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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 470-485
 Header Item Broadband Service Provision
 Header Item Telecommunications Services Provision
 Header Item Renewable Energy Generation
 Header Item Telecommunications Infrastructure
 Header Item Telecommunications Infrastructure
 Header Item Electricity Transmission Network
 Header Item Consultancy Contracts Expenditure
 Header Item Consultancy Contracts
 Header Item Housing Adaptation Grant Applications
 Header Item Household Charge Collection
 Header Item Tenant Purchase Scheme Administration
 Header Item Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists
 Header Item Fire Stations Upgrade

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 826 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 109 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 470-485

Broadband Service Provision

 470. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte when high speed broadband will be rolled out in Abbeyfeale town, County Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [1520/14]

 473. Deputy Paul J. Connaughton Information on Paul Connaughton Zoom on Paul Connaughton asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the broadband speed available to residents in an area (details supplied) in County Galway; if there are plans to improve broadband availability in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1584/14]

 474. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the position regarding the national broadband plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [1612/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I propose to take Questions Nos. 470, 473 and 474 together.

  Ireland’s telecommunications market has been fully liberalised since 1999 in accordance with the requirements of binding EU Directives. The market has since developed into a well-regulated market, supporting a multiplicity of commercial operators, providing services over a diverse range of technology platforms. Details of broadband services available in each County, including Counties Galway and Limerick, can be found on ComReg’s website at www.callcosts.ie.

  The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August 2012, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed broadband is available to all citizens and businesses, including those in Counties Galway and Limerick. This will be achieved by providing:

  - a policy and regulatory framework that assists in accelerating and incentivising commercial investment, and

  - a State-led investment for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest.

  Since the publication of the Plan, investments by the commercial sector are underway and in some instances have been accelerated in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. In the fixed line segment of the market, Eircom has announced plans to pass 1.4 million premises with its next generation broadband service, with speeds of up to 100Mbps, while UPC has increased its entry level and maximum speeds to 120Mbps and 200Mbps respectively. Mobile operators have also made announcements regarding network upgrades and are rolling out enhanced product offerings. I am aware of at least one service provider announcing that it will be providing advanced broadband services in Ballinasloe in County Galway and in Abbeyfeale in County Limerick before July 2016 and my Department will be happy to discuss this further with the Deputies.

  These developments have been facilitated through the implementation of measures in the National Broadband Plan, including the conclusion of ComReg's multiband spectrum auction, and the new regulatory regime for fixed line Next Generation Access and service bundles. Both of these measures are designed to incentivise the roll-out of services by operators.

  In tandem with these 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 for areas where it is not commercial for the market to invest, a full procurement process must be designed and EU State Aids approval must be obtained. My Department is engaged in a comprehensive mapping exercise of the current and anticipated investment by the commercial sector over the coming years, the results of which will inform the areas that need to be targeted in the State-led investment as envisaged in the National Broadband Plan.

  Intensive technical, financial and legal preparations, including stakeholder engagement, are ongoing. The procurement process for the approved intervention will be carried out in accordance with EU and Irish procurement rules and it is expected that it will be launched in 2014.

  Through the implementation of the National Broadband Plan, I am committed to ensuring that all parts of Ireland have access to high speed broadband, with a view to ensuring that all citizens and businesses can participate fully in, and maximise the benefits of, a digitally enabled economy and society.

Telecommunications Services Provision

 471. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the position regarding premium telephone numbers (details supplied). [1562/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) manages and administers the National Numbering Scheme which lists all numbers and codes that are available on public telecommunications networks.

  There is no obligation on companies providing services to the public to provide or display any particular type of telephone number. The access codes available to services providers to provide public access include

  - the geographic numbering scheme where charges are incurred by the caller at a local or national rate;

  - 1850 numbers which share the costs between the caller and the service provider at a fixed rate; and

  - 1890 numbers which share the costs between the caller and the service provider having regard to the duration of the call when called from a fixed line number.

  Mobile service providers may charge higher rates when customers access these numbers using mobile devices and those charges may vary between providers.

