1. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the need to ensure that energy prices are kept under review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53547/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Energy Prices)

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): I have no statutory function in the setting of gas or electricity prices, whether in the regulated or non-regulated parts of these markets. 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. Since 4 April 2011 prices in the electricity retail market have been fully deregulated and business and domesti...

2. Deputy Michael Colreavy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the tax percentage the State would take from a company (details supplied) following oil extraction from the proposed site off Dalkey, County Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53500/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Offshore Exploration)

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd) (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd): Standard Exploration Licence 2/11, which was issued last year, is held by a consortium comprising Providence Resources Plc and PSE Seven Heads Ltd. over an area of approximately 380 square kilometres in the Kish Bank Basin off the Dublin-Wicklow coast.
The licence is for a six-year period with an obligation to drill an exploration well by August 2014. The licensees ...

3. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the fact that his plan of phasing out the subsidisation of home energy retrofit without a suitable pay as you save replacement facility in place has had a detrimental effect on employment in the construction and retrofit sector which has created sustained employment for 5,000 people over the past four years; his plans to expedite the introduction of the planned pay as you save home retrofit scheme; if so, if he will offer details of the scheme; if he has had any consultations with the Deprtment for the Environment, Community and Local Government in terms of the utility such a programme can offer as part of a national CO2 emissions reduction plan in the context of climate legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53528/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Better Energy Homes Scheme)

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: The Government, through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, has invested over €145 million in Better Energy Homes and its forerunner schemes since 2009. The existing scheme is demand-led, with €76.146 million committed in Exchequer funding this year.
Better Energy Homes provides financial assistance for improving the energy performance of older homes built any time before 2006. The scheme enables homeowners to save money, while improving comfort and reducing...

4. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he proposes to ensure fair treatment of rural consumers in the provision of telecommunications services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53548/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Broadband Services)

(Deputy Pat Rabbitte): I accept that the widespread availability of reliable telecommunications services in both voice and data are imperative in a modern economy and society. As a result of targeted Government interventions through initiatives such as the national broadband scheme, basic broadband services are now widely available across the country. In addition, the State-funded metropolitan area networks, MANs, are available in approximately 94 centres, including a number of small rural tow...

5. Deputy Joan Collins asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether the current process of granting exploration licences complies with the EU Directive 2003/4/EC on access to information on the Environment and EU Directive 2003/35/EC on public participation in environmental decision making and access to justice; and his views in relation to the granting of the licence to a company (details supplied) to drill in Dublin Bay. (Question 53546/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Petroleum and Gas Exploration)

(Deputy Fergus O’Dowd): I confirm to the Deputy my satisfaction that the current exploration licensing process is fully compliant with the requirements of both European and domestic law with respect to public participation in environmental assessment, including the requirements of EU Directives 2003/4/EC and 2003/35/EC.
The environmental assessment process implemented in Ireland is as follows. In advance of licensing rounds for the granting of exploration licensing options, a strategic environm...

6. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied that service providers for the new 4G network will deliver sufficient coverage for rural Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53247/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Telecommunications Services)

(Deputy Pat Rabbitte): I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 8, 19 and 32 together.
In accordance with its statutory functions the Commission for Energy Regulation, ComReg, recently concluded an intensive process for the release, through an auction, of spectrum rights of use in the 800, 900 and 1800 Mhz frequency bands. The outcome of the auction for this spectrum was announced by ComReg on Thursday, 15 November. The auction raised some €855 million, of which at least €400 million is expected to...

7. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will confirm that the significant inefficiencies induced on the existing fossil fuel power plants by the highly variable wind input has been assessed by public authorities when calculating the emission savings and financial savings attributed to this wind energy programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53337/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Alternative Energy Projects)

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: A joint modelling study entitled, Impact of Wind Generation on Wholesale Electricity Costs in 2011, was undertaken by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and EirGrid. The study looked at the impact of wind on the electricity market, including the impact on the operational requirements of the thermal generation. It shows that wind did not add any additional cost to the price of electricity. While constraint costs increased slightly in the scenario with more wind po...

8. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on whether adequate nationwide coverage will be delivered under the new 4G spectrum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53259/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Telecommunications Services)

(Deputy Pat Rabbitte): I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 8, 19 and 32 together.
In accordance with its statutory functions the Commission for Energy Regulation, ComReg, recently concluded an intensive process for the release, through an auction, of spectrum rights of use in the 800, 900 and 1800 Mhz frequency bands. The outcome of the auction for this spectrum was announced by ComReg on Thursday, 15 November. The auction raised some €855 million, of which at least €400 million is expected to...

9. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the action he is taking to secure a viable future for Bórd na Mona and its workforce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53269/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Semi-State Companies)

(Deputy Pat Rabbitte): My Department and I have actively engaged with Bord na Móna on the challenges the company faces and its future strategy. I am strongly supportive of the company, which provides valuable employment in the midlands and is an important producer of energy and other services. The challenges include environmental constraints on the use of peat in power generation and horticultural products and the expiry of the public service obligation for peat-fired power generation in the c...

10. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with regard to the introduction of Refit 3, and its importance to the biomass supply chain here, the reason there has there been such a the lack of interest in it being shown by relevant State companies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53264/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Alternative Energy Projects)

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 13 and 16 together.
In order to meet our 2020 binding targets, the Government is committed to increasing renewable energy to 40% in the electricity sector, 10% in the transport sector and 12% in the heating sector, which together amount to 16% overall, in line with our target under the EU renewable energy directive. A number of organisations are providing details on progress in this regard. This week, the Sustainable Energy Authority of...

11. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans to introduce a new fund to support and develop public service broadcasting on independent commercial radio; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53327/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Broadcasting Service Provision)

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): As I have told this House on a number of occasions, I fully recognise the contribution of the independent radio sector in bringing diversity to the airwaves, and serving the needs of communities, often at a very local level. As I noted when I addressed the Independent Broadcasters of Ireland (IBI) Annual Conference earlier this year, “Local radio gives a voice and enhances social dialogue for people of all ages ......

12. Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in view of the Government’s passing of the Aarhus Convention what if any public onsultation processes is he going to put in place around the applications for granting exploration licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53322/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Exploration Licences Approvals)

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd) (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd): I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 21 and 43 together. 
The Aarhus Convention, which is implemented through the Public Participation Directive, obliges the State to adopt all measures necessary to ensure that, before consent is given, projects likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue, inter alia, of their nature, size or location are made sub...

13. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his proposals to accelerate an increase in renewable energy resources through wind, wave and sustainable biomass as an alternative to importing fuels; the groups that are responsible for reporting this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53156/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Alternative Energy Projects)

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 13 and 16 together.
In order to meet our 2020 binding targets, the Government is committed to increasing renewable energy to 40% in the electricity sector, 10% in the transport sector and 12% in the heating sector, which together amount to 16% overall, in line with our target under the EU renewable energy directive. A number of organisations are providing details on progress in this regard. This week, the Sustainable Energy Authority of...

14. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his plans for the disposal of State assets under the aegis of his Department; the timeframe for their disposal and the progress made to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53270/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Sale of State Assets)

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy 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, sustain...

15. Deputy Dessie Ellis asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if his Department has had any discussions with a company (details supplied) regarding land purchases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53330/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Land Acquisition)

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd) (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd): I can confirm for the Deputy that neither I nor my Department has had any discussions with Tamboran Resources regarding land purchases.
 ...

16. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he is satisfied with regard to the extent to which the development of alternative energy generated electricity has taken place to date; if he has identified any particular obstacles which might impede the achievement of national and European targets in this regard; if he will indicate the main sources of alternative energy currently used for this purpose; if other sources deemed to be commercially viable have been identified; and the extent to which each segment of the alternative energy sector is likely to meet its targets in electricity generation over the next four years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53274/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Alternative Energy Projects)

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: I propose to take Questions Nos. 10, 13 and 16 together.
In order to meet our 2020 binding targets, the Government is committed to increasing renewable energy to 40% in the electricity sector, 10% in the transport sector and 12% in the heating sector, which together amount to 16% overall, in line with our target under the EU renewable energy directive. A number of organisations are providing details on progress in this regard. This week, the Sustainable Energy Authority of...

17. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the plans in place to increase the level of Irish language/bilingual broadcasting here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53335/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Irish Language Issues)

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is the independent Regulator responsible for the oversight of the broadcasting sector in this country. The Contract Awards Committee makes arrangements to invite, consider and recommend to the Authority proposals for the provision of broadcasting services additional to the existing broadcasting services provided in the State.
Section 25 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 provides tha...

18. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the way he proposes to combat inappropriate media advertising aimed at children; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53256/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Broadcast Advertising Standards Regulation)

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is an independent statutory body which has responsibility under Section 26 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 for the preparation of broadcasting codes or rules.
Section 42 of the Broadcasting Act 2009 obliges the BAI to prepare and monitor compliance with certain broadcasting codes, including the Children’s Commercial Communications Code, as well as reviewing these codes.
In li...

19. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he will provide a percentage figure of 4G coverage the geographic are west of the Shannon will receive following the 4G auction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53340/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Telecommunications Services)

(Deputy Pat Rabbitte): I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 8, 19 and 32 together.
In accordance with its statutory functions the Commission for Energy Regulation, ComReg, recently concluded an intensive process for the release, through an auction, of spectrum rights of use in the 800, 900 and 1800 Mhz frequency bands. The outcome of the auction for this spectrum was announced by ComReg on Thursday, 15 November. The auction raised some €855 million, of which at least €400 million is expected to...

20. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his proposals for expanding wind energy exports; his targets regarding same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53263/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Alternative Energy Projects)

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): In 2011, Ireland had 17.6% renewable electricity, 3.6% biofuels and 5% renewable heating, which amounted in total to 6.5% of all energy consumed being from renewable sources.
Our intention, in order to meet our 2020 binding targets, is to increase renewable energy to 40% in the electricity sector, 10% in the transport sector and 12% in the heating sector, which together amounts to 16% overall, in line with our legal...

21. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in view of the Government’s passing of the Aarhus Convention what if any public onsultation processes is he going to put in place around the applications for granting exploration licences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53320/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Exploration Licences Approvals)

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd) (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd): I propose to take Questions Nos. 12, 21 and 43 together. 
The Aarhus Convention, which is implemented through the Public Participation Directive, obliges the State to adopt all measures necessary to ensure that, before consent is given, projects likely to have significant effects on the environment by virtue, inter alia, of their nature, size or location are made sub...

22. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources in view of estimates of over a billion barrels of oil in the Barryroe Oilfield, his plans to maximise the benefit to the State of such resources; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53271/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Energy Resources)

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd) (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd): It is a core policy objective of my Department to maximise the benefits to the State from exploration for, and production of, our indigenous petroleum resources, while at the same time ensuring that activities are conducted safely and with due regard to their impact on the environment and other land/sea users.
In relation to the Barryroe oil discovery, results of tes...

23. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his proposals for the future of biofuels here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53250/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Alternative Energy Projects)

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 30 together.
The Biofuel Obligation Scheme was introduced in July 2010 as the primary means to meet the target of at least 10% renewable energy in transport by 2020, which was mandated by the Renewable Energy Directive. It is estimated that 8.4% of the energy in transport in Ireland will be achieved by deployment of biofuels. The Biofuel Obligation currently requires that th...

24. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources the annual additional cost incurred with a no wind energy situation and the alternatives considered to achieve the same level of environmental protection using other technologies both renewable and energy conservation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53338/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Alternative Energy Projects)

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Pat Rabbitte): I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 50 together.
The additional cost incurred with no wind generation is an estimated figure of approximately €300 million in avoided national gas imports from the use of all renewable energies in the generation of electricity in 2011 which was published recently by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). They calculate that wind generation alone would account for an ...

25. Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has received any information regarding the amount of oil that lies off the County Kerry coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 53332/12 asked on 29 Nov 2012 - Energy Resources)

Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd) (Deputy Fergus O’Dowd): I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 39 together.
Petroleum exploration authorisations are currently held by a number of companies in respect of areas in the Porcupine Basin off the Kerry coast. Drilling operations have not been carried under any of these authorisations to date, though I understand that plans are in progress for the commencement next year of drill...