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 Header Item Written Answers Nos 79-96
 Header Item Renewable Energy Incentives
 Header Item Television Licence Fee Collection
 Header Item Renewable Energy Projects
 Header Item Ministerial Correspondence
 Header Item North-South Interconnector Issues
 Header Item Natural Gas Grid
 Header Item EU Directives
 Header Item Hydraulic Fracturing Policy
 Header Item Renewable Energy Generation Targets
 Header Item Coillte Teoranta Harvesting Rights Sale
 Header Item National Broadband Plan Implementation
 Header Item Metropolitan Area Networks Programme
 Header Item Energy Prices
 Header Item Biofuel Obligation Scheme Targets
 Header Item Budget Measures
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 134 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos 79-96

Renewable Energy Incentives

 79. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will provide details of any subsidies or grants available to private companies seeking to establish wind farms; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27876/13]

 507. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will provide details of the subsidies or grants available to private companies seeking to establish wind farms. [26648/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I propose to take Questions Nos. 79 and 507 together.

The Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff scheme, known as REFIT, has been designed to incentivise the development of wind powered electricity generation in order to ensure that sufficient new renewable electricity generation plant is built to enable Ireland to meet the legally binding target of 40% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020.

The REFIT scheme is now in its second round. REFIT 2 received EU State Aid approval in January 2012. Under this approval a total of 4,000 MW can be supported under REFIT 2. The scheme is open to wind generation constructed between the start of 2010 and the end of 2017 and is based on a fixed feed in tariff mechanism. The current reference price per megawatt hour for onshore wind is as follows – €69.23 for installations above 5 MW and €71.66 for installations equal to, or below, 5MW.

REFIT operates by offering minimum guaranteed prices for up to 15 years, thus providing certainty to project developers of a minimum price for electricity exported to the grid over that period. The initial capital outlay for new renewable projects is significant and the certainty provided by REFIT assists developers in securing the necessary funding.

To date, REFIT schemes have supported the building of over 1700 MW of wind generation capacity. This has made wind energy the largest driver of growth in renewable electricity, contributing most towards the achievement of the 2020 target. However, if we are to reach that target, the build rate of onshore wind farms must accelerate from an historic average of 180 MW per year to at least 250 MW per year. It was for this reason that I decided to amend the terms of REFIT 2 to extend the closing date for applications to 31 December 2015, with projects required to be built by the end of December 2017. Support under REFIT 2 cannot exceed 15 years and will not extend beyond the end of December 2032.

Television Licence Fee Collection

 80. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the current rate of non-payment of the TV licence; the way this has varied in recent years; his plans to increase compliance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27860/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The requirement to have a TV licence and pay the accompanying fee is dependent on possession of a television set, as defined by section 140 of the Broadcasting Act 2009. In estimating the national evasion rate, my Department must take into account a range of factors including the overall number of occupied houses and liable businesses, the levels of vacant units and the estimated television penetration rate, that is to say the estimated number of homes possessing a television set. Based on currently available information, my Department estimates that the total number of properties required to hold a television licence is approximately 1.7 million and that, based on the number of current licences issued, the overall level of evasion is around 16% of this total. While estimates of evasion for previous years have been put forward by a number of sources, these have been based on different methodologies and are not readily comparable.

An Post administers the collection of the TV licence fee on my behalf and has done so since the current licensing system began. In terms of increasing compliance with the TV licensing requirements, An Post makes every effort to bring evaders into the licensed pool and a considerable amount of time and resources are spent in dealing specifically with this issue. An Post concentrates its initial efforts on getting people to buy the licence when due and by following up with a series of reminder notices and inspector visits. Bringing people to court is a last resort and only carried out where all other means have failed.

As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government commits to examining the role and collection of the TV licence fee in light of existing and projected convergence of technologies and to transforming the TV licence into a household based Public Broadcasting Charge to be applied to all eligible households and applicable businesses, regardless of the device used to access content or services.

I am currently considering the report of the recent Value for Money Review on the proposal to introduce such a charge. The independently chaired Review Group considered a range of issues in relation to the proposal, including the efficiency and effectiveness of the current licensing system.

Renewable Energy Projects

 81. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he has sought a report into the collapse, two months ago, of a wind turbine at Loughderryduff, County Donegal; his views on the ability of wind energy to deliver sustainable energy for Ireland in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27833/13]

 514. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if his attention has been drawn to an incident whereby a 245 foot wind turbine (details supplied) in County Donegal collapsed during high winds; if he intends to order a public investigation into this matter; if he intends to introduce legislation which makes provision for a minimum 1km set back distance for wind turbines from dwellings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27018/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 514 together.

