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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 942-961
 Header Item Capital Expenditure
 Header Item Appointments to State Boards
 Header Item Gas and Electricity Disconnections
 Header Item Information and Communications Technology Issues
 Header Item Fisheries Protection
 Header Item Exploration Licences Approvals
 Header Item Cloud Computing Issues
 Header Item Broadband Services Provision
 Header Item Sale of State Assets
 Header Item Digital Television Service Provision
 Header Item Hydraulic Fracturing Green Paper
 Header Item Gas and Electricity Disconnections
 Header Item Departmental Bodies
 Header Item Departmental Bodies Expenditure
 Header Item Job Creation
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 774 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 162 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 942-961

Capital Expenditure

 942. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan if he will provide a list of the payments made by the State to private land owners in 2010 and 2011 to acquire land for use in the public capital programme. [40005/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan As the Deputy will be aware, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht was established on 2 June 2011, following substantial Departmental reconfigurations. During the period 2 June 2011 to 31 December 2011, voted capital expenditure in respect of my Department's Voluntary Bog Purchase Scheme amounted to €44,253.65.

  The individual amounts spent under the scheme were:

8,867.43 Balance and legal fees for purchase of an area of freehold title on Barroughter Bog SAC, Co Galway
10,415.15 Balance and legal fees for purchase of an area of freehold title on Mount Hevey Bog SAC, Co Meath
14,005.15 Balance and legal fees for purchase of an area of freehold title on Ballynafagh Bog SAC, Co Kildare
317.43 Contribution to legal fees for purchase of  an area of freehold title on Barroughter Bog SAC, Co Galway
317.43 Contribution to legal fees for purchase of an area of freehold title on Girley Bog NHA, Co Meath
476.15 Contribution to legal fees for purchase of an area of freehold title on Barroughter Bog SAC, Co Galway
634.87 Contribution to legal fees for purchase of an area of freehold title on Corliskea/Trien/Cloonfelliv Bog SAC, Co Galway
1,572.50 Deposit for purchase of an area of freehold title on Carn Park Bog SAC, Co Westmeath
2,067.20 Deposit for purchase of an area of freehold title on Sharavogue Bog SAC, Co. Offaly
2,142.50 Deposit for purchase of an area of freehold title on Cloonmoylan Bog SAC, Co Galway
3,437.84 Deposit for purchase of  an area of freehold title on Carn Park Bog, Co Westmeath


  For the sake of completeness, I should add that Waterways Ireland, a statutory North/South Implementation Body jointly sponsored by my Department with the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) in Northern Ireland, made a payment of €6,000 in respect of land purchase in the context of the Mosstown Bridge Replacement Scheme on the Royal Canal.

  Question No. 943 answered with Question No. 916.

Appointments to State Boards

 944. Deputy Gerald Nash Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan the number of appointments that have been made to positions available on the boards of semi-State companies and statutory agencies following public advertisement; if he will provide details of the names of persons who have been appointed under this initiative and the agencies on which they now sit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40029/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan): Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan The information sought by the Deputy in relation to the names of those appointed to the boards of the bodies funded from my Department's Vote Group since my appointment as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, whose positions were publicly advertised, are set out in the table.

State Body/Agency Board members appointed since March 2011 following public advertisement
Heritage Council Ciara Breathnach

Kieran O’Conor

Ted Creedon

Catherine Heaney

Fidelma Mullane

Michael Parsons
Arts Council Eimear O'Connor

Ciaran Walsh

Mark O'Regan

John Fanning
National Concert Hall Kieran Tobin (Chair)

Dearbhla Collins

John McGrane

Laurie Cearr

Gina Menzies

Bruce Arnold

Margaret Ryan

Ray Bates

Alma Hynes

Artemis Kent

Deborah Kelleher

Peter McEvoy

Pat Heneghan

Rachel Holstead

Patricia Slavin
Chester Beatty Library Patricia Donlon

Declan Downey

Gas and Electricity Disconnections

 945. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the measures he has implemented to improve competitiveness in relation to energy costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37404/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I have no statutory function in the setting of energy prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated parts of the market. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is an independent statutory body. Prices in the retail electricity market are now fully deregulated and since 1 October 2011 gas residential consumers are the only segment of the electricity and gas markets where prices are regulated. Prices in the electricity market and the unregulated segments of the gas market are wholly a commercial and operational matter for the suppliers. Ireland’s electricity and gas markets, both wholesale and retail, are characterised by vigorous competition regulated by the CER.

