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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 346-361
 Header Item Energy Regulation
 Header Item Renewable Energy Generation
 Header Item Broadband Services Provision
 Header Item Charities Regulation
 Header Item Departmental Consultations
 Header Item Electricity Generation
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Property Taxation Exemptions
 Header Item Greenhouse Gas Emissions
 Header Item Regeneration Projects
 Header Item Homelessness Strategy
 Header Item Water Meters
 Header Item Planning Issues

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 797 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 80 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 346-361

Energy Regulation

 346. 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 number of households that have been disconnected by electricity companies in the past five years; if he will provide a breakdown by county; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14232/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Responsibility for the regulation of the electricity market, including disconnections, is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory regulator. I have no statutory function in the matter of disconnections of electricity or gas customers regardless of the supply company involved.

  The CER provides quarterly and annual updates on the electricity and gas retail markets, including on disconnections, and further information may be found at:

http://www.cer.ie/en/electricity-retail-market-reports-and-publications.aspx   

  Nevertheless, the number of disconnections is a matter of concern to me as it is for the Government, the CER, voluntary organisations and suppliers. The rise in numbers in recent years has coincided with the economic recession which has caused customer arrears and debt levels to rise.

  In line with the CER’s Code of Practice on disconnection, electricity and gas suppliers must facilitate payment options/plans for domestic customers experiencing genuine hardship and, where appropriate, engage with a money advisor acting on behalf of the customer or a recognised charity. This must include offering the customer a prepayment meter. According to CER’s published report on its website on Electricity and Gas Retail Markets, concerning the period to the end of September 2012, over 11,000 Pay as You Go electricity meters have been installed. That report also states that there are approximately 19,500 token meters in operation. In addition, disconnections may not be initiated where a customer has entered into a payment plan with the supplier and is honouring that arrangement.

  I welcome the fact that CER is working with energy suppliers to ensure that they take all reasonable steps to assist customers through this difficult period and that disconnections resulting from genuine inability to pay are minimised, and only occur as a very last resort.

  Implementation of the measures set out in the Government’s Affordable Energy Strategy, published last November, is pivotal to protecting the interests of vulnerable customers and improving energy affordability.

  In addition, the Government will continue to support the delivery of energy efficiency measures to vulnerable households in 2013. The Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme has been allocated Exchequer funding of €18 million for 2013, which is expected to result in upgrades in over 10,000 homes.

Renewable Energy Generation

 347. Deputy Kevin Humphreys Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the generating capacity of the ESB from renewable resources such as wind, water and wave; if he will provide a breakdown of the sites at which this is generated; the generating capacity of each site in megawatts; his plans for the installation of new renewable generating capacity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13689/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte ESB operates a mixed portfolio of generation using both renewable and fossil fuels to generate power.

  ESB’s hydroelectric power stations are Ardnacrusha (86MW), Inishcarra Dam (19MW), Carrigadrohid (8MW), Golden Falls (4MW), Clady (4MW), Poulaphouca, County Wicklow (15MW), Leixlip (4MW), Cliff (20MW), Cathleen’s Falls (45MW), Curramore <1MW and Parteen <1MW.

  ESBI’s wind farms are: Carnsore Point (12MW), Derrybrien Wind Farm (59.5MW), Mountain Lodge Wind Farm (31.5MW), Garvagh Glebe (26MW), Tullynahaw, (22MW), Grouselodge (15MW), Crockahenny (currently commissioning) 5MW, Waterfern – Black Banks (10.2MW), Mount Eagle (6.8MW) and Orileven-Carrane Hill (3.4MW). ESB also operates a number of wind farms outside of Ireland.

  ESB’s strategy for renewables is to grow from its existing base of 560MW to 1800MW of installed capacity by 2025.

  Wave energy is still at the RD&D stage globally. ESBI is involved in RD&D in the ocean energy area. Overall, ESB has set itself the goal of achieving a net carbon neutral portfolio by 2050 at the latest.

  More generally as regards promotion of renewable energy REFIT is the current support scheme for renewable generation in Ireland. The previous scheme was known as AER. There were numerous generators involved in AER, but ESB, in its role as Public Electricity Supplier, was the contracting party for all of the AER contracts. With market liberalisation, REFIT was opened to all licensed suppliers. There are over 16 different licensed electricity suppliers and numerous generators involved in the REFIT schemes operated by my Department.

