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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 158-170
 Header Item Better Energy Homes Scheme Applications
 Header Item Public Relations Contracts Expenditure
 Header Item Broadband Services Provision
 Header Item Energy Prices
 Header Item Energy Prices
 Header Item ESB Expenditure
 Header Item Departmental Staff Data
 Header Item Non-Principal Private Residence Charge Yield
 Header Item Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding
 Header Item Non-Principal Private Residence Charge Administration
 Header Item Pyrite Issues
 Header Item Pyrite Remediation Programme Issues

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 814 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 58 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 158-170

Better Energy Homes Scheme Applications

 158. 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 reason there is a substantial delay in the processing and administering of the better energy warmer homes scheme for low income households vulnerable to energy poverty; if there has been any improvement made in the administration of the scheme since last year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40158/13]

: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administers the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme on behalf of my Department. The scheme provides a range of energy efficiency measures to low income households that are vulnerable to energy poverty. The scheme is primarily delivered through Community Based Organisations (CBO) and a panel of private sector contractors. Homes are also addressed on an area-based approach through a separate strand. Measures available include draught proofing, attic insulation, lagging jackets for hot water tanks, low energy light bulbs and cavity wall insulation and are free of charge to the customer.

  Eligible homeowners apply for the scheme either directly through SEAI or via their local CBO, although the SEAI maintains a national waiting list in order to ensure appropriate national coverage. While CBOs typically control delivery within their specific area, where the SEAI identify delays private contractors are asked to assist in order to reduce waiting times. My Department has been advised by the SEAI that there were 3,036 homes on the waiting list on 23 September 2013. This is broken down as follows:

YearTotal Number of ApplicationsOutstanding Applications (Homes not fully completed yet)Status:

Not yet Surveyed
Status:

Survey Completed
Status:

Allocated to Contractor for Works
Status:

With CBO for Delivery
201126,57340040
201217,34622741012192
20139,5722,8058661395811,219


  There was a significant increase in the volume of applications received over the period from 2009 - 2011, which led to an increase in the waiting list in certain instances. However, as the above table clearly indicates, the number of outstanding applications has greatly reduced in recent years. The four homes on the waiting list from 2011 have been allocated to contractors for delivery. The oldest application is on one of the Aran islands and this will be completed shortly in conjunction with an SEAI Area based project currently under way on the islands.

  There are a number of ways in which my Department is working with the SEAI to improve the overall delivery of the scheme. During 2013, the SEAI improved its reporting capability to ensure that they are fully aware of any significant delays in the delivery of the scheme. The waiting list is reviewed on a weekly basis, in conjunction with my Department. Additionally, measures were put in place to ensure there was no break in CBO contracts during the transition from 2012 to 2013, and therefore no break in service as was the case in previous years. This measure ensured that contractors were operational much earlier than in previous years. Furthermore, various operational and IT related improvements have been made to improve delivery of the scheme and plans are being developed to introduce additional improvements to service delivery.

Public Relations Contracts Expenditure

 159. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the name and business address of all of the providers of public relations services to his Department since the current Government came into office: the total amount spent on such services in the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40219/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The information which the Deputy requested is outlined in tabular format for the years 2011 to date in 2013.

Company Name and Business AddressAmount Spent on Public RelationsPurpose of Consultancy
Morrow Communications Ltd

Hanwood House

Pavillion Office Park

Kinnegar Drive

Holywood

BT18 1JQ

Co Down
€72,050 (excl VAT)Provision of services in relation to outreach in rural communities with respect to low flying geophysical survey and soil geochemical survey.
Murray Consultants

Latin Hall, Golden Lane

Dublin 8
€8,349.00Media Services to the Department.
McConnells Advertising Agency

20 Northumberland Road

Ballsbridge

Dublin 4
€119,602Public information campaign on the Digital Switchover moving from analogue TV to Digital TV.
Communications Consultants Ireland

82 Burnaby Heights

Greystones

Co Wicklow
€1,797Management of two Public Information Meetings on new Inland Fisheries Legislation

Broadband Services Provision

 160. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte his plans to improve broadband in rural areas (details supplied) in County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40235/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte 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 County Kerry, can be found on ComReg’s website at www.callcosts.ie.

The State can only intervene to ensure access to broadband services in areas where the competitive market fails to deliver such services, as in the case of the National Broadband Scheme (NBS) and the Rural Broadband Scheme. Broadband services under the NBS are available since October 2010 from the NBS service provider, “3”, to persons with a fixed residence or fixed business in the designated NBS Electoral Divisions. The combination of private investment and State interventions means that Ireland has met the EU Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe target of having a basic broadband service available to all areas by 2013. The area referred to in the Deputy's question is serviced under the NBS.

The Government’s National Broadband Plan, which I published last Autumn, 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 County Kerry. 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 in both fixed line and wireless high speed broadband services. 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 to identify where the market is expected to deliver high speed broadband services over the coming years. The results of this mapping exercise will inform the level of Government intervention that may be required and the precise 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 a digitally enabled society.

Energy Prices

 161. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the reason and the basis on which the Energy Regulator decided to deregulate ESB energy prices at 60% market share notwithstanding the conventional wisdom that in order for competition to work best in this sector for the benefit of customers no generator should have in excess of a 40% share; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [40251/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Responsibility for the regulation of the retail electricity market is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body. These powers are granted to the CER under the Electricity Regulation Act of 1999 and subsequent Irish and European legislation. The CER has regulated the tariffs of the incumbent electricity supplier since 2000. With strong growth in competition in recent years, the CER decided to cease regulation of the domestic tariffs of Electric Ireland from April 2011. This followed the deregulation of the business markets on 1 October, 2010. I have no statutory function in the regulation of electricity prices.