The Government recognises that the cost of energy in Ireland is a serious competitiveness issue facing business energy consumers during this difficult period for the economy. The provision of secure, sustainable and competitive energy supplies is critical for the economy and is a challenge we are determined to meet. At a national level, competitive markets in electricity and gas help put downward pressure on prices noting that global fossil fuel prices are a key determinant of Ireland’s gas and electricity costs. Energy suppliers compete with each other for market share by offering a variety of prices and products to consumers who may then choose the most advantageous offering.

Global gas and oil prices have risen sharply since the start of 2011 driven by events in the Middle East, North Africa and Japan and demand from the emerging economies of China and India. There are indications that international gas prices will rise further over the coming months. The deterioration in the Euro/Sterling exchange rate is also impacting on gas prices in the Eurozone. These trends are leading to higher domestic electricity and gas prices, as reflected by recent increases in domestic electricity prices announced by the suppliers competing in that market and by CER’s decision to allow an increase in BGE’s regulated gas tariff for the residential sector.

Given Ireland’s heavy reliance on imported gas and relatively small market size the economy is therefore vulnerable to fossil fuel price fluctuations and price rises. Competitor countries are in many instances facing the same prospect and the objective in the context of higher global prices must be that we retain or improve our competitive position. While Ireland is a price taker for imported fossil fuels, focus must also be maintained on actions to mitigate costs where possible for business and domestic customers. This is essential for competitiveness, employment and for economic recovery.

I am committed to working with enterprise and with the energy sector to ensure that the costs of energy are as competitive as possible, including sustained focus on energy efficiency measures. The upward trend in energy prices reinforces the Government’s commitment to delivering national energy efficiency and renewable energy objectives which are aimed at moving the economy away from reliance on imported, carbon intensive fossil fuels. In particular, it is vital that SMEs as well as Large Energy Users engage with energy efficiency measures which deliver cost savings and support competitiveness and jobs. I would urge all businesses to engage with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) to access the Authority’s energy efficiency support programmes.

The Better Energy programme provides Exchequer supported incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades, as well as bringing on board energy suppliers as partners to directly offer upgrade services to consumers. Delivery on these commitments will progressively reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels, while supporting energy competitiveness and security as well as employment and economic activity.

Information and Communications Technology Issues

 946. 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 if his attention has been drawn to any attempt by the State to apply to the Internet Corporation for assigned names and numbers for recognition of a new generic top-level domain or multiple new gTLDs such as .IRELAND, .EIRE, .DUBLIN and so on, which may be used by Government Departments and State Agencies as part of the State's official internet presence; if not, if there are any plans in the future for such an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38242/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has introduced a programme for new generic Top-Level Domains (such as .com, .org, .net, etc.). The stated aim of the programme is to increase competition and choice by introducing new gTLDs into the Internet addressing system. ICANN states that any established public or private organisation that meets eligibility requirements anywhere in the world can apply to create and operate a new gTLD Registry. My Department is not aware of any such applications by the State or of any plans to do so and has no function in this regard.

Fisheries Protection

 947. 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 plans to reintroduce a rod licence for fishing on Lough Ree; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38708/12]

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 can inform the Deputy that there has been no discussion in relation to a rod licence for fishing on Lough Ree nor are there any plans for same at present.

Exploration Licences Approvals

 948. 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 the steps being taken to increase non-revenue income for the State, specifically with regards to payments related to natural resources. [39207/12]

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 Other than income from taxation and royalty payments, the principal income derived from petroleum exploration and production activities results from licence acreage rental fees, together with application fees. The aim of these fees is to encourage effective and timely exploration and to also help meet costs incurred by the Department in discharging its regulatory functions.

Receipts for non-petroleum minerals exploration licences issued by the Minister are determined under Statutory Instrument. Financial terms for State Mining Leases and Licences are negotiated on a case-by case basis having regard to the economics of the deposit assessed by the projected return on investment; royalty rates applying internationally; the need to continue to attract international exploration funding; the expectations of the State as mineral owners and the developer achieving a fair return depending on economic circumstances and recognising the need to allow for the many exploration failures. Such terms are dependent on and will only be obtained on discovery and development of commercial mineral deposits.