Ensuring sustainable supplies of power to all consumers is central to this Government’s energy policy. Harnessing the clean, sustainable, indigenous, renewable wind resource that Ireland is fortunate to have in abundance is crucial to reducing our dependence on expensive fossil fuels imports, reducing harmful emissions and delivering growth in the green economy.

In order to develop a more sustainable electricity supply, Ireland is committed to reaching a target of 40% of electricity demand being met from renewable sources by 2020. It is forecast that the bulk of this demand will be met by onshore wind.

The issue of planning approval for wind farms is in the first instance a matter for developers and the planning authority under the Planning Acts, which include requirements for public consultation. In addition, best practice Wind Energy Guidelines were published in 2006. Currently, the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government – in conjunction with my Department and other stakeholders – is undertaking a targeted review of certain aspects of these guidelines. The review will examine the manner in which the guidelines address key issues of community concern to ensure that wind energy does not have negative impacts on local communities.

With regard to the incident referred to by the Deputies, I understand that the Health and Safety Authority was notified of its occurrence and that the Authority has instigated an investigation into the incident from an occupational safety and health perspective in accordance with their statutory remit. This investigation is currently on going.

Ministerial Correspondence

 82. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the reason he has yet to respond to correspondence from a community council (details supplied) sent almost two months ago regarding the operation of the east-west interconnector. [27749/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The correspondence concerned refers to a number of highly technical and complex issues, some of which I addressed in previous correspondence with the community council, in addition to containing other aspects touching on matters which have already been adjudicated upon by the Courts. Consequently, I will require considerable technical and other detail in order to provide a considered response to this follow up query. I have no wish to unnecessarily delay a response and expect to be in a position to provide a reply as soon as possible.

North-South Interconnector Issues

 83. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he has any update on the progress of the North-South interconnector; if any issues have arisen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26712/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte As the Deputy may be aware, in April EirGrid completed a re-evaluation process on the North South 400kV Interconnection Development and published a “Final Re-evaluation Report”. It followed the publication of a “Preliminary Re-evaluation Report” in May 2011.

The final report represents a comprehensive re-evaluation of the project, involving, among other things, a thorough re-examination of the previous application, including issues raised during the previous application process.

It considered and responded to Stakeholder feedback from the previous planning application as well as Stakeholder feedback from the public consultation following publication of the Preliminary Re-evaluation Report and the publication of the “Meath Tyrone Report – Review by International Expert Commission” along with the subsequent Government policy statement.

The “Final re-evaluation Report” found that there remains an urgent strategic need for the project. It also concludes that the best technology solution for the project is a single circuit 400kV alternating current (AC) overhead line. The indicative route for this overhead line is similar to the previously proposed line route, but incorporates localised modifications.

EirGrid is fully committed to engaging extensively with landowners, members of the public and other interested parties on all aspects of the project and during April/May held nine open days in Meath, Cavan and Monaghan.

Following the completion of this period of public engagement, EirGrid is considering all feedback received before finalising its preferred project solution. The “Preferred Project Solution Report” will be published this summer and will be the subject of a further period of public consultation.

The “Preferred Project Solution Report” is a key publication detailing the preferred line route and indicative tower locations. It is the final report prior to the submission of the new planning application.

The public consultation on the preferred Project Solution Report will focus on the preferred line design, including the line route, preferred structure and tower locations, the methodology for siting and construction of towers and environmental issues to be addressed in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Submission of the planning application and associated Environmental Impact Statement to An Bord Pleanála will follow, at the end of this year or the beginning of 2014.

Natural Gas Grid

 84. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte his views on the Western Development Commission paper Why Invest in Gas? which outlines the clear benefit of extending the natural gas distribution network to the north west; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [27787/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte As the Deputy will be aware from my replies to previous Parliamentary Questions raised by him on this issue, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) is the statutory, independent body, charged with the assessment and licensing of prospective operators seeking to develop and operate a gas distribution system within the State. I have no direct statutory function in relation to the connection of towns to the gas network.

The CER, in 2006, approved a network connections policy which enabled reassessment of the feasibility of connecting certain towns to the gas network. In order for any town to be connected to the gas network, certain economic criteria need to be satisfied as a prerequisite. The policy allows for the appraisal of a town either on its own or as part of a regional group of towns.

This policy framework provides that, over a certain period, the costs of connecting a town, or group of towns, to the network are recouped through the actual economic consumption of gas and the associated tariffs. Uneconomic projects would increase costs for all energy consumers.

