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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 496-510
 Header Item Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications
 Header Item National Monuments
 Header Item Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications
 Header Item Air Services Provision
 Header Item Renewable Energy Generation Targets
 Header Item Hydraulic Fracturing Licence Applications
 Header Item Public Broadcasting Charge Introduction
 Header Item National Energy Efficiency Action Plan
 Header Item Renewable Energy Generation Issues
 Header Item Wind Energy Guidelines
 Header Item Energy Resources

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. 496-510

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications

 496. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if he will furnish a reply to correspondence (details supplied) which is ongoing with his Department for more than two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27594/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The individual, referred to in correspondence from the Deputy in February last, applied for compensation under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme, administered by my Department. The qualifying criteria for this scheme are that the claimant must have a legal interest in one of the 53 raised bog special areas of conservation – ownership or turbary right; the claimant must have been the owner or entitled to exercise turbary rights on the land in question on 25 May 2010; the turbary on the site must not be exhausted; the claimant must have been cutting turf on the land in question during the relevant five year period; and no turf cutting or associated activity is ongoing on the property.

Following an inspection by officials of my Department of the plot of bog in respect of which the applicant has applied for compensation, it appears that no turf has been cut on this site for many years. I am advised that the applicant claims to have ceased cutting turf on this plot when he joined the rural environment protection scheme administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. My Department has been in contact with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in relation to those who had included bog land within their claims for payment under the rural environment protection scheme. That Department has recently advised my Department that an individual could cut turf for domestic use on the land in question without any reduction being made in rural environment protection scheme payments.

My Department has written to the applicant setting out the position as advised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and requesting him to clarify his situation.

National Monuments

 497. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the Moore Street national monument, Dublin, is in a perilous state of disrepair due to neglect; if he will specify the steps, if any, he intends to take to rectify this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27798/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan I refer the Deputy to the reply to Parliamentary Question No. 4 on 30 May 2013.

Turf Cutting Compensation Scheme Applications

 498. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan when payment will issue from the turf cutters compensation scheme to persons (details supplied) in County Clare; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27894/13]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The individuals referred to in the Deputy's Question previously sold their interest in land in a raised bog special area of conservation under the voluntary bog purchase scheme, administered by my Department. An incentive bonus of €6,000, available under the scheme, was also paid to the applicants at the time of purchase, on the condition that they were selling all plots of bog land in their possession and registered or unregistered turbary rights within a designated area. The individuals have applied for compensation under the cessation of turf cutting compensation scheme. From the application submitted to my Department, it appears that the applicants did not sell all plots in their possession within the designated site at that time. I am also advised that they have indicated on their application form that they had cut turf on a plot within the raised bog special area of conservation in 2012.

My Department is considering the position of those who have previously received compensation under the voluntary bog purchase scheme, including the incentive bonus, but have retained bog plots within raised bog special areas of conservation and will be writing to all such applicants in relation to their position in due course.

Air Services Provision

 499. Deputy Seán Kyne Information on Seán Kyne Zoom on Seán Kyne asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if he has commissioned an independent socio-economic analysis of the value of the Aran Islands air service; and if not if he will be doing so.  [28091/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Dinny McGinley): Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley In accordance with EU Regulations, my Department intends to undertake a review of the need for a Public Service Obligation air service for the Aran Islands. Preliminary steps in relation to this review have commenced within my Department.

Renewable Energy Generation Targets

 500. 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 a report on any and all plans to reach the EU targets set for increasing renewable energy here. [26651/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The 2009 Renewable Energy Directive set Ireland a binding target where at least 16% of our energy requirements should come from renewable sources by 2020. The directive also requires all Member States to achieve a minimum target of 10% renewable energy in the transport sector by 2020. In order to meet our overall 16% requirement, we aim to achieve 40% in the renewable electricity sector, 12% renewables in the heating sector and the required 10% in transport.

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. My Department's Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012 to 2020 sets out the key strategic goals for the various renewable energy sectors.

There are a number of policy measures in place which will help us achieve these goals. The Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) schemes will see increasing amounts of renewable electricity connected to the grid and, through REFIT3 support for biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technologies, will also help towards 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 including ReHeat schemes, energy efficiency schemes and policies, 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 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.

