Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

Eoghan speaking in the Dáil.

Updating our infrastructure to withstand severe weather events – 9th April 2014

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources further to Parliamentary Question No. 327 of 1 April 2014, in view of the real and potential impact on communications and energy distribution for large parts of the country as a result of inadequate infrastructure, something which is not an operational day to day issue, if he will ask his Department to consider the necessity of introducing guidelines for a new standard of infrastructure based around concrete that would be more durable during severe weather events.

Reply:

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr P Rabbitte)

Communications and electricity distribution networks worldwide, like many buildings and other structures, are occasionally damaged during storms, e.g. when trees fall across the lines. Occasional storm damage does not suggest that the infrastructure provided by our State companies is inadequate. The network investment programmes pursued by EirGrid, ESB Networks and Bord Gáis Éireann over recent years have delivered highly durable and robust energy networks which have, for the most part, withstood the test of severe weather episodes and record peak demands.

The electricity transmission network, which is supported using steel masts and double wood poles, has withstood all of the recent severe weather and has not suffered faults leading to power outages.

The type of supporting structure for the communications and electricity networks is a day to day operational matter for the companies concerned. The State companies are obliged to adhere to all relevant guidelines and standards in this area, follow best practice and ensure value for money. It is expected that the companies will continue to undertake well informed objective and authoritative analysis in arriving at optimal technology choice, design and costings.

Free electric vehicle chargers for homeowners? – 3rd April 2014

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources his plans to introduce a scheme whereby home owners can have a free electric vehicle charger installed at their home regardless of whether they have an electric vehicle or not, as is currently the case in the UK, and which may be provided for through EU funding (details supplied).

Details: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/office-for-low-emission-vehicles 

Reply:

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr P Rabbitte)

 I refer to the reply to Question No. 319 of 1st April 2014 (shown below).

Tuesday, 1 April 2014; Electric Vehicle Grants

Deputy Noel Coonan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce a scheme similar to that in the UK and Northern Ireland where home owners can have a free wallpod charger installed regardless of whether they have an electronic vehicle; if this will be considered as part of any upcoming Bill such as the smarter transport Bill; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte):
In April 2011, I opened the Electric Vehicle Grant Scheme to incentivise and support, through grants of up to €5,000, the early deployment of electric vehicles in Ireland. The scheme remains open this year and the grants are in addition to the VRT reliefs of up to €5,000 which apply to electric vehicles. Additionally, the ESB, through its ecars programme, is continuing to roll out both publicly accessible charging infrastructure and domestic charge points. These domestic charge points are provided free of charge, where technically feasible, to the first 2,000 people who qualify for a grant for the purchase of an electric vehicle. The rollout of this charging infrastructure is a matter for the ESB and I have no plans at this time to introduce any scheme, as suggested by the Deputy, or any legislative proposals, in this regard.

Rationale behind creation of postal codes – 18th Febraury 2014

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the reason it is considered necessary to create a unique postal code for every household in the country in view of the fact that the Revenue Commissioners have conducted the same exercise creation on unique reference for each property for collection of local property tax.

Reply:

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr P Rabbitte)

The design structure and functionality of the National Postcode is very different from that of other unique identifiers that exist in the public service databases and provides a rationale for its existence.The national postcode will be a publically available code, appear on mail items and be used for a variety of different purposes by public and private sector organisations.

State liability on behalf of ESB pension fund – 19th December 2013

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount of the liability assumed by the State on behalf of the ESB pension fund: and if this liability will be reflected in the national accounts or on the ESB’s balance sheet.

Reply:

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr P Rabbitte)

The State has not assumed any liability on behalf of the ESB pension fund, nor will any such liability be reflected in the national accounts. The accounting treatment of the scheme is an operational matter for the company in accordance with the relevant accounting standards. I understand that this matter was the subject of discussion and agreement between the management and unions under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. It is not a matter in which I, as Minister, would have a role or function.

Providing a valid address for purchasing a mobile phone – 12th July 2013

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce legislation that would require all purchasers of mobile phones to produce a valid ID and proof of residence.

Reply:

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Mr P Rabbitte)

A proposal to register all customers of mobile phone services was considered previously by my Department which identified many complex legal, technical, data protection and practical issues to be considered. It was concluded at the time that the proposal would not solve the illegal and inappropriate use of mobile phones and was not practical. There are no current proposals to compel mobile telephone service providers to register all customers.

ComReg and Charities – 20th March 2013

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources 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.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (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.

Energy saving proposals – 14th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding energy proposals.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

I intend to publish the second National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) in the coming weeks. This updated Action Plan reaffirms Ireland’s commitment to a 20% energy savings target by 2020 in pursuit of our EU obligations. This 20% saving is equivalent to 31,925 Gigawatt hours (GWh) or a reduction in annual CO2 emissions of around 7.7 Mega tonnes (Mt).