  Under Directive 2009/28/EC Ireland has been assigned a legally binding target that 16% of all energy consumption must be from renewable sources by 2020. This includes a minimum of 10% in the transport sector. Overall, the target comprises 40% renewable electricity, 10% renewable transport and 12% renewable heating by 2020, which combined amount to 16% of all energy consumption.

  The Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012-2020 and the First Progress Report on the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) set out how it is anticipated that renewable generating capacity will be developed in Ireland in the period to 2020. These documents are available on my Department’s website at: www.dcenr.gov.ie  .  The First Progress Report on the NREAP sets out that it is envisaged that around 4000MW of installed renewable capacity will be required by 2020 in order to achieve 40% renewable electricity. There is approximately 1900MW installed at present.

Broadband Services Provision

 348. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the extent to which the standard, quality and speed of both broadband services and mobile phone services throughout County Kildare compares with the best available worldwide; his plans to improve same over the coming year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13927/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The provision of mobile phone networks and services is undertaken by telecommunications service providers operating in a fully liberalised market. The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is responsible for issuing licences to mobile phone operators and for monitoring compliance with the conditions attached to the licences. ComReg concluded a spectrum allocation process in late 2012, which will enable the successful applicants to operate 4G mobile services across the country. 4G is the fourth generation and most modern of mobile phone technologies currently available. It is a matter for the individual mobile telephone operators to decide those parts of the country they will prioritise and those areas they will ultimately serve in accordance with the license conditions.

The provision of broadband services is also undertaken within a fully liberalised market. National and international statistics on broadband availability measure the highest broadband speeds marketed by retail services at the national level. These comparisons do not measure whether the speeds quoted are available in all areas of any country. The high speeds offered in parts of County Kildare by at least one cable operator, in the areas it serves and has upgraded, compare favourably with high broadband speeds marketed internationally. Unfortunately there are no statistics available which would allow a national or international comparison of the different speeds available throughout any one county.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published in August last, aims to radically change the broadband landscape in Ireland by ensuring that high speed services of at least 30Mbps are available to all of our citizens and businesses, well in advance of the EU’s target date of 2020, and that significantly higher speeds are available to as many homes and businesses as possible.

Specifically, it commits to 70Mbps to 100Mbps available from the commercial market operators to more than half of the population by 2015; at least 40Mbps, and in many cases faster speeds, to at least a further 20% and potentially as much as 35% of the population, and a minimum of 30Mbps for every remaining home and business in the country.

During the preparation of Ireland’s National Broadband Plan, the commercial market operators indicated that they expect to provide 70Mbps to 100Mbps services to 50% of the population by 2015.

The commercial sector is already making these investments in high speed services, particularly in urban and semi-urban areas. The Government is also committed in the Plan to investing in areas where high speed services are not commercially viable and will not be provided by the market.

My Department is making preparations to commence a formal national mapping exercise to identify where the market is expected to succeed and fail in the delivery of high speed broadband over the coming years. This will inform the level of Government interaction that may be required and the areas that need to be targeted for a State-led investment. It will also form a critical input to an EU State Aid application in respect of any State-led intervention.

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

I would reiterate that the Government remains committed to the delivery of the speeds referred to above, to ensure that all parts of Ireland, including County Kildare, will have at least 30Mbps connectivity.

Charities Regulation

 349. Deputy Eoghan Murphy Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the reason ComReg requires charities to obtain a premium rate services licence, when charities do not appear to come within the definition of a premium rate service provider as defined by the Communications Regulation (Premium Rate Services and Electronic Communications Infrastructure) Act 2010. [13957/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Under the 2010 Premium Rate Services Act, the provision of premium rate services, including services for the benefit of charitable organisations, is subject to a licensing requirement administered by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg). There is no charge imposed on charitable organisations involved in this process and it may be done electronically online for convenience.

The licence allows charitable organisations to reassure potential contributors that the service is regulated and allows ComReg to intervene on behalf of contributors if disputes arise.

Departmental Consultations

 350. 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 there have been meetings between his Department and other interested parties to exchange views of national, European and international radio spectrum issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13964/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Officials in my Department engage on an ongoing basis with European and international colleagues in relation to radio spectrum issues of common interest. My Department is also represented at various European fora and at the World Radiocommunication Conference at which radio spectrum issues are discussed.