Hydraulic Fracturing Licence Applications

 501. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte his views on whether a request to facilitate the development of fracking pre-empts the outcome of the Environmental Protection Agency assessment of the matter (details supplied). [27818/13]

 502. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte in view of the fact that Loop Head, County Clare, was recently chosen tourism destination of the year by the Irish Times and is the subject of an application for an exploration licence for hydraulic fracking for the extraction of shale gas, otherwise known as unconventional hydrocarbons, the steps he will take to ensure that the natural beauty and other tourism resources of the Loop Head peninsula and other areas of County Clare and the country in general are protected into the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27819/13]

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Fergus O'Dowd): Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd I propose to take Questions Nos. 501 and 502 together.

As the Deputy may be aware, in February 2011 my Department announced that it was offering Onshore Petroleum Licensing Options to Tamboran Resources PTY Ltd over 986 km2 in the Northwest Carboniferous Basin; Lough Allen Natural Gas Company Ltd over 467 km2 in the Northwest Carboniferous Basin; and Enegi Oil Plc over 495 km2 in the Clare Basin.

These "options" were valid for a period of up to a maximum of 24 months and gave the holder the first right, exercisable at any time during the period of the Option, to an Exploration Licence over all or part of the area covered by the Option. The licensing options awarded were preliminary authorisations and were designed to allow the companies assess the shale gas potential of the acreage largely based on desktop studies of existing data.

Exploration drilling, including drilling that would involve hydraulic fracturing was not allowed under these Licensing Options. Two of the three companies, which had been granted onshore licensing options in February 2011, have submitted applications for a follow-on exploration licence. My Department will initially evaluate these applications, focussing on the technical rationale underpinning the applications, along with the corporate information provided. Where the outcome of this evaluation is positive, further consideration of the applications will then be put on hold until after the findings of EPA Research Programme have been published. 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.

The EPA is currently in the process of finalising Terms of Reference to engage the appropriate expertise to consider the potential environmental impacts of hydraulic fracking. These draft Terms of Reference have been the subject of a public consultation process and I understand that over a 1,000 submissions were received under this process and these are currently being examined. It is anticipated that following the engagement of the relevant experts, the study will take considerable time to complete, leading to a potential publication date in 2015.

I would like to confirm that any application for an exploration licence submitted to me that proposed the use of hydraulic fracturing as part of an unconventional gas exploration programme would be subject to a full environmental impact assessment. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) entails consideration of the potential impacts of a project on population, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, including the architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the inter-relationship between the above factors. Under the EIA Directive, it is not possible to permit a project unless it can be determined following assessment that it would not have an unacceptable environmental or social impact.

I would also like to confirm that it is not proposed to consider applications for exploration authorisations in respect of other onshore areas until the EPA Research Programme has concluded.

Public Broadcasting Charge Introduction

 503. Deputy Michael Colreavy Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte when details of the broadcasting charge will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26996/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to transform the TV licence into a household based Public Broadcasting Charge, my Department is involved in the ongoing analysis and policy development work that is necessary in advance of any changes that may be required. As I have previously outlined to the Deputy, a Value for Money Policy Review has been recently completed by an independently chaired Review Group which considered a range of issues in relation to the proposal, including the efficiency and effectiveness of the current licensing system. The Report of the Review Group has been submitted to me and I am giving due consideration to the Report and its recommendations in the context of the next steps to be taken in regard to the introduction of the charge. It is important to note that the proposed charge in not an additional public charge but rather one that is to replace the existing funding system based on the collection of television licence fees with one based on the imposition of device-independent charge on eligible households and businesses.

This is a complex process and the logistics involved require thorough attention. Issues such as identifying those liable for the charge, together with the most appropriate collection method, exemptions and enforcement mechanics require detailed consideration and have a bearing on the timeframe for implementation. In this context, I should like to confirm at this stage, however, my expectation that the current exemptions in relation to pensioners and those entitled to the Household Benefits Package will continue to apply.

When due consideration has been given to all of the issues involved and policy decisions have been made, legislative measures will follow as appropriate. That said, I expect to be in a position, subject to Government approval, to initiate work in the Autumn on the legislative and other work necessary to implement the household based Public Broadcasting Charge.

National Energy Efficiency Action Plan

 504. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the processes involved in conducting the national building inventory as laid out in the Energy Efficiency Action Plan published by his Department in February 2013; when the inventory will get underway; the staffing and financial commitment involved; the expected completion date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27094/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte As the Deputy will be aware I published the second National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) on 28 February last, which reaffirms Ireland's commitment to a 20% energy savings target in 2020 in pursuit of our EU obligations. This is equivalent to 31,925 Gigawatt hours (GWh) or a reduction in annual CO2  emissions of around 7.7 Mega tonnes (Mt). Recognising that Government must lead by example, we are committed to achieving a 33% reduction in public sector energy use by 2020.