The actions outlined in the Plan are projected to realise more savings than the 20% target, i.e. 34,060GWh of energy savings in 2020, which is equivalent to a 21.1% saving on the baseline period; an overachievement of 1.1 percentage points.

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

The Plan will contain 97 actions, each of which will play a part in securing a more sustainable energy future for Ireland. Of the 97 actions, the following five will play an integral role in the delivery of the national target:

1. In the Public sector, the introduction of a series of obligations on public sector bodies to address consumption, procurement and reporting of energy use;

2. the establishment of a national Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) process to deliver innovative models of retrofitting and financing of energy efficiency measures in the commercial and public sectors. This will be underpinned by an Energy Efficiency Fund to which Government has already committed €35 million in the 2013 Budget as seed capital;

3. the introduction of an appropriate Pay-As-You-Save (PAYS) model for Ireland to replace existing exchequer supports for domestic and non-domestic energy efficiency upgrade measures;

4. the Better Energy programme will deliver energy efficiency improvements across a number of sectors including energy saving targets for energy suppliers; and

5. a Cross-Departmental Implementation Group will be established to ensure that all the actions contained in the Plan are delivered.

A key focus of the Action Plan is the public sector, building upon the comprehensive suite of services and programmes provided by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). To date, 15 public sector bodies have signed partnership agreements with the SEAI, targeted at reducing energy consumption in the public sector by 33% in 2020. This year will also see the first public sector energy consumption report published by the SEAI.

The SEAI’s work in the public sector programme suggests that savings of 5-15% are possible with good structured energy management practices. The SEAI is promoting this through its energy management tools, Energy MAP and ISO 50001. To date, over 20 local authorities have undertaken Energy MAP training with an average saving of 5-10% after 6-12 months. Another 50 public bodies have also undertaken Energy MAP training with similar results, including the HSE, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann. A programme called Energy in Education promotes these principles to schools.

Additionally, SEAI’s partnership programme is now working with over 40 of the largest energy using public bodies. These organisations are committed at the highest level to excellent energy management and realising their energy saving potential.

Through the partnership programme, good energy management practices and tailored supports, these public bodies are well established to deliver early, rapid and significant energy savings. From a pilot of 18 organisations trialling the methodology to track public bodies’ progress towards the 2020 target, over 50% of them were well in advance of the 3% per year target. The remaining public bodies will be served on a group basis and will achieve similar impacts.

My Department and the SEAI in 2010 began a 3 year project to develop a Monitoring and Reporting system to track public bodies’ progress towards the 33% and 3240GWh targets. To date, over 33,000 meter points have been collated on a database to source the consumption data direct from the meter operators. In 2013 a dedicated software system will be developed which will also integrate with the National Procurement Service (NPS) for procurement purposes and the Environmental Protection Agency for carbon reporting. In Q2 2013 the 2011 progress report will be issued for the top 135 energy using public bodies. In Q4 2013 the 2012 progress report will be issued by the SEAI. It is envisaged that the various initiatives and monitoring process will greatly encourage and motivate public bodies to increase their level of activity.

Employment practices in the civil service - 6th February 2013

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if there are any retired public sector workers from his Department, or any other part of the public sector, currently on his Department’s payroll, for example, for sitting on a committee or preparing a report, but not exclusively these two areas; the number on the payroll; the cost to his Department; the services being delivered for this money; and the way that the positions were originally advertised..

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

I can confirm that a retired member of the Garda Síochána is employed by me as Civilian Driver at an annual salary of €32,965.

I can also confirm that there are currently two retired public servants who, whilst not on the payroll of my Department, are engaged in specific projects under the aegis of my Department; one as Chairman of a VFM Review Group at a cost of €1,200 and the other as a Process Auditor for the procurement of a National Postcode System at a cost of €9,840. These were Departmental appointments.

In addition to the above one retired public servant sitting on an Audit Committee for the Department on a pro bono basis.

Retired public and civil servants are engaged from time to time by my Department in areas where specific expertise is required for a short fixed period, and these staff provide a level of knowledge, experience and background compatible with such requirements.

The abatement principle, which ensures that the fee paid plus pension does not exceed the rate of pay the pensioner would receive if he/she had continued service in their former post, applies to payments as appropriate.

Grant support for electric vehicles – 11th December 2012,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has considered extending the grant support for electric vehicles beyond December 2012.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

The current grant support scheme for electric vehicles operates until March 2013. I will make an announcement very shortly as to arrangements for the scheme after that date taking account of the overall 2013 Budget provision for my Department.