  The National Broadband Plan published last year following extensive consultation with interested parties on topics including radio spectrum, contains specific proposals to review national policy in this regard including if necessary modernising relevant legislation.

  I expect this review of spectrum policy to incorporate a public consultation element and intend it to be a comprehensive process taking into account international best practice and stakeholder views.

  This work will get underway later this year.

Electricity Generation

 351. Deputy Brendan Ryan Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will provide an update on the operation of the Eirgrid interconnector in Rush, County Dublin; if all testing of the line has been completed and all acknowledged localised issues been dealt with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13996/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte This is an operational matter for the company involved and I, as Minister, have no role or function in this regard. However, my Department has requested that EirGrid, which has statutory responsibility for the East West Interconnector, will furnish further information directly to the Deputy.

Departmental Contracts

 352. 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 views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding a contract; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14359/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte This is an operational matter for the company involved and I, as Minister, have no role or function in this regard.

Property Taxation Exemptions

 353. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will furnish a list of the estates that are exempt on property tax in County Louth and in east Meath. [13634/13]

 357. Deputy Brendan Ryan Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan regarding his review of unfinished estates, if his Department is compiling a list of unfinished estates; if so, the stage this process is at and when it will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14155/13]

 358. Deputy Brendan Ryan Information on Brendan Ryan Zoom on Brendan Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if the up to date list of unfinished estates will be used as a tool to identify houses that qualify for an exemption from the local property tax; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14156/13]

 373. 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 when the next review of the categorisation of unfinished estates will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14358/13]

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. 353, 357, 358 and 373 together.

As part of the work of the National Coordination Committee on Unfinished Housing Developments, which I chair, my Department conducted national surveys of unfinished developments in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The National Housing Development Survey 2012 revealed that 1,203 developments which had previously been included in the 2011 Survey could be removed as they were either substantially complete or development had never commenced, and many substantially complete developments could progress to being taken in charge by local authorities. Since 2010, the number of such developments has fallen by 37%, to 1,770. I anticipate that this progress will continue in 2013 as more problem estates are resolved under the work of the National Coordination Committee and its stakeholders, which include NAMA, local authorities, the Irish Banking Federation and the representatives from the construction sector. Work on the 2013 survey will commence during Q2 with a view to publication of the results in the autumn.

The list of unfinished housing estates to be prescribed for purposes of a waiver from the local property tax has been compiled by local authorities utilising the categorisation in place in respect of the household charge, updated by reference to the National Housing Survey 2012. My Department has collated the data from local authorities and Minister Hogan yesterday signed the Regulations to prescribe the list of qualifying estates for purposes of exemption from the local property tax.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

 354. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his view on fuel derived from bitumen or tar sands; if it is viewed as more environmentally harmful than traditional oil supplies; the position he has taken with regard to the EU's fuel quality directive ranking of tar sands oil; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13664/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan Article 7(a) of the Fuel Quality Directive 2009/30/EC introduced a requirement for fuel and energy suppliers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and use of transport fuels by at least 6% (compared to 2010 emissions) by the end of 2020.   

  Under Article 7(a), the European Commission issued a draft implementing directive , in 2011, on the methodology for calculating live-cycle greenhouse gas emissions of fuels. This proposal was put to a vote at the EU Fuel Quality Committee in February 2012 and Ireland supported the proposal. The vote was inconclusive.   

  The European Commission is undertaking an impact assessment of the implementation proposal and I will re-evaluate Ireland’s position on it in light of the outcome of that assessment .   

Regeneration Projects

 355. Deputy Dessie Ellis Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the position regarding Ballymun shopping centre, Dublin; and the future plans that are in place in view of the fact that it is in the National Assets Management Agency's control. [14096/13]

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 Ballymun Regeneration Limited (BRL) and Dublin City Council are continuing to explore all options to further the economic objectives of the Ballymun Masterplan including the redevelopment of the privately owned Ballymun Shopping Centre and the adjoining lands owned by the Council.