Under the CER’s policy framework, Bord Gáis Networks, and latterly Gaslink, carried out a comprehensive review of towns not connected to the national gas network. Gaslink published its New Towns Analysis Phase ##3 report in 2010.

The study included a review of the feasibility of connecting 11 towns in the West and North West region which are the focus of the Western Development Commission paper, “Why Invest in Gas”. However, the Gaslink review found that none of the towns qualified for connection on economic grounds.

Gaslink will continue to review the towns which did not qualify for connection under the 2010 Study as well as other towns. The key factor which would qualify a town or group of towns in any future review would be a significant increase in demand for natural gas, usually as a result of the addition of a new large industrial or commercial facility.

EU Directives

 85. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the progress that has been made in establishing a Network and Information Security competent authority, as required as a result of a vote at the European Parliament; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [26708/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In February, the European Commission published a proposal for a European Directive concerning measures to ensure a high common level of network and information security across the European Union. The Irish Presidency has been active in initiating discussions in the Council of the European Union and on 6 June, I chaired an orientation debate in the Council in regard to this matter. While all Member States, including Ireland, recognise the growing importance of network and information security as we become ever more reliant on the Internet and on online services generally, there is a diversity of views and opinions on how to realise increased cyber security. It is recognised by all that deliberations at EU level on this proposal are at an early stage. The European Parliament has only recently commenced deliberations on this proposal. Consequently it is premature to comment at this time on implementation at national level on what is merely an EU legislative proposal at the early stages of deliberation and which may be subjected to significant change.

  Question No. 86 answered with Question No. 67.

Hydraulic Fracturing Policy

 87. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the extent to which the various forms of methodologies in respect of mining exploration on or off shore are likely to be used here in the future in respect of oil, gas or other mineral exploration; if fracking is likely to become part of the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27353/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte There are various methodologies currently being used with respect to minerals and petroleum exploration both onshore and offshore Ireland that will continue to be used into the future.

With specific regard to the likely conduct of exploration activities proposing the use of hydraulic fracking, as I have advised on a number of occasions, the Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of finalising terms of reference to engage the appropriate expertise to undertake scientific research into the potential environmental impacts of unconventional gas exploration and extraction.

The key questions to be addressed by this research are, whether this technology can be used while fully protecting the environment and human health, and what the best environmental practice in using this technology might be. A report in this regard is not anticipated before early 2015.

In the meantime, I have publicly confirmed that no application proposing the use of this technology would be considered nor would exploration licences in this regard be granted prior to publication of the EPA report and consideration of its findings.

  Question No. 88 answered with Question No. 70.

Renewable Energy Generation Targets

 89. Deputy John Halligan Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will provide a report on any and all plans to reach the EU targets set for increasing renewable energy here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27878/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive set Ireland a binding target where at least 16% of our energy requirements should come from renewable sources by 2020. In order to meet our overall 16% requirement, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand, 12% of heating and 10% of transport from renewable sources.

Though these targets are challenging, I am confident that they can be met. My Department’s Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012 to 2020 sets out the key strategic goals for the various renewable energy sectors in the context of Ireland’s EU obligations.

In addition, under the Directive, Ireland was required to set out in a National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) the trajectory towards meeting its legally binding targets. The NREAP and the First Progress Report on the NREAP, which are available on my Department’s website, show the sectoral and technology breakdown that we anticipate in the achievement of our target.

By the end of 2011, we had reached 6.4% of overall energy consumption from renewable sources and the trajectory set out in the NREAP assumes that we will achieve the 16% target incrementally at approximately 1% per annum.

There are a number of policy measures in place designed to support the development necessary to meet Ireland’s renewable energy obligations. The Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) schemes incentivise increasing amounts of renewable electricity to connect to the grid. The REFIT3 support for biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technologies, is supporting progress on our renewable heat target. Measures such as the Biofuel Obligation Scheme to increase the use of biofuels, and the Electric Vehicle Grant Scheme to incentivise the purchase of new Electric Vehicles are the mechanisms being used to achieve our target for renewable transport. Policy interventions through the ReHeat schemes, energy efficiency schemes, building regulations, REFIT3 for CHP and natural market migration to renewable heating technologies will deliver the majority of the 12% renewable heat target. In addition, later this year I will be publishing a National Bioenergy Strategy which will further outline the role energy from biomass will play to contribute to the achievement of our national targets and, in particular, the target for the heat sector.

