.  

Progress on those targets is monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis. The latest data available show growth of 36% for both primary production and exports (based on 2016 data), and 47% for value added (latest available data 2014), versus the baseline period, demonstrating excellent progress.

Food Wise 2025, the new ten-year strategy for the agrifood sector published in July 2015, is the successor to the Food Harvest strategy. It identifies the opportunities and challenges facing the sector and provides an enabling strategy that will allow the sector to grow and prosper. Food Wise includes more than 400 specific recommendations, spread across the cross-cutting themes of sustainability, innovation, human capital, market development and competitiveness; as well as specific sectoral recommendations.

If these recommendations are implemented, the expert committee which drew up the Food Wise 2025 Strategy believes that the following growth projections are achievable by 2025: increasing the value of agrifood exports by 85% to €19 billion; increasing value added in the sector by 70% to in excess of €13 billion; and increasing the value of primary production by 65% to almost €10 billion. With regard to employment, Food Wise foresees the creation of 23,000 additional jobs in the agrifood sector all along the supply chain from primary production to high value-added product development. Realising these growth projections will be challenging, but I am confident that they can be achieved. 

In July this year, I launched the second annual progress report of Food Wise 2025: Steps to Success 2017. Food Wise Steps to Success showed that, of the 368 detailed actions which were due to commence by 2017 or are ongoing actions; 46% have been achieved or substantial action has been undertaken; a further 49% have commenced and are progressing well. This shows good progress but I will press on in getting as many actions as possible complete within the next year..

Agriculture Scheme Data

 507. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed the number of applications to the 2017 national reserve and young farmers scheme, by county, in tabular form. [42443/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed The number of applications received under the 2017 National Reserve and the 2017 Young Farmers Scheme, by county, is set out in the following table:

County 2017 National Reserve applications 2017 Young Farmers Scheme applications
Carlow 21 148
Cavan 74 400
Clare 56 398
Cork 149 1118
Donegal 50 421
Dublin 6 42
Galway 140 846
Kerry 90 533
Kildare 23 147
Kilkenny 43 336
Laois 42 299
Leitrim 43 260
Limerick 56 384
Longford 19 154
Louth 13 99
Mayo 87 757
Meath 42 270
Monaghan 18 246
Offaly 42 267
Roscommon 54 373
Sligo 55 236
Tipperary 86 545
Waterford 34 260
Westmeath 27 199
Wexford 42 390
Wicklow 27 174

Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme Administration

 508. Deputy Joe Carey Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed his plans to provide for the introduction of low-cost loans for farming enterprises to fund both ongoing working capital requirements and on farm investment in Budget 2018  [41667/17]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed One of my priorities has been to address the impact of the volatility in the sterling exchange rate and lower commodity prices in some agriculture sectors. I see lower cost finance as an effective way of doing this and we developed the, “Agriculture Cash-flow Support Loan Scheme”, with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, SBCI.

The Scheme made €150 million available to farmers at interest rates of 2.95%. Distributed and administered through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, the Scheme provides farmers with a low-cost, flexible source of working capital, allowing them to pay down more expensive forms of short-term debt, ensuring the ongoing financial sustainability of viable farming enterprises.

The SBCI have recently reported that, to the end of August 2017, there have been 3,920 loan draw-downs amounting to a total of €128,199,316. This is an average loan amount of €32,704. Some 57% of the loans are for terms of three years or more. The participating banks have advised that all of the remaining €150 million is committed and is in the process of being drawn down. I am pleased at the very positive reaction by farmers to the Scheme, which has proved that significant demand exists for low-cost flexible finance.

I have met with the chief executives of the participating banks to discuss this and other access to finance issues relating to the agrifood sector. I have asked the banks to respond positively to the demand that has been demonstrated by reducing interest rates and providing more flexible terms for cash flow loans in the future.

I believe that this Scheme demonstrates the importance of lower cost and more flexible finance as a response to competitive pressures, and I hope that it will be a model for possible future measures..