Planning permission for the redevelopment of the centre and the adjoining lands was granted in September 2009. The proposed redevelopment did not proceed at the time due to the prevailing economic conditions. However, provision of commercial, retail and other services in Ballymun, and at this prominent site in particular, remains very important within the context of the overall regeneration programme. My Department understands that Dublin City Council is in contact with the parties who hold an interest in this site with the objective of progressing the proposed redevelopment.

Homelessness Strategy

 356. Deputy Billy Timmins Information on Billy Timmins Zoom on Billy Timmins asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the position regarding the number of voluntary organisations dealing with the homeless here; the funding allocated to each organisation for 2012; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14142/13]

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 My Department’s role in relation to homelessness involves the provision of a national framework of policy, legislation and funding to underpin the role of housing authorities in addressing homelessness at local level. Statutory responsibility in relation to the provision of accommodation for homeless persons rests with the housing authorities. The purposes for which housing authorities may incur expenditure in addressing homelessness are prescribed in Section 10 of the Housing Act 1988.   

  My Department does not fund any service directly but recoups , to local authorities, 90% of the cost of the service provided with an additional 10% coming from the local authorities ' own resources. Up to 50 different organisations provide emergency services throughout the country. The bulk of Section 10 funding from my Department goes towards the costs incurred in the provision of accommodation services by the voluntary sector providers who have built up the services over the years. In addition, Departmental funding is used to support day drop-in centres, food services, outreach services, settlement and tenancy sustainment services and the cost of local authority and voluntary sector staff costs. The funding provided, through local authorities to these voluntary sector providers in 2012 is set out in the table below.   

Voluntary Sector Provider 2012
Simon Communities €5,346,283
Focus Ireland €4,315,817
Crosscare €2,921,985
St Vincent De Paul €2,488,135
De Paul Trust €2,447,332
Salvation Army €2,023,214
Peter McVerry Trust €1,701,996
Novas €1,415,132
Sophia €977,374
Cope €829,356
Sonas €748,200
Cuan-Teach Mhuire €596,202
Sisters of Charity €252,979
Threshold €60,579
Total €26,124,584

  Questions Nos. 357 and 358 answered with Question No. 353.

Water Meters

 359. Deputy Ciarán Lynch Information on Ciaran Lynch Zoom on Ciaran Lynch asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if it will be possible for apartment owners to be metered separately for water charges when the owner is willing, the management company is agreeable and access is available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14165/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Programme for Government and the Memorandum of Understanding with the EU, the IMF and the ECB provide for the introduction of domestic water charges. The Government considers that charging based on usage is the fairest way to charge for water and it has decided that water meters should be installed in households connected to public water supplies. The Government has also decided that Irish Water, a new State-owned water   company to be established as an independent subsidiary within the Bord Gáis Éireann Group, will be responsible for the metering programme.     

  There are, as reported in Census 2011, approximately 1.35 million domestic properties connected to public water supplies in Ireland and the objective is to install meters for the maximum number of these properties. I have previously indicated that a proportion of these properties, including apartment blocks, may not be metered in the initial metering programme due to either the high cost or the technical difficulty of doing so. However, I would expect that a large number of these properties will be metered over time as options relating to metering apartment blocks are evaluated.

Planning Issues

 360. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if he will clarify the length of time a person has to make an application for an extension of duration of a planning permission, with reference to Section 251 (amended) of the Planning and Development Act 2000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14202/13]

 361. Deputy John Deasy Information on John Deasy Zoom on John Deasy asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan his plans to introduce legislation to take account of the loophole resulting from the High Court decision, Browne vs. Kerry County Council, effectively extending the duration of a planning permission to five years plus 45 days form the date granted; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that planning authorities are seeking a clear direction from his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14203/13]

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. 360 and 361 together.

Under section 41 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, the duration of a planning permission (referred to as “the appropriate period”) is the period specified in the permission, or 5 years, whichever is longer. Section 42 provides that an application to extend the duration of the appropriate period must be made prior to the expiration of that period.

The decision of the High Court in the case of Patrick Browne and Kerry County Council referred to in Question No. 361 would appear to mean that all time limits and periods referred to in the Planning and Development Acts 2000 - 2012 are extended by nine days: the period between the 24th day of December and the first day of January, both days inclusive. My Department is preparing a Circular Letter to planning authorities on this matter, and, in the context of further legislation, will consider whether the provisions of the Act require any clarification.


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