Coillte Teoranta Harvesting Rights Sale

 90. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will explain his recent comment that the sale of Coillte harvesting rights is unlikely; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27875/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Government, as part of the agreement with the Troika, has agreed to a State asset disposal programme with a view to using half of the proceeds to invest in economic recovery and jobs. My Department, in cooperation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Finance and NewERA is progressing the disposal of the Bord Gáis Energy business in 2013.

My colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, together with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, will make an announcement concerning Coillte harvesting rights very shortly. I hope the Deputy will be better able to understand my recent comments in the wake of the announcement by my Government colleagues.

National Broadband Plan Implementation

 91. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the progress made in delivering on his commitment to have high speed broadband availability across the country; and if he will report specifically on the way his Department is performing under the Digital Agenda for Europe to deliver basic broadband to all citizens by 2013. [26635/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Considerable progress has been made in recent years in both the coverage and speeds of national broadband infrastructure, with a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms.

  The Government has also undertaken a number of initiatives to bring broadband to those parts of the country where commercial operators have been unable to offer services. The combination of private investment and State interventions such as the National Broadband Scheme means that Ireland has met the EU Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013.

The Government, through the National Broadband Plan, which I published on 30th   August last year, has recognised that the key imperative now is to ensure high speed broadband availability to all. The Plan commits to high speed broadband availability across the country by ensuring that high speed services of 30Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, well in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible.

  Ireland is now therefore moving to a new phase of public and private sector investment in broadband in Ireland which will see significantly improved speeds delivered across the country.

Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas. There is evidence that industry is investing beyond the targets to which they committed in the Plan.

  Some of the key developments in the short and medium term are as follows:

    - Eircom launched its next generation broadband services on 16th   May last, with speeds of up to 70Mbps, immediately available to over 300,000 premises. By the end of this year, eircom aims to reach more than 600,000 homes and businesses. It has a target to pass 1.2m premises by June 2015.

     - UPC is continuing with its investment in the cable network, which should see 750,000 homes able to access services at data speeds of at least 150 Mbps by 2015.

     - Other fixed operators also continue to invest in Local Loop Unbundling (LLU). BT Ireland now supplies broadband access to both Vodafone and Sky Ireland, and along with other operators, is also investing in fixed infrastructure.

     - Mobile wireless operators are making plans for the rollout of 4G services later this year. The rollout of 4G will facilitate significantly increased mobile broadband speeds.

      - ESB is currently considering the prospect of utilising its distribution network to rollout fibre broadband services.

  In tandem with these commercial developments, intensive work is underway in my Department to progress a State-led investment to secure the countrywide introduction of next generation broadband access.

  In order to progress the State-led investment, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained. My Department will shortly embark on a formal mapping exercise to identify the areas of the country to be targeted in the State-led investment under the Government’s National Broadband Plan to ensure the provision of high speed broadband services where the commercial market will not deliver. This exercise will inform an EU State Aids application in respect of the State-led intervention and is a necessary prerequisite for State Aids approval.

  Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations including stakeholder engagement will be ongoing throughout 2013 with a view to the launch of a procurement process in 2014.

  Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, we are committed to increasing the availability of next generation speeds significantly, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in a digitally enabled society.

Metropolitan Area Networks Programme

 92. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will give details of the level of take up of MANs in areas in which it has been rolled out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26709/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Under Phase I of the Metropolitan Area Networks (MANs) Programme, 28 MANs were completed and 60 MANs, covering 66 towns, were completed under Phase II. The MANs which are regionally dispersed enhance the attractiveness of the locations for indigenous and foreign investment. A list of the MANs and their respective locations is detailed in the tables below.

  The MANs are managed, operated, maintained and marketed by e|net, on behalf of the State. There has been significant improvement over the last few years in the take-up by service providers of the MANs. Of the 88 MANs, 81 are currently “lit”, that is, connected to backhaul and in use by one or more telecoms service providers. It is estimated that in excess of 600,000 individuals and business users are benefitting from the MANs infrastructure.

  Since the inception of the MANs Programme, demand for bandwidth has increased significantly and this increase is expected to continue. Almost all broadband service providers, (including DSL, mobile, cable, wireless), are increasingly turning to optical fibre to backbone their networks. Service providers will continue to bring optical fibre closer to their end users. The MANs are ready to meet the demand for fibre connectivity and to serve the needs of service providers and their end users for the foreseeable future.