  Action number 20 of the second Action Plan states that: We will work with public bodies to fulfil their exemplar role with respect to building energy efficiency . As part of delivering that goal we have committed, inter alia, to developing an inventory of public sector buildings by end 2013; requiring that Display Energy Certificates are prominently displayed in all buildings that are occupied by public bodies over certain defined thresholds; and requiring that all new buildings occupied and owned by public bodies from December 2018 be nearly zero-energy buildings. The NEEAP requirement therefore is to develop an inventory of public sector buildings and not a national inventory as the Deputy implies.

  I should also point out that under the Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) there is a requirement to publish an inventory of central government buildings over certain size thresholds and outlining their energy performance by 31 December 2013. Member States have 18 months to transpose the Directive, with a transposition deadline of 5 June 2014. However, there are a number of policy decisions and reporting requirements to be notified to the Commission in advance of the transposition deadline. A series of subgroups have been set up with relevant stakeholders in order to progress the transposition of the Directive, with a formal consultation on the transposition and implementation of the Directive expected in Q3.

  The Office of Public Works (OPW) manages the central government stock of buildings and they already have a register of the buildings they own and lease, which includes detailed energy usage information on about 250 of the larger buildings. This register includes central government buildings, some agencies and Garda stations. I understand they are considering adding buildings over 500 square metres over the next year, along with a detailed survey of their large owned office accommodation, about 120 buildings in all. More generally discussions are ongoing with OPW in relation to our NEEAP targets and related obligations under the Directive. The staffing and financial costs in relation to the inventory of OPW buildings are a matter for that office. My colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure allocated €9m over three years to the OPW in Budget 2013 to expand their successful Optimising Power at Work campaign to targeted buildings in the wider public sector.

  As part of our Action Plan for Jobs commitments, we will issue in June this year a mandate to public sector organisations with an annual energy spend of €500,000 or more, to go to the market to identify solutions for the delivery of energy reduction services. In 2010-2011 the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and my Department developed and launched a comprehensive monitoring and reporting system to record each individual public body's progress towards the 33% target. A database of over 30,000 meters has been established to enable the accurate gathering of public sector data. This database is being developed with linkages to the National Procurement service and will lead to better procurement of energy supplies for the public sector. A report on public sector energy consumption will be published later this year.

  Should all measures detailed in the NEEAP reach their full potential by 2020 it is estimated that a potential reduction in energy spend across all sectors of approximately €2.36 billion (at 2011 prices) will be realised. A very significant element of this will be Exchequer savings in the public sector.

  Question No. 505 answered with Question No. 62.

Renewable Energy Generation Issues

 506. 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 set out in detail the tax, royalty and licencing regime in place for the development of wind energy and other renewable energy sources. [26647/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The development and operation of wind farms in Ireland require planning permission from the relevant planning authority and, in the case of offshore wind farms, a foreshore lease from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. Wind farms also require an Authorisation to Construct a Generating Station and a Licence to Generate from the Commission from Energy Regulation. In addition, a grid connection from EirGrid or ESB Networks is required for a farm to become operational.

With regard to taxation, the State benefits from the tax take on any taxable profits generated by energy companies. Rates are also payable to local authorities and offshore wind developers pay royalties of 2.5% of total revenue to the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government under the terms of foreshore leases.

  Question No. 507 answered with Question No. 79.

Wind Energy Guidelines

 508. 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 set out in detail the process through which a company such as Saorgas would establish an offshore wind farm as is currently proposed for the Kish Bank, including all the licensing, leasing, environmental requirements and also detailing the different areas of responsibility covered by his Department and other Government Departments. [26649/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The development and operation of wind farms in Ireland require planning permission from the relevant planning authority and, in the case of offshore wind farms, a foreshore lease from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. They also require an Authorisation to Construct or Reconstruct a Generating Station and a Licence to Generate from the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). In addition, a grid connection from EirGrid or ESB Networks is required to become operational.