Renewable Energy Generation

 472. 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 if his Department has conducted a cost-benefit analysis of proceeding with the export of wind-generated electricity as opposed to utilising new capacity to contribute to domestic requirements.  [1581/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In January of 2013 the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Mr. Ed Davey MP and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding on energy co-operation. That Memorandum sent a strong signal of our shared interest in developing the opportunity to export green electricity from Ireland to Britain and will result in completion of consideration of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, might be developed to the mutual benefit of both countries.

A full cost benefit analysis is underway to determine if it is mutually beneficial for Ireland and the United Kingdom to enter an Inter-Governmental Agreement in early 2014 to facilitate trade in renewable energy. A key objective, from an Irish Government perspective, is to realise the potential for investment, jobs and growth.

The 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive set Ireland a legally binding 2020 renewable energy target of 16%. In order to achieve this target, Ireland is committed to meeting 40% of electricity demand from renewable sources.

To date wind energy has been the largest driver of growth in renewable electricity, contributing most towards the achievement of the 2020 target. At the end of quarter three 2013, the total amount of renewable generation connected to the grid was over 2,100 MW. It is estimated that a total of between 3,500 and 4,000 MW of onshore renewable generation capacity will be required to allow Ireland to meet its 40% renewable electricity target. Currently, approximately 3,000 MW of renewable generation has taken up connection offers under the Gate 3 grid connection programme.

  Questions Nos. 473 and 474 answered with Question No. 470.

  Question No. 475 answered with Question No. 460.

Telecommunications Infrastructure

 476. Deputy Michael McCarthy Information on Michael McCarthy Zoom on Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will investigate issues surrounding the ownership of a telecommunications mast (details supplied) in County Cork which is sub-let to a third party; if he will investigate the reason adverse repossession is now being pursued; and the legality of this and the options available to this landowner who has never received any remuneration in relation to the use of this mast.  [1704/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The ownership of the telecommunications mast in this case and any legal issues therein are primarily matters for RTE and other parties to the case. Section 98 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 provides that RTE shall be independent in the pursuance of its objects and as such, I, as Minister, have no function in this matter.

That said, I have instructed my officials to contact 2RN (formerly RTÉNL), in relation to this issue for their advice on the matter and I shall revert to the Deputy in due course.

Telecommunications Infrastructure

 477. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if his attention has been drawn to the serious delays in restoring landline telephone services to consumers in areas affected by the recent storms; if he has been in contact with ComReg on this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [1759/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The provision of electronic communications services, including the restoration of landline phone services occurs within a fully liberalised market regulated by the independent regulator, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). In the case of Eircom, the restoration of its telephone lines is subject to a universal service obligation imposed by ComReg. As ComReg is independent in the exercise of its functions I am not in a position to comment on the issues raised in the Deputy's question.

It would be more appropriate for the Deputy to raise this matter directly with ComReg.

Electricity Transmission Network

 478. Deputy Michael Moynihan Information on Michael Moynihan Zoom on Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if his attention has been drawn to any damage caused to wind turbines as a result of the stormy weather in December 2013 and January 2014; if he will provide data showing the amount of megawatts produced by wind energy in December 2013; the number of wind turbines that were shut down during the recent stormy weather in December 2013 and January 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1760/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte My Department has been in contact with EirGrid and ESB Networks regarding the Deputy's question. I am advised that there are many reasons why wind turbines might come off line that are unrelated to their network connection. In particular, in high winds such as we would have had in recent weeks, turbines can shut down automatically. Damage to wind turbines is a matter for the project developers themselves to deal with and has not been brought to my attention.

The Deputy may note that a record for wind generation of 1,769 MW was set on 17 December last. Approximately 677,000 MegaWatt hours (MWh) was produced by wind energy in December 2013.

Consultancy Contracts Expenditure

 479. 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 the amount his Department has spent on consultants since March 2011; and the specific projects they were engaged to report upon. [1786/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte My Department’s expenditure on consultancy services and value for money and policy reviews was €3.606m for the period March 2011 to date. In procuring these specialised services, my Department always seeks to ensure value for money and the keeping of expenditure to the minimum necessary. The following table outlines the projects which incurred consultancy expenditure.