Phase One

- Town County
1
Cavan Cavan
2
Kingscourt Cavan
3
Cork Cork
4
Carlow Carlow
5
Letterkenny Donegal
6
Gweedore Donegal
7
Galway Galway
8
Kilkenny Kilkenny
9
Portlaoise Laois
10
Carrick on Shannon Leitrim
11
Manorhamiltom Leitrim
12
Limerick Limerick
13
Dundalk Louth
14
Drogheda Louth
15
Ballina Mayo
16
Belmullet Mayo
17
Kiltimagh Mayo
18
Carrickmacross Monaghan
19
Monaghan Monaghan
20
Tullamore Offaly
21
Roscommon Roscommon
22
Sligo Sligo
23
Clonmel Tipperary
24
Dungarvan Waterford
25
Waterford Waterford
26
Athlone Westmeath
27
Mullingar Westmeath
28
Wexford Wexford

Phase 2

- Town County
1
Cootehill Cavan
2
Kilrush Clare
3
Bantry Cork
4
Blarney Cork
5
Carrigaline Cork
6
Charleville Cork
7
Dunmanway Cork
8
Fermoy Cork
9
Kanturk Cork
10
Kinsale Cork
11
Midleton Cork
12
Mitchelstown Cork
13
Passage West Cork
14
Ringaskiddy Cork
15
Skibbereen Cork
16
Youghal Cork
17
Ballybofey Donegal
18
Ballyshannon Donegal
19
Buncrana Donegal
20
Bundoran Donegal
21
Carndonagh Donegal
22
Donegal Town Donegal
23
Stranorlar Donegal
24
Donabate Dublin
25
Portrane Dublin
26
Lusk Dublin
27
Skerries Dublin
28
Athenry Galway
29
Ballinasloe Galway
30
Clifden Galway
31
Gort Galway
32
Loughrea Galway
33
Killarney Kerry
34
Castleisland Kerry
35
Tralee Kerry
36
Listowel Kerry
37
Thomastown Kilkenny
38
Abbefeale Limerick
39
Newcastlewest Limerick
40
Longford Longford
41
Ardee Louth
42
Ballinrobe Mayo
43
Claremorris Mayo
44
Knock Mayo
45
Dunboyne Meath
46
Clonee Meath
47
Dunshaughlin Meath
48
Kells Meath
49
Navan Meath
50
Trim Meath
51
Bailieborough Cavan
52
Castleblaney Monaghan
53
Clones Monaghan
54
Nenagh North Tipperary
55
Roscrea North Tipperary
56
Templemore North Tipperary
57
Edenderry Offaly
58
Banagher Offaly
59
Birr Offaly
60
Cahir South Tipperary
61
Carrick on Suir South Tipperary
62
Tipperary Tipperary
63
Cashel Tipperary
64
Blessington Wicklow
65
Kilcoole Wicklow
66
Newtownmounkennedy Wicklow

Energy Prices

 93. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the actions he will take to help lower the costs of electricity for small and medium sized enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27837/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Responsibility for the regulation of the retail electricity market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. Prices in the electricity retail market are fully deregulated. Customers can therefore avail of competitive offerings from electricity and gas suppliers. Prices are set by suppliers and are commercial and operational matters for them. I have no statutory function in the setting of electricity prices.

Electricity and gas costs in Ireland are influenced by various drivers, including global gas and oil prices, the costs of capital, exchange rate fluctuations, the small size of the Irish market, geographical location and low population density.

The most important factor affecting electricity prices in Ireland is the continuing upward trend in international gas prices. Wholesale natural gas prices have been on an upward curve since the second half of 2009 driven by events in the Middle East, North Africa and Japan and the significant growth in demand from China and India. This feeds directly through to retail electricity prices as most of Ireland’s electricity is produced at gas-fired stations. Ireland it at the mercy of international fossil fuel prices, which dictate the retail price of electricity.

The trend of increasing gas prices in the European commodities market, and the underlying dependence on gas in the electricity mix underline the need to maintain the focus on continuing to address controllable cost factors, to increase the penetration of indigenous secure renewables in the Irish electricity system and to take action on energy efficiency in homes and businesses.

At a national level, the competitive energy market in place helps put downward pressure on prices. In addition, we must focus on all possible additional actions to mitigate costs for business and domestic customers, including rigorous regulatory scrutiny of the network costs component of retail prices.

I am committed to working with enterprise and with the energy sector to ensure that the costs of energy are as competitive as possible. In this context, promotion of energy efficiency measures is an area within our control where action can be taken to reduce energy costs.