Cloud Computing Issues

 949. 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 his views on recent figures from the European Commission that less than a quarter of computer users across the EU use cloud computing; if he has had any input into the forthcoming new policy, Cloud Computing Strategy for the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39229/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte In a recent report, Quantitative Estimates of the Demand for Cloud Computing in Europe and the Likely Barriers to Take-up, prepared for the European Commission, it is stated that “More than half of EU businesses and consumers already use some kind of cloud services …. the majority of EU enterprises already use at least one or more cloud services (64% in the survey sample interviewed for the study) …. (and in their) sample of Internet users, practically all used at least one “free” cloud service”.

  It is recognised that consumers generally do not have a clear perception that they are using cloud computing, but they actually do (particularly email services). The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation established a Cloud Computing Implementation Group in 2011 and is currently preparing a report on the actions needed to exploit Cloud Computing opportunities in Ireland. My Department, together with The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, has been contributing to the preparation of an Integrated European Cloud Computing Strategy.   

Broadband Services Provision

 950. Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the position regarding the 3 national broadband service in an area (details supplied) and the surrounding area; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the EU provided the last Government with €40 million towards a total allocation of €223 million to roll out a broadband service across Ireland and to date there is no worthwhile service; if this money has been spent properly, if he will ensure that Eircom will upgrade the local phone exchange and have proper phone line broadband available in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36983/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Eircom is a private company and the enabling and upgrading of exchanges is an operational matter for that company and not one in which I have the statutory authority to intervene. The State only intervenes in market failure situations where licensed service providers have been unable to offer services on a commercial basis. The National Broadband Scheme (NBS) represents such an intervention. Following the conclusion of a technology neutral procurement process, my Department entered into a contract with Hutchison 3G Ireland Ltd (trading as “3”) in late December 2008 for the delivery of the NBS. The total cost to the Exchequer is some €80m of which an estimated €36m will be recouped from the EU.

  Broadband services are available from “3”, the NBS service provider, in all of the 1,028 Electoral Divisions (ED) designated to be covered under the Scheme since October 2010. As regards the area of Carrigallen in Co Leitrim referred to by the Deputy, the EDs of Carrigallen East and Carrigallen West are covered under the Scheme. In keeping with State Aid clearance for the Scheme, the broadband service contracted under the NBS is a basic, affordable product. The NBS mobile wireless service currently offers minimum speeds of 1.6Mbps download and 1.2Mbps upload, subject to a maximum contention ratio. These speeds will be upgraded in October 2012 to 2.3mbps and 1.4mbps respectively at no cost to NBS customers.

  The NBS satellite service, deployed in a limited number of cases for technical reasons associated with the location of the premises, has recently been enhanced following a competitive tendering process undertaken by 3. The new satellite service, provided by Digiweb, offers speeds of 3.6Mbps download and 384kbps upload, subject to a maximum contention ratio.

  As regards service quality, the Department has well-established monitoring arrangements in place to ensure that the NBS delivers the minimum specified service or better to all users. The NBS contract guarantees service levels and imposes a service credit regime on “3”, with significant financial consequences in the event that minimum specification service levels are not met. Where NBS customers do not receive the minimum guaranteed service as set out in the terms and conditions of their contract, they are entitled to service rebates.

  Any NBS customer who is experiencing problems with the NBS service can contact 3’s customer care centre 24 hours a day 7 days a week by phone at 1913 (free of charge) or by email to nbssupport@three.ie. Additionally, a team of field engineers has been established to address NBS specific service issues at customers’ premises. My Department has a role when customers have fully utilised the established complaints process and still feel that their complaint has not been resolved. It operates a dedicated NBS mailbox, which NBS customers can contact by email at nationalbroadbandscheme@dcenr.gov.ie   with any comments or complaints they may have about their NBS service.

  With basic broadband services available throughout Ireland, the challenge now is to accelerate the roll out of high speed services. This Government’s recently published National Broadband Plan entitled “Delivering a Connected Society – A National Broadband Plan for Ireland” aims to facilitate the provision of high speed broadband to every home and business in the State over the lifetime of the Government.