Air Quality

 509. Deputy Joan Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if his Department has commissioned continuous surveys of air pollution levels in Dublin and other cities to monitor the health effects of diesel fuel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42666/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten Ambient air quality monitoring in Ireland is carried out in accordance with the requirements of the 2008 Clean Air for Europe, CAFE, Directive (Directive 2008/50/EC) and the Fourth Daughter Directive (Directive 2004/107/EC of 15 December 2004). These Directives also include rules on how Member States should monitor, assess and manage ambient air quality. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, is tasked with co-ordinating and managing the monitoring programme.

  Under the Directives, EU Member States must designate, "Zones", for the purpose of managing air quality.  For Ireland, four zones were defined in the Air Quality Standards Regulations, 2011. The zones in place in Ireland in 2017 are Zone A: the Dublin conurbation; Zone B: the Cork conurbation; Zone C: comprising 23 large towns in Ireland with a population of more than 15,000; and Zone D: the remaining area of Ireland.

  Ireland currently has a nationwide network of 30 monitoring stations which measure levels of air pollutants in the four zones. This information is delivered to the public in near real-time at: www.airquality.epa.ie. The numbers and locations of the monitoring equipment for each pollutant are determined by the requirements of the Directives for ambient air monitoring in each zone. Currently, Dublin has 14 monitoring stations.

  The Agency's most recent annual air quality report was published in November 2016 and provides an assessment of air quality in Ireland for 2015. While the EPA does not disaggregate diesel emissions from other pollutant sources, emissions of NO2, a significant pollutant arising from diesel use, were monitored at 15 locations across Ireland for the 2015 report.  Values for all these sites were below the EU annual limit value. The report cautions however that NO2 values may increase in line with growth in economic activity in the State.

  Following a comprehensive review of the current status of ambient air quality monitoring in Ireland, the EPA has developed a new national Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme, AAMP, under Section 65 of the EPA Act. My Department will provide the required funding to the Agency for this development, which will significantly strengthen the capacity and capability of the monitoring network to provide more comprehensive, localised air quality information linked to public health advice.

Waste Management

 510. Deputy Róisín Shortall Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten his views on the recent call by a person (details supplied) for local authorities to take back control of waste management by replacing the system of multiple operators competing against each other with a publicly run tendering system; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42929/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten There are no proposals currently to alter the structure of the household waste market.  The policy document, A Resource Opportunity – Waste Management Policy In Ireland (2012), commits to retaining the current market structure while strengthening the regulatory regime applied to household waste collection.

Legislative Programme

 511. Deputy Shane Cassells Information on Shane Cassells Zoom on Shane Cassells asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the status of the geothermal energy development Bill; when it is likely to be advanced further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42522/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Seán Kyne): Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne There is currently no legal framework for the regulation of geothermal energy in Ireland. The purpose of the Geothermal Energy Bill is to provide a legislative framework for the vesting, licensing and regulation of the development of geothermal energy. The Geothermal Energy Bill will define geothermal energy in line with the standard European definition (“energy stored in the form of heat beneath solid earth”) as set out in Directive 2009/28/EC on renewable energy. It will vest ownership of geothermal energy in the State, giving practical effect to the assertion of State ownership of natural resources in Article 10.1 of the Irish Constitution.

Draft Heads of Bill were originally completed in July 2010 and approved by the Government for referral to the Attorney General and the Parliamentary Counsel for detailed drafting. The Department has had ongoing discussions and consultation with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel since then, and significant progress has been made on the drafting of the Bill. There are currently over 150 sections in the draft Bill.

Many of the provisions of the Geothermal Energy Bill were based on aspects of the Minerals Development Bill, particularly in the areas of exploration and licensing. The Minerals Development Act 2017 was enacted on 26 July 2017. Once the secondary legislation and commencement of the Minerals Development Act 2017 is finalised, the drafting process for the Geothermal Energy Bill will recommence. The expected time for this is 2018, with publication of the Geothermal Energy Bill envisaged for the second half of 2018..

Departmental Bodies Expenditure

 512. Deputy Noel Rock Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the costs associated with the rebranding of the Commission for Energy Regulation to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities including logo design, websites and so on; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42554/17]

: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities, CRU, is an independent regulator established under the Electricity Regulation Act, 1999.  The name change was provided for in the Energy Act 2016 to reflect the expanded powers and functions of the regulator. The matter raised is an operational matter for CRU and not one in which I, as Minister, have any function. .