Energy efficiency represents a significant opportunity for both businesses and households to reduce their energy costs. There are energy efficiency measures in place to assist SMEs. The Energy Efficiency Fund, which I announced in February and which will commence funding specific measures in the near future, will assist energy efficiency projects in the public and commercial sectors. Another support is the SME programme administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), under the Better Energy in Business programme. It helps 2,000 businesses improve their energy efficiency and competitiveness.

Promotion of indigenous sustainable sources of energy will help offset the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices. The Government has a renewable electricity target of 40% by 2020. Good progress has been made in meeting this target and its realisation will introduce more certainty in the energy fuel mix as well as boosting security of supply.

The latest EUROSTAT figures show that electricity prices in Ireland increased for small business customers by 1.4% and for medium business by 6% in the second half of 2012 giving a ranking of 4th most expensive in the EU in both categories. In the case of the small business category, its ranking has dropped one place. In the case of medium businesses, the ranking is the same as in the previous six-month period. The effects of the price drivers outlined earlier in this response tend to affect Irish electricity and gas prices negatively, and in the case of electricity tend to place Irish prices towards the more expensive position in the EU rankings.

Biofuel Obligation Scheme Targets

 94. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the total extra annual cost to motorists here of the biofuels blending obligation; if an assessment has been carried out on the indirect land use change impacts of biofuels here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26631/13]

 526. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the degree to which the use and production of biodiesel, bioethanol or other energy continues to develop in accordance with targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27346/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I propose to take Questions Nos. 94 and 526 together.

The 2009 Renewable Energy Directive set a binding target on all Member States to achieve at least 10% renewable energy in transport by 2020. The primary means, for most if not all Member States, of meeting this target will be by the increased use of biofuels.

The Biofuel Obligation Scheme was introduced in July 2010 and works by obligating large road transport fuel suppliers to bring a certain amount of biofuels to the market. The aim of the scheme is to ensure that Irish consumers have access to appropriately priced, sustainable and reliable sources of biofuel. The scheme is certificate based and the trading mechanism allows the scheme to provide a stable market, protecting consumers from structural rigidities in the fuel supply market, which could result in episodic periods of high fuel prices, while also ensuring delivery of targets.

This has seen increased amounts of biofuels such as biodiesel and bioethanol being deployed in Ireland. From the start of this year, I have increased the obligation on fuel suppliers to include at least 6% by volume biofuels in their overall annual disposal of road transport fuels from the previous obligation rate of 4%. The recent increase in the obligation rate along with future increases will see the biofuel market grow which will continue to create further opportunities for the indigenous biofuel industry.

Accurately assessing the effect the biofuel obligation has on prices paid by the motorist is complex as open market costs are only known by the market players themselves. However, my Department estimates that the extra cost to the motorist of using biofuels in 2012 was in the region of €28 million which when factored into the overall consumption of road transport fuels of 4.231 billion litres equates to less than 0.7 cent per litre.

The issue of indirect land use change (ILUC) is a very complex one and assessing its impact is extremely difficult. Late last year, the European Commission, following a number of analytical studies to better understand the potential indirect land-use changes and impacts associated with the production of biofuels, circulated a proposal to amend sections of the Renewable Energy Directive. This proposal is being progressed during the Irish Presidency of the Council of the EU. One of the amendments proposed is that no more than 5% of the energy in the transport sector should come from biofuels produced from certain feedstocks. The proposal also aims to promote the production and uptake of advanced biofuels with low risk of ILUC and to improve the efficiency of biofuel production processes. The European Commission proposal will continue to be discussed under the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council. In 2012, 128 million litres of biofuel was placed on the market. Of this, more than half was biodiesel produced from wastes and residues and therefore had no indirect land use impacts.

Budget Measures

 95. Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he has received indicative figures from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the fiscal adjustment his Department will be asked to make in 2014 and 2015; the size of that adjustment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26641/13]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny In the context of the forthcoming Budget, the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform has asked my Department to identify savings which will feed into the expenditure decisions by Government for the Estimates 2014 and the setting of future Ministerial ceilings. The identification of savings options should ensure that a sufficient range of proposals are made by all Departments to help the Government make well-informed choices about spending priorities and allocations. The scale of the adjustments for 2014 was set out in part 1 of the Expenditure Report 2013, which was published in December 2012. Government will be making decisions on the future ceilings as part of the forthcoming budgetary deliberations.

Departmental Expenditure

 96. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he will list the cost of each Ombudsman under his remit in the years from 2000 to 2012, within the on-going economic difficulties which challenge us all to work differently. [26642/13]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny There is no Ombudsman under the remit of my Department.


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