  The plan has the following headline targets:

70Mbps - 100Mbps to more than half of the population by 2015;

At least 40Mbps, and in many cases much faster speeds, to at least a further 20% of the population and potentially as much as 35% around smaller towns and villages; and

A minimum of 30Mbps for every remaining home and business in the country – no matter how rural or remote.

  As a first step in this plan, my Department will engage with the commercial service providers to identify those parts of the country which the commercial market will serve. This task will be essential to avoid displacing investments already made and being planned by the commercial service providers. The exercise is also required in order to meet EU Commission State Aid requirements.

  Thereafter a public procurement will be announced to provide minimum levels of high speed broadband services across the country.

Sale of State Assets

 951. 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 when he expects to part-sell the ESB and Bord Gáis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36984/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Government has decided to dispose of Bord Gáis Éireann’s Energy business and some of ESB’s non-strategic power generation capacity as part of the State Assets disposal programme. The Government has also reiterated its commitment to retaining the electricity and gas networks as well as the two gas interconnectors in State ownership as national strategic infrastructure, critical for the delivery of secure, sustainable and competitive energy supplies.

ESB will remain a vertically integrated utility, positioned more competitively in the all island energy market and in due course in the integrated European Market. The sale of Bord Gáis Energy will support this dynamic, successful company and its employees to continue to invest and grow while enhancing competition in the energy market for the benefit of the economy and consumers. Significant progress has been made in implementing the asset disposal programme, in line with our commitments under the EU/ECB/IMF Funding Programme.

Tender processes for the appointment of financial advisors to oversee the sale of Bord Gáis Energy are underway. NewERA is the agency with responsibility for oversight of the sale transaction on behalf of the Government. My Department is also progressing priority actions to address necessary legislative, regulatory, and financial issues with a view to commencing the disposal process in 2013.

Digital Television Service Provision

 952. 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 the number of households yet to switch over to digital television; the proportion of relevant households yet to switch; his views on whether this number will fall significantly; if he has any contingency plan in place if significant numbers do not switch; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36985/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte As part of the digital switchover information campaign, Millward Brown Lansdowne carry out research on the digital television switchover. The most recent tracking study was carried out in August 2012. The findings show that 93% of Irish people are now aware of the Digital TV Switchover. In rural areas 96% of adults are now aware of the digital television switchover. Furthermore, 82% of the population are now aware that the analogue television network will be officially switched off in October 2012, compared to 66% in June.

  The research also shows that 12% of homes in the country, approximately 200,000, are still using the analogue TV network for their primary TV.   These households must make the switch to digital TV or they will lose their TV reception on 24 October. Households who only use pay TV platforms such as SKY and UPC will not be affected by analogue switch off. My Department’s national digital switchover public information campaign rolled out in October 2011 and provides information on what is happening, the timelines and the different choices available to upgrade to digital. This comprehensive campaign includes advertising on TV, local and national radio; an analogue marker (red x 24 October) to act as a constant reminder to everyone using the analogue service to switch to digital; research; a dedicated website – www.goingdigital.ie    and national telephone helpline; and an information booklet which was delivered to every household in the Country.

  To further assist people make the switch, on Monday 10th September I launched National Digital Switchover Week which will run from 17th – 23rd   September. Organised by my Department in partnership with The Wheel and Irish Rural Link, the week will see 26 local Digital Outreach Champions across the country organise events in their communities to encourage those who have not yet switched to digital TV to do so.

  I am confident that, by the switch off date, as a result of the national information campaign, the delivery nationwide of the digital switchover information booklet, the Outreach Programme and National Digital Switchover Week, everyone will be fully aware that the analogue network is closing down on 24th October 2012 and of their switchover options. As there are only 36 days to go before the 24 October deadline, I would urge all Deputies to engage with the Outreach Programme and Digital Switchover Week at a local level in order to urge constituents to move to digital now and not to wait until the last minute.

Hydraulic Fracturing Green Paper

 953. 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 his plans to publish a Green or White Paper on fracking; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36987/12]

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 In October of last year, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources requested the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct research and advise on the environmental implications of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting natural gas from underground reserves. On 11 May 2012, the EPA published its preliminary research into the environmental aspects of shale gas extraction in the form of a small desk based study, which was carried out by the University of Aberdeen.