Energy Prices

 162. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the reason and the basis on which the Energy Regulator decided to deregulate Bord Gáis energy prices at 55% market share notwithstanding the conventional wisdom that in order for competition to work best in this sector for the benefit of customers no generator should have in excess of a 40% share; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [40252/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Responsibility for the regulation of gas markets is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) which is an independent statutory body. These regulatory powers are granted to the CER under the Gas (Interim) (Regulation) Act 2002 and subsequent Irish and European legislation. Ireland’s gas market, both wholesale and retail, is characterised by increasing competition, regulated by the CER. Since 1 October 2011, the only segment of the market where retail gas prices are regulated by the CER is Bord Gáis Energy’s residential customer prices. The Deputy will be aware that a sale process is in progress under which the energy supply business of Bórd Gais Eireann will transfer to the private sector. Prices in the unregulated parts of the retail gas market are wholly commercial, are set by the suppliers and are variable in accordance with supplier offerings.

The CER has published a roadmap setting out the criteria that must be met to allow it to deregulate the residential gas market. The criteria are:

- at least 3 suppliers, of which two are non-Bord Gáis Energy suppliers must be operating in the market - each of these must have a market share in excess of 10% of customers;

- there must be customer switching rates in excess of 10% per year; and

- the threshold for deregulation of Bord Gáis Energy is 60% (customer share) with rebranding of its retail business and without rebranding the threshold is 55%.

I understand that steady progress is being made, with the regulator continuing to monitor progress closely. I have no statutory function in regard to the regulation of prices in the gas market.

ESB Expenditure

 163. Deputy Michelle Mulherin Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte the amount that has been spent by ESB on marketing for each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40254/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte This is a day to day operational matter for the ESB and not one in which I have a role or function.

  Question No. 164 withdrawn.

Departmental Staff Data

 165. Deputy Joanna Tuffy Information on Joanna Tuffy Zoom on Joanna Tuffy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte if he will provide in tabular form the number of advisors, programme managers, press officers and political staff and communication staff employed by his Department in 1981, 2011 and currently in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [40699/13]

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte My Department was established in June 2007. Information requested by the Deputy in respect of the period since then is outlined in the following table.

YearSpecial Advisors to MinisterProgramme ManagersPress OfficersPolitical Staff Communication Staff
201120140
201320140
  Political staff details refer to one Personal Assistant and one Personal Secretary each appointed to the Minister and the Minister of State at my Department. The Press Officer role is discharged by a member of staff in the Department.

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge Yield

 166. Deputy Pearse Doherty Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the revenue that would be raised if the non principal private residency charge was retained and increased by €150; or by €200.  [40266/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The self-assessed charge is set at €200 per annum and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties. I understand that the Non Principal Private Residence Charge has raised €75.7 m in respect of 2012 liabilities to date, a portion of which has been collected in 2013. As such, were the Charge to continue to operate in 2014 and if it were to be set at €3 50 or €400 I would anticipate revenue in excess of €1 30 m or €150m respectively , assuming similar compliance levels . However, 2013 will be the final year of the operation of the Charge. The Local Property Tax has been introduced on a half year basis this year and accordingly 50% of the Tax is payable in 2013. From 2014, the Tax will operate on a full year basis.

Water and Sewerage Schemes Funding

 167. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan the recent and future investments in the Dunlavin sewerage scheme as part of the Water Services Investment Programme 2010-2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [40148/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Dunlavin Sewerage Scheme is included in my Department’s Water Services Investment Programme 2010 – 2013 as a scheme to start within the lifetime of the Programme. I recently approved the necessary funding to allow Wicklow County Council to award the €4.9m Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Contract for the Scheme.

Non-Principal Private Residence Charge Administration

 168. 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 in relation to the abolition of the non-principal private residence tax next year, if late payment fees will continue to accrue following the abolition of the tax; if legislation will be required to deal with this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40170/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The Local Government (Charges) Act 2009 broadened the revenue base of local authorities by introducing a charge on non-principal private residences. The self-assessed charge is set at €200 per annum and liability for it falls, in the main, on owners of rental, holiday and vacant properties. Since its introduction in 2009, the Charge has been an important source of revenue for local authorities and has funded the provision of vital local services. This year will be the final year of the operation of the Non-Principal Private Residence Charge. Legislation will be required to repeal the relevant provisions of the 2009 Act. Matters such as arrears and non-compliance will also be addressed. I am considering these issues and intend that robust measures be put in place to incentivise compliance.

Pyrite Issues

 169. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan if fumes from pyrite may affect home owners in view of the fact that five Chinese miners died in Changsha in a pyrite mine earlier this month. [40179/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan My Department is not aware of the details surrounding the deaths of the miners in this particular case. However, in the context of the pyrite problem in Ireland, no evidence has been presented to my Department which would suggest that fumes from pyrite in sub-floor hardcore material have harmful effects on the health of people living in affected dwellings.

Pyrite Remediation Programme Issues

 170. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan in the event of a developer - a quarry or other contractor - whose properties were remediated by the pyrite resolution board taking legal action, said developer would not gain any moneys for works done on the relevant houses.  [40180/13]

Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government (Deputy Phil Hogan): Information on Phil Hogan Zoom on Phil Hogan The issue raised in the question is speculative, and it is not appropriate to respond in respect of something which may or may not happen. Operational matters will be determined by the Pyrite Resolution Board in the context of the development and implementation of an efficient and cost effective pyrite remediation scheme.


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