Transparency of payments from natural resources – 11th December 2012,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in view of possible gas and oil finds off the Irish coast, his plans for Ireland to sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global standard ensuring transparency of payments from natural resources.

Reply

The Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Fergus O’Dowd):

I assume ‘the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a global standard ensuring transparency of payments from natural resources’ is a reference to Chapter 9 of the proposed Accounting Directive (Com (2011) 684) and which Chapter is intended for inclusion in the proposed Transparency Directive (COM (2011) 683). I understand that both Directives are currently under negotiation in the EU.

Whatever provisions in these matters, if any, are adopted in the context of these proposed Directives, will require to be transposed into the legislation of all Member States.

On a more general note, payments that could be made to the State resulting from the on-going exploration for our natural resources of oil or gas fall into two main categories. The first category relates to application and administration fees, along with rental fees in respect of licensed acreage. The second category relates to tax paid on profits, from production of oil or gas. The level of fees, or tax, to be paid is set down in the relevant legislation and licensing terms, the details of which are in the public domain.

Oil drilling in Dublin Bay - 22nd November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in the event that a company (details supplied) or any other such company found oil in Dublin Bay, if the State will own that oil or a percentage thereof; if royalties will be paid to the Irish State; if the State will have a share in production of that oil; and if the company will be obligated to supply some oil to Ireland at a discounted rate to provide the State with security of energy supply.

Reply

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Fergus O’Dowd):

Ireland encourages exploration companies to invest in exploration for oil and gas in the Irish offshore on the basis that the exploration companies carry the full cost associated with that exploration. Then in the event of a commercial discovery being made, the oil or gas discovered would be demised to the licensees under a petroleum lease. While the State would benefit in a number of ways, the principal financial benefit would result from the special higher rate of corporation tax that applies to profits from production of oil or gas. A tax on profits of between 25% and 40% would apply in the case mentioned by the Deputy, in the event that the proposed drilling resulted in a commercial discovery.

While a commercial discovery would be very positive news for Ireland, the reality is that unless there is a substantial increase in the level of drilling activity in the Irish offshore, the true potential of our natural resources will continue to be unknown.

Taxation, royalty payments and production sharing are all instruments that can be used by a country to extract a value from production of its oil and gas resources. While these various instruments will impact in somewhat different ways, the key issue is to decide on the overall level of “State take” to aim for. In setting that level a country has to strike a balance between seeking to attract mobile international exploration investment and seeking to maximise the return to the State from successful exploration. Since the 1980s Ireland has taken a tax based approach, following the example of neighbouring countries such as the UK and Norway. Royalty payments or production sharing would not apply to any new commercial discovery made in the Irish offshore.

In relation to the specific issue of security of oil supply, Ireland is required under EU and IEA obligations to hold 90 days of oil reserves. The bulk of Ireland’s oil stocks are held by the National Oil Reserves Agency (NORA), with the balance held by industry.

Public Sector Rostering - 6th November 2012,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the sectors of the public sector that are currently employed on a roster basis and if there are any plans to remove employees from the rostering system.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte)

My Department does not employ any staff on a roster basis.

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.  I will, however, request the relevant Agencies and bodies under the aegis of my Department to respond directly to the Deputy in the matter.

The regulation of geothermal energy – 4th October 2012,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources when he intends to publish legislation to regulate geothermal energy here; the Geothermal Energy Development Bill, and if any other legislation in the area of geothermal power generation is planned.

Reply

The Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Fergus O’Dowd)

Legislative proposals in respect of geothermal energy, and the associated Regulatory Impact Assessment, have been published and are available on the Department’s website at www.dcenr.gov.ie.

Geothermal energy is a new area of legislative endeavour, which will create a legislative framework to facilitate the exploration for and development of geothermal energy resources.  It will provide significant support to the geothermal energy sector, particularly in terms of security of tenure for potential investors.  The Bill sets out an approach to the licensing of exploration for, and exploitation of, geothermal energy.  It is modelled on the approach taken in respect of minerals exploration and development but also deals with a range of ancillary issues such as entry onto land.

Drafting of the Bill with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel is ongoing.  Many of the provisions of the Bill are based on aspects of the Minerals Development Bill, particularly in relation to exploration licensing, which I aim to bring to the House before the end of this parliamentary session.  I would expect therefore that the Geothermal Energy Development Bill will follow to be published next year.

The number of staff on in the Department’s redeployment pool – 26th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the number of persons in his Department’s redeployment pool, including agencies responsible to it, that is, those persons who are to be redeployed as their current role is no longer necessary, but have not been redeployed as of yet.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

The staffing level in my Department is currently below that allowed under the Employment Control Framework, consequently there are no staff in the Department on the redeployment panel.