Post Office Closures

 513. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if he has met with an organisation (details supplied) and An Post in view of media reports that some 400 rural post offices could be set to close. [42576/17]

 514. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if he has seen the reported An Post blueprint which sets out plans for post office closures; if he will request An Post to publish these plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42577/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I propose to take Questions Nos. 513 and 514 together.

As Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, I am responsible for the postal sector including the governance of An Post.  Operational matters relating to the company’s retail business, including the post office network, are matters for the Board and management of An Post.

An Post is carrying out a fundamental review of the company to identify the strategic changes and restructuring necessary to put the company on a sound financial footing.  In this context, An Post is looking at the future of the post office network as it is imperative that it be restructured into a viable, sustainable, modern network for the future capable of adapting to the changing environment in which it operates.  Any changes in this area will have to be the subject of negotiation between An Post and the Postmasters.  I continue to encourage An Post to work closely with all parties to find an agreed solution to the renewal of the network.

I have not seen the document referred to by the Deputy. I appreciate that there is concern regarding the potential closure of post offices and the potential number involved.  However, I am advised that no definitive decision has been made by An Post regarding post office closures.

I can confirm that I had a constructive meeting with the Irish Postmasters’ Union on 5 October 2017, and I was interested to hear its perspective on how to sustain the network for the future.

Until such time as the strategic review is finalised and assessed, it is not possible to comment further.  The Government will be briefed once a definitive strategy has been agreed..

National Broadband Plan Implementation

 515. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten when fibre broadband will be rolled out to all businesses and households in Glaslough, County Monaghan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42592/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The Government's National Broadband Plan, NBP, will ensure high-speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location.  The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector so that, to date, approximately 1.5 million or 65% of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland can get high-speed broadband and this footprint is expanding. By 2020, 90% of premises In Ireland will have access to high-speed broadband.

  In April, I published an updated High-Speed Broadband Map, which is available at: www.broadband.gov.ie.  This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high-speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area. The Map is searchable by Eircode by individuals who are seeking information:

  - The BLUE areas represent those areas where commercial telecommunications providers are either currently delivering or have indicated plans to deliver high speed broadband services;

  - The AMBER areas on the High Speed Broadband Map represent the areas that will require State Intervention and are the subject of the current procurement process.

The map shows that of the approximately 60 premises in the townland of Glaslough, 99% fall within the LIGHT BLUE area covered by eir's planned deployment to deliver high-speed broadband between now and the end of 2018. More information on eir’s roll-out can be found on eir’s website on: www.fibrerollout.ie.  The remaining 1% of premises fall within an AMBER area and will be part of the State-led intervention under the National Broadband Plan.

  My Department is engaged in an ongoing procurement process to select a company or companies who will roll out a new high-speed broadband network for the State-led intervention. A significant milestone in that process was reached in September with the submission of, "Detailed Solutions", by two bidders. This is the last stage before receipt of final tenders and ultimate progression to the appointment of a preferred bidder(s).

  To improve both mobile and broadband services in rural Ireland in advance of the roll-out of the high speed broadband network to be built in the State intervention area I established, in July 2016, a Taskforce to identify solutions which can be implemented in the short, medium and long term to alleviate mobile phone and broadband coverage deficits, to identify priority areas for roll-out and investigate how better services could be provided to consumers. These solutions will enhance the existing services prior to the full build and roll-out of the network planned under the NBP State-led intervention.

  Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen.  These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities.  The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to developing infrastructure.  There is a link to a list of these local Broadband Officers on my Department's website.

Mobile Telephony Services

 516. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the number of investigations under way that fall under breaches of the Wireless and Telegraphy Acts that relate to poor mobile phone coverage and or poor or reduced broadband speeds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42598/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten I have no role or statutory function in the matter raised by the Deputy. The provision of mobile telecommunications services is subject to a requirement to secure a wireless telegraphy licence to access the required radio spectrum.  The award of such licences, including the application of qualifying terms and conditions such as quality of service and coverage obligations, and the associated monitoring of compliance by licensed providers with those terms and conditions is a matter for the independent Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg.