The study provides an introduction to the environmental aspects of fracking including a review of regulatory approaches used in other countries and areas for further investigation and research such as geological principles of relevance in fracking and shale gas extraction, potential environmental impacts and establishing best environmental practice. While the study is a preliminary study it will inform the development of the terms of reference for a much more detailed research study to be commissioned by the EPA later this year. The terms of reference for this more extensive research are currently being drawn up by a steering group including representatives from the EPA and my Department.

The outcome of the further research to be commissioned by the EPA will assist in a robust scientific based assessment of any future application proposing the use of this technology. I have no plans to publish either a green or white paper on a report that has yet to be commissioned by the EPA. I can confirm, however, that until there has been time to consider the second stage of the EPA research, the use of hydraulic fracturing in exploration drilling will not be authorised.

Gas and Electricity Disconnections

 954. 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 difficulties faced by many families in heating their homes in view of increasing energy prices; the average energy prices for each of gas and electricity for the years 2008-2011; the same figures now; the price increases sanctioned by the regulator in each of those years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [36988/12]

 989. 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 his views on the impact of recently approved gas and electricity prices on families and businesses; if he was briefed by CER on the decision to approve further gas and electricity price rises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38592/12]

 990. 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 if he will outline each approved rise in gas and electricity prices every year since 2009; if he will state the cumulative rise in gas and electricity since 2010; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38593/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I propose to take Questions Nos. 954, 989 and 990 together.

  I have no statutory function in the setting of electricity and gas prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated parts of these markets. Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity and gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. Since 4 April 2011 prices in the electricity retail market have been fully deregulated. Price setting by electricity suppliers is a commercial and operational matter for the companies concerned. Business and domestic customers can now avail of the competitive offerings from a number of electricity supply companies.

  With regard to gas, up until 1 October 2011 the CER has regulated the Bord Gáis Energy tariffs for its residential and smaller business customers but price regulation for the latter group ended at that point. The CER still regulates the Bord Gáis Energy tariffs for its residential customers. I have no function in the matter. The timing for complete deregulation of the residential segment of the gas market, as has taken place in the electricity market, is an issue under active review by the CER. Full deregulation leading to further competition will keep downward pressure on prices for consumers. Ireland is however a price taker for gas.

  In regard to the most recent decision by the CER to apply an increase of 8.5% with effect from 1 October next, I understand that a marginal increase in wholesale international (sterling denominated) gas prices did not impact on the increase as much as the deterioration in the Euro/Sterling exchange rate and the increase in gas network tariffs. The upward pressure on gas network tariffs is primarily due to a reduction in gas demand and higher financing costs for Bord Gáis Networks, both of which are related to the financial situation in Ireland and abroad. Currency exchange trends will continue to have a significant impact, either positive or negative, on gas prices for Ireland. In making its decision, the CER takes account of the need to protect consumers from unnecessary price increases by ensuring that only reasonable legitimate costs are recovered by BGE.

  The information requested in relation to CER gas tariff decisions and on the cumulative rise since 2010, is set out in the table.

  CER Decisions on BGE tariffs for residential and smaller industrial and commercial customers

Period (includes CER Decisions following Interim Reviews) Average % Increase/Decrease
1 October 2012 – 30 September 2013 +8.5%
1 October 2011 – 30 September 2012 +21.7%
1 February 2011 – 30 September 2011 0%
1 October 2010 – 31 January 2011 0%
1 February 2010 – 30 September 2010 -8%
1 Oct 2009 -31 January 2010 -9.8%
1 May 2009 – 30 September 2009 -12%
1 Jan 2009 – 30 April 2009 0%
1 Sept 2008 – 31 December 2008 +20%
1 Oct 2007 – 30 August 2008 -10.6%
Cumulative increase from January 2010 to date +32%


  The information requested in regard to CER electricity tariff decisions and on the cumulative rise since 2010, is set out in the table. In view of deregulation, the information is available only up to the time of deregulation (i.e. April 2011).