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.  I will, however, request the relevant Agencies and bodies under the aegis of my Department to respond directly to the Deputy on this matter.

Public sector staffing numbers – 12th June 2012,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the percentage of staff working in the public sector, including in the civil services, that he deems to fall into the category of frontline staff, administrative, management, elected representative and any other relevant categories; and the way the pay budget is allocated across these categories in percentage and real terms in terms of as a proportion of the Department expenditure on salaries.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

As my Department is primarily engaged in policy and regulatory functions, the breakdown of staff numbers is as follows:  Administrative 24%; Management 75.25% and Elected Representatives 0.75%.  The breakdown in terms of salaries for each of these categories is: €2 million paid to Administrative staff (12.5% of salaries expenditure); €13.8 million to Management staff (86.9%) and; €0.1 million to Elected Representatives (0.6%).

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.  I will, however, request the relevant Agencies and bodies under the aegis of my Department to respond directly to the Deputy in the matter.

ESB Reconnection Fees for New Businesses – 31st January 2012,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will engage with the ESB with a view to achieving a reduction or elimination of their reconnection fees for new businesses entering an existing premises that has been left vacant.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

ESB is an independent commercial State body and the matters referred to by the Deputy arise from ESB operational matters regarding which I have no function.

Responsibility for the regulation of reconnection fees is a matter for the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), which is an independent statutory body.  I have no role or function in this regard.

Ministerial Involvment in Bord Gais – 20th September 2011,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his involvement in the day to day operations of Bord Gáis, vis-a-vis salaries increases, its office location and its value for money and audits.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

The respective roles and powers of the Board of Bord Gáis Éireann and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with regard to Bord Gáis Éireann are set out in legislation, in particular the Gas Act 1976 as amended.

The day to day operations of Bord Gáis Éireann are a matter for the Board.

Energy Consumption in Ministerial Departments – 7th July 2011,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the initiatives each Department has taken to monitor and reduce energy consumption in terms of electricity and gas use.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

My Department has been working with the OPW since 2008 on an energy efficiency programme in my Department’s two main buildings at Adelaide Road and Tom Johnson House on Haddington Road.  Among other things this has involved the installation of a new Building Management System which offers greater control over consumption of energy.

As part of the project, energy awareness presentations were made to staff, an Energy Team/Working Group was established from among the staff to promote the energy awareness and conservation imperative.  My Department is very conscious of the use of energy and encourages the efficient use of electricity and power through its staff Energy Team and Energy Officer.

Overall, notwithstanding the exceptional cold weather of January and December 2010, my Department’s energy consumption cost was reduced by circa €170,000 from 2008 to 2010.

Incorporation of non-domestic Nuclear Energy – 3rd May 2011,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to incorporate non domestically generated nuclear energy in to the State’s energy mix once the safety review of nuclear plants based in the EU is concluded.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

The position of successive Governments over many years is that nuclear power is neither sustainable nor the answer to meeting Ireland’s energy needs. This position is shared by several EU Member States. The Lisbon Treaty legally provides  for individual Member States to determine their own energy mix.

The use of nuclear fission for the generation of electricity in Ireland is statutorily prohibited under Section 18(6) of the Electricity Regulation Act 1999.  Furthermore, Section 3 of the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006 states that “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as enabling the authorisation of development consisting of an installation for the generation of electricity by nuclear fission”.

These prohibitions do not include the importation of electricity generated by nuclear energy elsewhere.  Legal advice received by my Department states that such a prohibition even if realistically implementable would in any event be in breach of Article 34 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which prohibits quantitative restrictions on imports and all measures having equivalent effect between Member States.

It is not technically feasible to guarantee that electricity imported over an interconnector is not generated from nuclear sources. It is not possible to distinguish the flow of electricity across interconnectors by reference to the original source of supply or generation.

Ireland currently imports electricity from time to time from Northern Ireland, which is in turn linked to the UK electricity market via the Moyle Interconnector.  Electricity imports from the UK will be increased with the completion of the East West Interconnector in 2012. It is the case that nuclear generation forms part of the overall UK generation fuel mix.

The safety audit of nuclear plants in the European is being conducted in response to the Fukushima accident in Japan and falls within the nuclear safety remit of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.  Criteria for the review are due to be agreed in May by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group, where the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) represents Ireland.

Department’s expected expenditure on Consultancy Fees – 6th October 2011,

To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the amount he intends to spend on consultancy fees in 2011, in particular those contracted to identify value for money in his Department.

Reply

The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Pat Rabbitte):

The allocation for consultancy services in my Department in 2011 is €1.980m.  The identification of value for money is a core value underpinning all consultancy activity under the aegis of my Department.