Given that ComReg is statutorily independent in the performance of its functions, I have sent the Deputy’s query to ComReg and I have asked it to reply directly to the Deputy..

Renewable Energy Generation Targets

 517. Deputy John Brassil Information on John Brassil Zoom on John Brassil asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the production of electricity by renewable energy sources in megawatts here; the level of megawatts required to meet the 40% target of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42653/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive sets Ireland a legally binding target of meeting 16% of our energy requirements from renewable sources by 2020. Ireland is committed to achieving this target through meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heat and 10% of transport from renewable sources of energy, with the latter target also being legally binding.

  The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, have estimated the breakdown of the production of electricity from renewable sources at the end of 2016 as follows: 

Renewable Technology Installed capacity (MW) at end 2016
Hydro 237
Wind 2,827
Municipal Waste 22
Solid biofuels 5
Biogases 53
Solar 6
Total 3,150


  Most recent provisional data from the SEAI indicates that 27.2% of electricity, 6.8% of heat and 5.0% of transport energy requirements were met from renewable sources at the end of 2016.  Overall, SEAI analysis shows that 9.5% of Ireland’s energy requirements in 2016 were met from renewable sources. 

  At September 2017, the total amount of renewable generation connected to the grid was 3,400 MW, approximately of which 3,080 MW was wind generation. A breakdown of the other renewable technologies is not currently available. It is estimated that a total of between 3,900 MW and 4,300 MW of onshore renewable generation capacity will be required to allow Ireland to meet its 40% renewable electricity target.  

  The Government has a range of policy measures and schemes in place or under development designed to stimulate further progress in the domestic renewable energy sector. These include the Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff, REFIT, schemes for the electricity sector and the Biofuel Obligation Scheme in the transport sector. These schemes have proved successful at incentivising large-scale investment in the renewable industry in recent years.

My Department is also currently developing a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme designed to encourage further investment in renewable electricity.  The introduction of any schemes - including the overall costs and technologies to be supported - are subject to Government approval and State aid clearance from the European Commission.

Better Energy Homes Scheme Eligibility

 518. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten his plans to alter the criteria for the better energy homes scheme to allow for homes that were built and habitable in 2006 and 2007; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42704/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The Better Energy Homes Programme, administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, on behalf of my Department, provides fixed grants for a range of energy efficiency measures including roof insulation, wall insulation, heating controls, boiler upgrades, solar heating systems and the cost of Building Energy Rating assessments. Since the programme's launch in 2009, it has provided grant assistance to more than 200,000 households.  

To be eligible for the scheme, a home must have been constructed before 2006. Dwellings constructed from 2006 onwards were subject to Building Regulations transposing the EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, EPBD. These regulations require all new homes to meet certain energy efficiency standards. These standards include limiting the CO2 emissions associated with energy use, limiting heat loss through the fabric of the building, controlling the output of the space heating, hot water systems and limiting the heat loss from pipes, ducts and vessels used for the transport or storage of heated water or air. Therefore, homes constructed in accordance with this legislation do not require the type of upgrades supported by the Better Energy Programme. .

Fisheries Protection

 519. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if he has secured the necessary funding to introduce a hardship fund for eel fishermen who have experienced severe hardship since the eel fishing ban was introduced.  [42723/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Seán Kyne): Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne Consideration is being given to the possibility of support measures for eel fishermen within the 2018 Estimates process. However, such consideration will be against the background of competing requirements from all Departments as part of the Estimates process.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

 520. Deputy Peter Burke Information on Peter Burke Zoom on Peter Burke asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten when a property (details supplied) will receive high-speed broadband; the expected timeframe for the roll-out to begin; the timeframe for it to be completed; if his attention has been drawn to deficits in particular areas of the country such as the area in question; if he will request a company (details supplied) to extend its plans for fibre roll-out; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42728/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The Government's National Broadband Plan, NBP, will ensure high-speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location.  The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector so that, to date, approximately 1.5 million or 65% of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland can get high-speed broadband and this footprint is expanding.