  CER Decisions on regulated Electricity prices – domestic tariffs up to April 2011

Period (Includes CER Decisions following Interim Reviews) Average % Increase/Decrease
1 October 2010 – 4 April  2011 +4.9%
1 October 2009 – 30 September 2010 0%
1 May 2009 – 30 September 2009 -10%
1 Jan 2009 – 30 April 2009 - 0.6%
1 Aug 2008 – 31 December 2008 +17.5%
1 Nov 2007 – 31 July 2008 -5.4%
Cumulative Increase from January 2010 to April 2011 +4.9%
  

  Global gas and oil prices have risen sharply since the start of 2011 driven by events in the Middle East, North Africa and Japan and demand from the emerging economies of China and India. There are clear indications that international oil and gas prices will rise further over the coming months.

  The Government is most concerned at the impact of higher gas and electricity prices on residential and commercial consumers. As indicated above, it is regrettably the case that in the main Ireland is at the mercy of international fossil fuel prices which dictate the retail price of gas and electricity. My focus is on those elements of energy costs over which policy can exercise some control.

  Accordingly, it is estimated that some €175.8 million will have been spent on the Better Energy programme on energy efficiency measures in 2011 and 2012. This includes funding for some 195,387 measures in households under the Better Energy: Homes scheme. Under this programme, €24.5 million was provided under the Better Energy: Warmer Homes Scheme which provides grant assistance for low income families. In addition the Government is actively supporting the rollout of renewable resources of electricity which has grown from an estimated 9.3% of electricity consumed in 2007 to an estimated 17.6% in 2011.

  There are a number of ways for consumers to take actions on electricity and gas prices, and measures in place to assist them. They can shop around to get the best possible price and service deal from suppliers bearing in mind that other suppliers can and do offer competitive prices and products. Consumers can also take steps to improve the efficiency of their electricity and gas usage which delivers demonstrable savings.

  The CER is also working with energy suppliers to ensure that vulnerable customers are protected through, inter alia, the installation of Pay As You Go meters. The long term policy responses for Ireland to combat vulnerability to high and volatile gas prices continue to be increasing the use of renewables, better energy efficiencies and reducing the reliance on gas in the fuel mix. Implementation of the measures set out in the Government’s Energy Affordability Strategy is also key to protecting the interests of vulnerable customers.

  Since 2008, comparable EU data on retail electricity and gas prices is published every six months by Eurostat. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) publishes analyses of the Eurostat data twice a year. This analysis is conducted by the Energy Policy Statistical Support Unit (EPSSU), the specialist statistical unit of SEAI. For households, electricity and gas prices include all charges payable but do not include initial connection charges. Prices represent weighted average prices, using the market share of the electricity and gas suppliers surveyed as weighting factors. Market shares are based on the quantity of electricity and gas invoiced by the electricity and gas suppliers to household end-users.

  The latest analysis of data published by Eurostat for electricity and gas prices is published by the SEAI and covers the period July to December 2011. For most domestic electricity customers prices increased by between 10% and 17% in this period. Other European countries also sustained significant prices increases during this period. While residential gas customers also experienced a significant price rise, in the order of 21% for the second half of 2011, residential gas prices remain lower than the European average. Statistics for previous years for the various consumption categories are publically available on the SEAI website:

http://www.seai.ie/Publications/Statistics_Publications/EPSSU_Publications.

Departmental Bodies

 955. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the number of agencies, authorities, boards, committees, working groups, tribunals, council services, task forces, agencies or other quangos set up by his Department since February 2011; the number abolished since then; the extra cost of quangos which were established; the savings from the abolition of quangos; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37241/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I wish to advise the Deputy that twelve task forces, advisory groups, steering groups and project groups and committees have been established by my Department since February 2011.

I convened the Next Generation Broadband Task Force in summer 2011 to provide a forum for detailed discussions with certain industry stakeholders on their views regarding the optimal policy required to facilitate investment in next generation broadband infrastructure in Ireland. Five working groups were established under the Taskforce to consider issues such as appropriate targets for broadband speed; demand stimulation; the removal of barriers which are currently perceived as hampering investment, spectrum policy and the role of State entities in providing access to infrastructure and services. The report of the Task Force was published in May 2012 and includes the reports of the five working groups. The findings of the report, along with the outcome of a public consultation were considered in the development of a National Broadband Plan for Ireland which I Published in August this year. The NGBT operated on a voluntary basis. The cost associated with hosting the meetings and the publication of the report was €3,675.14.