  Given the technical complexity of the sectors which my Department oversees and, in some instances regulates, there is a requirement to procure specialised services to address specific issues as they arise. The Department therefore also necessarily incurs expenditure on outsourced services as part of programme expenditure, an element of which is consultancy in nature. I will forward the figure for the consultancy element to the Deputy, when it is disaggregated from the larger programme spends.

Cyber Security Exercise
Economic and Social Research Institute - Programme of Research in Communications
National Broadband Plan
Procurement Advice
Review of the National Digital Research Centre
Consultancy for interaction between 4G system and TV system
Economic Analysis of the Advertising Market in Ireland
Audit of consumer held strategic oil stocks
East West Interconnector Monitoring Panel
Financial Advice on Electricity Transmission Asset Review
Independent Commission Meath Tyrone Power Lines
Renewable Energy Export Project - Planning Consultancy
Review of the security of Ireland's access to commercial oil supplies
Study of the strategic case for oil refining on the island of Ireland
Assessment of Economic Contribution of Mineral Exploration and Mining in Ireland
Core Rock Sample Library Holdings Review
Geological Survey of Ireland – Groundwater studies
Assessment of Corrib Gas Pipeline
Corrib pipeline Consent Conditions Monitoring Committee
Monitoring of Corrib Gas Consent Conditions
Corrib Verification Process
Statutory Assessment of an Environmental Statement accompanying an application to conduct 2D/3D Offshore Seismic Surveys
Statutory Assessment of an Environmental Statement accompanying an application to conduct 2D/3D Offshore Seismic Surveys by ENI Ireland and Exxon Mobil
Dunquin Well Assessment
Geophysicist Consultancy
Legal Advice on the Corrib Gas Pipeline
Legal Advice in Relation to Seven Heads
Petroleum Engineering Support
Contribution to administrative burden reduction project
External Members of Audit Committee
Financial Advisor to DCENR
Human Resources Skills Survey
Internal Audit Services Consultancy
Pensions Advisor Services
Posts and telegraphs Pension Consultancy - file cataloguing
Head of Internal Audit Unit

Consultancy Contracts

 480. 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 if his Department engaged private consultants to report on the proposed export of wind generated electricity to Britain; and if so the names of the consultants; and the amount they were paid.  [1788/14]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte A full cost benefit analysis is under way to determine if it is mutually beneficial for Ireland and the United Kingdom to enter an Inter-Governmental Agreement in 2014 to facilitate trade in renewable energy. A key objective, from an Irish Government perspective, is to realise the potential for investment, jobs and growth. The cost benefit analysis is being carried out by my Department with the help of NewERA and the ESRI. AECOM have been appointed as consultants to assist in this process. Their fee is €43,080 excluding VAT.

In addition Doyle Kent Planning Partnership have been appointed as planning consultants to assist with the Renewable Energy Export Policy and Development Framework, their fee is €78,000 excluding VAT.

Housing Adaptation Grant Applications

 481. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will support the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 5 in relation to a grant for a stair lift  [1066/14]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan Under the terms of the suite of Housing Adaptation Grants for Older People and People with a Disability, grants are available to assist households to have necessary repairs or improvement works carried out in order to facilitate the continued independent occupancy of their homes. Three separate schemes are available: the Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability, the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme and the Housing Aid for Older People Scheme.

  The detailed administration of these schemes, including the assessment, approval and payment of grants to applicants under the various grant measures, is the responsibility of the relevant local authority, in this case Dublin City Council.

  I intend to announce details of the 2014 capital allocations to local authorities very shortly.   

Household Charge Collection

 482. Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number of households who failed to pay the €100 household charge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1550/14]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Local Government (Household Charge) Act 2011 provided the legislative basis for the Household Charge. Under the Act, an owner of a residential property on the liability date is liable to pay the Household Charge, unless otherwise exempted or entitled to claim a waiver. The Charge has operated on a self-assessment basis with an owner of a residential property determining liability and paying the Charge.

Local authorities, assisted by the Local Government Management Agency on a shared services/agency basis, administered the Household Charge system, including enforcement activity against non-compliant owners. Household Charge operational matters are a matter for the relevant local authority or for the Agency.

The Local Property Tax legislation provides that Household Charge liabilities which were unpaid on 1 July 2013 be treated as a €200 Local Property Tax liability in addition to this year’s Local Property Tax liability. As such, outstanding Household Charge liabilities on 1 July 2013 became Local Property Tax liabilities.