  In April, I published an updated High-Speed Broadband Map which is available at: www.broadband.gov.ie.  This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high-speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area. The Map is searchable by Eircode by individuals seeking information:

  · The BLUE areas on the Map represent those areas where commercial telecommunications providers are either currently delivering, or have indicated plans to deliver high-speed broadband services; 

  ·The AMBER areas on the Map represent the areas that will require State Intervention and are the subject of a procurement process.

  The Eircode referenced is within the AMBER area and will be covered by the State intervention under the NBP. 

  My Department is engaged in an ongoing procurement process to select a company or companies who will roll out a new high-speed broadband network for the State-led intervention. A significant milestone in that procurement process was reached on 26 September with the submission of, "Detailed Solutions", by two bidders.  This is the last stage of the procurement process before receipt of final tenders and ultimate progression to the appointment of a preferred bidder(s).

  To improve both mobile and broadband services in rural Ireland in advance of the roll-out of the high-speed broadband network to be built in the State intervention area, I established a Taskforce to identify immediate solutions to mobile phone and broadband coverage deficits and investigate how better services could be provided to consumers.

  Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen.  These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities.  The appointment of these Officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency  in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to developing infrastructure.  There is a link to a list of these local Broadband Officers on my Department's website.

Broadband Service Provision

 521. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten if his attention has been drawn to the frustration for many households in County Donegal that end up on the national broadband plan despite the fact that their home or premises is located across the street from commercial roll-out routes; when broadband will be rolled out to an area (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42730/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The Government's National Broadband Plan, NBP, will ensure high-speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location.  The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector so that, to date, approximately 1.5 million or 65% of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland can get high-speed broadband, and this footprint is expanding.

  In April, I published an updated High-Speed Broadband Map which is available at: www.broadband.gov.ie.  This map shows the areas targeted by commercial operators to provide high-speed broadband services and the areas that will be included in the State Intervention Area. The Map is searchable by Eircode by individuals seeking information:

  - The BLUE areas on the Map represent those areas where commercial telecommunications providers are either currently delivering, or have indicated plans to deliver high-speed broadband services; 

  - The AMBER areas on the Map represent the areas that will require State Intervention and are the subject of a procurement process.

  The Eircode referenced is within the AMBER area and will be covered by the State intervention under the NBP. 

  The map shows that there are over 101,000 premises in County Donegal, about 68,000 of which fall within a BLUE area of the Map and will be covered by commercial operators.  Just over 16,500 of these 68,000 premises form part of eir's planned rural deployment to deliver rural high-speed broadband between now and the end of 2018.  The remaining 33,000 premises in County Donegal fall within an AMBER area and will be part of the State-led Intervention under the National Broadband Plan. With regard to the eir fibre to the home roll-out close to the referenced premises, the decision as to what areas and premises are served is a matter for eir and not one in which I have a role.

  With regard to the State Intervention, my Department is engaged in an ongoing procurement process to select a company or companies who will roll out a new high-speed broadband network for the State-led intervention. A significant milestone in that procurement process was reached in September with the submission of, "Detailed Solutions", by two bidders.  This is the last stage of the procurement process before receipt of final tenders and ultimate progression to the appointment of a preferred bidder(s). To improve both mobile and broadband services in rural Ireland in advance of the roll-out of the high-speed broadband network to be built in the State intervention area, I established in July 2016 a Taskforce to identify solutions which can be implemented in the short, medium and long term to alleviate mobile phone and broadband coverage deficits, to identify priority areas for roll-out and investigate how better services could be provided to consumers. These solutions will enhance the existing services prior to the full build and roll-out of the network planned under the NBP State-led intervention.

  Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen.  These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to developing infrastructure. There is a link to a list of these local Broadband Officers on my Department's website.

Ministerial Functions

 522. Deputy Billy Kelleher Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the powers he has delegated to the Ministers of State in his Department; the date on which such delegation was made; if there were changes in powers delegated relative to the situation in place prior to 14 June 2017; if so, the details of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42775/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten There is one Minister of State attached to my Department. I have delegated powers to Minister of State, Seán Kyne, T.D., under Statutory  Instrument No.34 of 2017, Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Delegation of Ministerial Functions) Order 2017. The order was approved by Government on 11 July 2017.