I established the Oil Emergency Planning Task Force (OEPTF) in September 2011, with membership drawn from my Department, the Irish Petroleum Industry Association (IPIA) and the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA). The purpose of the OEPTF is to develop and refine existing national oil supply disruption contingency plans. This has not resulted in additional costs.

An Advisory Group was set up in February 2011 to address matters relating to the digital switchover which will take place in October 2012. No additional costs have been incurred from establishment of this group.

The Corrib Consent Conditions Committee was set up to monitor the implementation of the conditions attaching to Ministerial consent to the construction of the Corrib pipeline. All costs are recoupable from the developer.

A steering group was set up in September 2012 to carry out a Value for Money Policy Review on the proposed Public Service Broadcasting Charge. Additional costs include the independent chairman’s fee of €1,200 which is an all inclusive to cover all meetings and any other work that may arise from the VFM Review.

Two Project Groups were set up in March 2012 to examine the potential merger of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and ComReg and the potential merger of Digital Hub Development Agency /Enterprise Ireland – IDA respectively. No additional costs were involved and both have now completed this work.

While no bodies have been abolished or merged by my Department in 2011 or to date in 2012, my Department has reviewed the rationalisation proposals for Agencies under its aegis as set out in the Public Service Reform Plan and the issue is due for consideration by Government. I would also mention that in 2010 my Department oversaw the creation of Inland Fisheries Ireland, a single body which replaced the functions of 8 Fisheries Boards, 8 Fisheries cooperatives and the National Salmon Commission.

Departmental Bodies Expenditure

 956. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the estimated cost of each quango in his Department; the amount expected to be saved from the mergers of quangos in his Department; the basis for this figure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37257/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I can inform the Deputy that the number of Commercial State bodies and Non-Commercial State bodies, including Regulators, under the aegis of my Department, is 18. These commercial companies and other bodies are generally not quangos if the Deputy has a particular quango in mind and if it falls under the aegis of this Department, I will endeavour to answer any questions he raises.  

  While no bodies have been abolished or merged by my Department in 2011 or to date in 2012, my Department has reviewed the rationalisation proposals for Agencies under its aegis as set out in the Public Service Reform Plan and the issue is due for consideration by Government. I would also mention that in 2010 my Department oversaw the creation of Inland Fisheries Ireland in 2010, a single body which replaced the functions of 8 Fisheries Boards, 8 Fisheries cooperatives and the National Salmon Commission. The current expenditure allocation for IFI in 2012 is €24.7m compared to €25.2m for the various Fisheries Boards in 2010, a reduction of €0.5m.

  Table

Name of Body Status Exchequer Funding for 2012

€000s
An Post



Bord Gáis Éireann



Bord na Móna



EirGrid



Electricity Supply Board (ESB)



Raidió Teilifís Éireann



TG4

Commercial State Bodies *12,457



-



-



-

-





**185,724



32,750

Inland Fisheries Ireland



Digital Hub Development Agency



Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission (Loughs Agency)



National Oil Reserves Agency



Irish National Petroleum Corporation



Mining Board



Ordinance Survey Ireland



Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland
Non-Commercial State Bodies 28,462



3,736





2,595







-





-



-





8,466



8,265
Broadcasting Authority of Ireland



Commission for Energy Regulation



Commission for Communications Regulation
Regulators -





-





-
  * Vote neutral, payment for collection of the television licence fee.

  **Grant to Raidió Telefís Éireann from Broadcasting Licence Fee Receipts (Grant-in-Aid) – (Vote neutral).

Job Creation

 957. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the number of new jobs created by his Department as a result of the jobs initiative; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37273/12]

 958. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the number of new jobs created by his Department as a result of the action plan on jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37289/12]

 959. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the number of new jobs created by his Department as a result of budget 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37305/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I propose to take Questions Nos. 957 to 959, inclusive, together.

The Action Plan on Jobs announced in February of this year is primarily the responsibility of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. Under the Action Plan my Department is responsible for a range of measures and policies which will support the objective of promoting sustainable economic growth and fostering employment. Measures attributable to my Department under the Action Plan in many instances will assist the creation of the conditions for employment growth but it is not possible to estimate the precise total number of jobs which emanate from those specific measures.