I understand from data provided by the Agency that as of 14 January 2014 the total number of registrations for the Household Charge is 1,305,004. Payments have been registered in respect of 1,280,412 liable properties and waivers have been registered in respect of a further 24,592 liable properties. The number of estimated liable properties for the Household Charge is 1,620,814, and therefore the compliance rate is in excess of 80.5%.

Tenant Purchase Scheme Administration

 483. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his plans for a new tenant purchase scheme to cater for persons who did not avail in time of the recently concluded scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1948/14]

 519. Deputy Michael McGrath Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan when a new tenant purchase scheme will become operational; the way the discount on the market value of the property will be calculated; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1490/14]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I propose to take Questions Nos. 483 and 519 together.

The Government, on 17 December 2013, approved priority drafting of a Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill that will, among other things, underpin a new tenant purchase scheme for existing local authority houses along incremental purchase lines. I expect that the Bill will be enacted this year, following which I will prescribe in regulations the commencement date and the detailed terms of the scheme, including the manner in which the purchase price of the property and the discount on the purchase price will be calculated.

Local Authority Housing Waiting Lists

 484. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will provide the most up-to-date figures relating to the number of persons on local housing authority waiting lists, broken down by local authority, age profile, gender and family status of applicants for each local authority; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [2073/14]

 496. Deputy Simon Harris Information on Simon Harris Zoom on Simon Harris asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the number of people and families currently on local authority housing lists by local authority; the way in which these numbers compare with numbers from five years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1046/14]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Jan O'Sullivan): Information on Jan O'Sullivan Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan I propose to take Questions Nos. 484 and 496 together.

  The results of the statutory Summary of Social Housing Assessments carried out in 2013 were published last month which showed that there were 89,872 households on local authority waiting lists as at 7 May, 2013 . The summary involved the submission by all authorities of details on the number of households on their waiting lists at this date. This is the most up-to-date figure available on waiting list numbers, which is subject to on-going fluctuation due to households being allocated housing and new households applying for housing support since May, 2013.

  The assessment carried out as at 31 March 2008 recorded 56,249 households on local authority waiting lists while on 31 March 2011 98,318 households were recorded . However, these results cannot be directly compared to the 2013 results given that this latest summary employed different methodologies and was the first to be carried out under the 2011 Social Housing Assessment Regulations.

  My Department will engage with the Housing Agency and local authorities in terms of carrying out further detailed analyses of the findings so as to help address the housing need identified in the most recent assessment.

  The results of the 2013 summary, including breakdowns by each local authority across a range of categories , such as the age profile and composition of households , are available on my Department’s website at www.environ.ie and on the Housing Agency’s website at.

Fire Stations Upgrade

 485. Deputy Ann Phelan Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the reason Graignamanagh fire station is the only station that has not received an upgrade, in view of the fact that it was approved in principle as far back as to 2008; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [55219/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The provision of a fire service in its functional area, including the establishment and maintenance of a fire brigade, the assessment of fire cover needs and the provision of fire station premises, is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981. My Department supports the fire authorities through setting general policy, providing a central training programme, issuing guidance on operational and other related matters and providing capital funding for priority infrastructural projects.

  Under the 2008 fire service capital programme, a proposal by Kilkenny County Council to build a new two bay fire station in Grauigenamanagh was approved in principle.  The Council was subsequently approved to prepare detailed design and tender documents in relation to the project. These have been received in my Department for consideration.

  Continued investment in the fire appliance fleet has been identified as one of the key national priorities for the fire services capital programme . In that context and in order to deliver cost efficiencies, a programme involving fire authorities aggregating demand and jointly procuring 17 fire appliances is now nearing completion, under which Kilkenny fire and rescue service has received an allocation for a new appliance which is under construction.

  Given the constraints on public finances, further support from my Department’s fire services capital programme to replace Grauigenamanagh fire station will have regard to national priorities, the totality of requests from fire authorities countrywide, Kilkenny County Council’s priorities, the extent of previous investment in Kilkenny fire service, the value for money offered by proposals and the status of existing facilities having regard to risk categorisation.


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