  The designated functions in question relate to:

  - the Natural Resources area including Mineral and Petroleum Exploration Production and Mining;

  - Inland Fisheries; and

  - the Geological Survey of Ireland.

  In respect of changes in powers which were delegated prior to 14 June 2017, additional responsibilities relating to Digital Development have been assigned to Minister of State Sean Kyne but do not involve any statutory functions.

National Broadband Plan Data

 523. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten the number of houses in County Donegal that have been connected to high-speed broadband by the end of July 2017; the number of households that will be connected by the end of 2018; his plans for connecting all other households in County Donegal; the timeframe for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [42857/17]

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Denis Naughten): Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten The Government's National Broadband Plan, NBP, will ensure high-speed broadband access (minimum 30 megabits per second) to all premises in Ireland, regardless of location, where providers acting alone will not provide this essential service. The NBP has been a catalyst in encouraging investment by the telecoms sector so that, to date, approximately 1.5 million or 65% of the 2.3 million premises in Ireland can get high-speed broadband. This footprint is continuing to expand and it is expected to rise to 77% by the end of 2018. By 2020, 90% of premises In Ireland will have access to high-speed broadband.

  In April, eir signed a Commitment Agreement with me committing them to follow through on their commercial plans to provide new high-speed broadband infrastructure to 300,000 premises in rural areas. Eir has committed to doing this work over a 90-week period; decisions as to when areas and premises are served, is an operational matter for eir. A copy of the Agreement is available on my Department's website: www.dccae.gov.ie.

  Quarterly updates on progress of the eir 300k roll-out are also published on my Department’s website. Eir has confirmed to my Department that 100,000 premises have been passed as at the end of September 2017.  The 300,000 figure includes 25,586 premises in County Donegal. Eir has passed 9,075 premises in the county to date. Eir will continue to roll out high-speed broadband to the remaining 16,511 premises as part of this Agreement between now and the end of 2018. Information on eir's planned rural deployment is available at: http://fibrerollout.ie/eircode-lookup/.  

  In April, I published an updated High-Speed Broadband Map which is available at: www.broadband.gov.ie. This map finalises the State Intervention Area for the procurement process and is an important milestone in the procurement process. The Map shows the extent of the State Intervention area and also the areas targeted for commercial services.  The Map, which is searchable by address or Eircode, will be updated to show quarterly progress of the eir roll-out: 

  - The BLUE areas represent those areas where commercial telecommunications providers are either currently delivering or have indicated plans to deliver high speed broadband services; 

  - The AMBER areas on the High-Speed Broadband Map represent the areas that will require State Intervention and are the subject of the current procurement process.

  The map shows that there are over 101,000 premises in County Donegal, of which about 68,000 premises, including the aforementioned 16,511 premises, form part of eir's planned commercial rural deployment, fall within a BLUE area of the Map and will be covered by commercial operators.  The remaining circa 33,000 premises in County Donegal fall within an AMBER area and will be part of the State-led Intervention under the National Broadband Plan.    

  My Department is engaged in an ongoing procurement process to select a company or companies that will roll out a new high-speed broadband network for the State-led intervention. A significant milestone in that process was reached in September with the submission of, "Detailed Solutions", by two bidders. This is the last stage before receipt of final tenders and ultimate progression to the appointment of a preferred bidder(s).

  To improve both mobile and broadband services in rural Ireland in advance of the roll-out of the high speed broadband network to be built in the State intervention area, I established in July 2016 a Taskforce to identify solutions which can be implemented in the short, medium and long term to alleviate mobile phone and broadband coverage deficits, to identify priority areas for roll-out and investigate how better services could be provided to consumers. These solutions will enhance the existing services prior to the full build and roll-out of the network planned under the NBP State-led intervention.

  Under this Taskforce, engagement between telecommunications operators and local authorities through the Broadband Officers is continuing to strengthen.  These Broadband Officers are acting as single points of contact in local authorities for their communities. The appointment of these officers is already reaping rewards in terms of ensuring a much greater degree of consistency in engagements with operators and clearing obstacles to developing infrastructure.  There is a link to a list of these local Broadband Officers on my Department's website. 


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