The Action Plan emphasises the importance of investing in Energy Efficiency Measures which have a positive jobs impact. In this regard additional funding of €30m was provided under the 2011 Jobs Initiative facilitating total spend of over €91m on the Better Energy Programme, which is operated by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). This supported the retention of up to 5,700 jobs for 2011 as a whole. The Government has again committed significant funding of €76 million to the Better Energy programme for 2012, which is projected to deliver 597GWh in energy savings this year and is the equivalent of €34.2 million in the value of energy saved. The programme will continue to underpin economic activity throughout this year and is supporting the retention of jobs in the retrofitting sector and realising significant energy savings.

As part of the Action Plan my Department is also facilitating the provision of business supports to promote energy efficiency and reduce cost, including energy audits, energy management training, mentoring and advice. The Department also facilitates the Accelerated Capital Tax Allowances scheme which supports businesses in purchasing plant and machinery that are highly energy efficient.

The Action Plan also commits to developing a Pay As You Save (PAYS) scheme which will allow consumers to finance energy upgrades directly through the energy savings generated. Roll out will be developed following comprehensive consultation with all stakeholders and will aim to continue supporting jobs in green construction and retrofit.

Building on the work of the Next Generation Broadband Taskforce and as provided for in the Action Plan on Jobs, I recently announced the National Broadband Plan which will facilitate the provision of high speed broadband to every home and business in the State over the lifetime of the Government. Investing in high speed communications strengthens Ireland’s position as a leading location for foreign direct investment. It also boosts the export potential of our indigenous companies.

Other Action Plan measures include the ongoing investment in the 100Mb/s Schools programme as an enabler for eLearning and enhancing digital skills for school leavers. 200 schools will be completed in 2012, 200 in 2013 and the final 250 in 2014. This investment will improve the digital skills of future school leavers thereby improving their employability. In addition the Department continues to support digital start up companies through the Digital Hub Development Agency. There are currently 68 companies based at the Hub employing approximately 817 people. The National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) is also active in the area of digital technology and media, facilitating collaboration between third level institutes and commercial enterprises. NDRC projects and start-ups had attracted €5.565m in private follow-on investment by the end of 2011 with approximately 25 full time corporate staff and 160 temporary researchers working on these projects.

Departmental Expenditure

 960. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the total amount spent on taxis by his Department since February 2011; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37321/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte My Department has a contract with a taxi company to provide taxi services at a very competitive rate. I have set out below the information for the 18 month period requested by the Deputy, as it relates to that contract.

February 2011 to August 2012 €17,535.70


  In addition to the expenditure incurred on the contracted taxi service, officials are reimbursed for taxi expenditure when the contracted service is not available. This reimbursement occurs through the travel and subsistence system and the data for the 18 month period in question is as follows:

February 2011 to August 2012 €22,537.82


  The total of the two for the 18 month period in question is as follows:

February 2011 to August 2012 €40,073.52


  While there is no specific allocation for taxi use in my Department, it is included in the overall travel budget, expenditure in this area is closely monitored to ensure it stays within expectations.

  The following stipulations apply to the use of taxis:

Officials travelling within normal walking distance of their office base should not use a taxi service except in exceptional circumstances.

Other cheaper forms of public transport should be used when available.

Taxi should be shared when officials are attending the same meeting.

Meetings should be held in our buildings and / or video conference facilities used where possible.

Use of taxis is only permitted for official purposes.

  My Department has also implemented an initiative that makes available a number of bicycles for use by officials in its two Dublin offices during office hours. Following a successful pilot phase in Adelaide Road, this voluntary initiative was extended to Beggars Bush. The reaction of staff to the initiative has proved very positive and all eight bicycles are in regular use. This has helped to significantly reduce the cost of taxis to the department since its inception in 2008. During that year taxi costs were €56,695, in 2009 they were €40,818 and in 2010 €34,678.

Departmental Staff Data

 961. Deputy Dara Calleary Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications; Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the number of press officers in his Department; the number of press officers in each agency under his auspices; the total cost of press officers in his Department and in agencies under his auspices; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37337/12]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte There is one Press Officer employed in my Department at an annual salary cost of €72,386. Information in respect of bodies and agencies under the aegis of my Department is a day to day matter for those organisations and my Department does not have the information sought by the Deputy.


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