  The issue of planning and foreshore leasing are in the first instance matters between the developer of the wind farm and the planning authority subject to the Planning and Foreshore Acts, including the requirements for public consultation as specified in the legislation. In addition, best practice Wind Energy Guidelines were published in 2006. Currently, the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government – in conjunction with my Department and other stakeholders – is undertaking a targeted review of certain aspects of the 2006 guidelines. This 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. In addition, the 2012 Government Policy Statement on the Strategic Importance of Transmission and Other Energy Infrastructure, published by my Department, emphasises the importance of public and local community acceptance, adherence to national and international standards in designing and constructing energy networks and infrastructure, early consultation and engagement with local communities, and building community gain considerations into energy infrastructure planning and budgeting.

  Applications for Authorisations to Construct or Reconstruct a Generating Station and for Licences to Generate are assessed by the CER ahead of granting or refusing the application. The conditions imposed in the Authorisation and in the Licence must be met by the generator and compliance is monitored by the CER on an on-going basis. In relation to grid connections, EirGrid and ESB Networks assess applications and make connection offers in line with the appropriate development and rollout of grid infrastructure.

  I am advised that the company mentioned by the Deputy is proposing to build an offshore wind farm on the Kish and Bray Banks and is currently seeking views from the public on its proposals. For the information of the Deputy I understand that the project website (http://www.dublinarray.com/) contains links to relevant documentation including Environmental Impact Statements and related documents. I also understand that printed copies of the project documentation are currently available for viewing by the public at numerous public libraries including in Howth, Dun Laoghaire, and Dalkey, as well as in the Garda Stations in Bray and Greystones.

  Question No. 509 answered with Question No. 68.

Energy Resources

 510. Deputy Nicky McFadden Information on Nicky McFadden Zoom on Nicky McFadden asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will outline the way a greater focus on developing energy efficiency can contribute to job creation; if investment will be secured at EU level for modern energy infrastructure; if the challenge posed by high energy prices will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26702/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Investments in energy efficiency are associated with job creation in two principal ways. Firstly, jobs are supported directly through initiatives to install energy efficiency technologies and systems (including the manufacture and supply of energy efficiency technologies). Secondly, energy efficiency gains lead to additional spending power which supports additional induced jobs. Experience from recent grant schemes suggests that, based on induced labour spend, it can be estimated that almost 450 jobs are directly supported for a year for every €10 million of Exchequer expenditure, rising to 675 when indirect jobs are included. This is before competitiveness impacts due to reduced energy costs are taken into account. It is also clear that such investment bolsters the government position in relation to increased take from VAT and employment levies in relation to this activity.

In relation to the matter of securing investment at EU level for modern energy infrastructure, the European Commission estimates that the European energy system requires €1 trillion in investment by the year 2020. At the European Council of 22nd May last, it was noted that significant investments in new and intelligent energy infrastructure are needed to secure the uninterrupted supply of energy at affordable prices and that the financing for such investments should primarily come from the market. All stakeholders in the European energy system, including Governments, regulators, energy industry and energy consumers, as well as the Europe Union's institutions such as the Commission, have parts to play in ensuring the required investment is achieved.

In this context, the implementation of EU Regulation 347/2013 on Guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure, known as the Energy Infrastructure Package, should assist in securing that investment. The Regulation provides for measures to ensure the timely implementation of major European-scale energy projects, such as the streamlining and acceleration of permitting processes. It also sets out the conditions for eligibility of these projects for European Union financial assistance under the associated forthcoming EU financial instrument, the Connecting Europe Facility.

Regarding the challenge of high electricity and gas prices, responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas retail market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. Prices in retail markets are fully deregulated. Prices are set by suppliers and are commercial and operational matters for them. I have no statutory function in the setting of electricity prices. Customers can, and should, avail of competitive offerings from electricity and gas suppliers and thereby mitigate the impact of high prices.

Electricity and gas prices 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. This feeds directly through to retail electricity prices, as most of our electricity is produced at gas-fired stations. International fossil fuel prices are the major influences on Irish retail electricity and gas prices.

The competitive energy market in place helps put downward pressure on retail prices. In addition, we must focus on all possible additional actions to mitigate controllable costs for business and domestic customers, including rigorous regulatory scrutiny of the network costs component of retail prices. Action in these areas reduces Ireland's exposure to uncontrollable, and on occasion high, prices of imported fuels.

As well as its positive job creation potential, energy efficiency is an area within our control where action can be taken to reduce energy costs. There are energy efficiency schemes in place to assist business and domestic electricity and gas consumers, including the forthcoming Energy Efficiency Fund and programmes administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Additionally, the promotion of indigenous sustainable sources of energy can 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 security of supply.


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