October 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Alex White, T.D., has welcomed two developments announced this week, which will see fibre-to-the-home delivered to at least 500,000 homes and businesses across Ireland.
The Minister said intense competition has seen telecommunications companies investing some €2.5bn in the Irish telecommunications market. He said the Government was committed to ensuring that every home and business in Ireland will get high quality internet connectivity, of at least 30 mbps, through State-led intervention in communities where commercial services are not likely to be provided.
“The commercial sector is showing clear leadership in delivering quality services to customers. The Government intends to follow this with an ambitious investment in rural Ireland, ensuring that everyone has high speed, high quality broadband regardless of where they are located”.
Today, eircom announced its intention to immediately commence rollout of fibre-to-the-home services to 66 communities in 26 counties commencing in November. This development will see eircom enhance its offering to customers as part of its wider programme of rolling out fibre-based services to 1.6m addresses in Ireland.
In a separate development yesterday, ESB secured approval from the European Commission to proceed with a joint venture between ESB and Vodafone Ireland. Earlier this year, following the enactment of legislation, the ESB and Vodafone announced their intention to enter a joint venture partnership in which ESB’s distribution network will be used to deliver wholesale fibre-to-the-home services. It is understood that the joint venture will deliver these services to 50 towns in 26 counties, with rollout commencing in 2015.
Welcoming both developments, Minister White said “Fibre-to-the-premises is a leading edge product. Whether the fibre goes to the home or business, this is a truly future-proofed product with the capacity to deal with multiple demands, devices and applications. It will bring a level of connectivity to homes and small businesses that will serve generations to come”.
The Minister noted that these announcements signal the growth of intense competition in the broadband market in Ireland, with telecommunications companies investing in the region of €2.5bn in upgrading services and products. “Competition is driving the delivery of new high speed fixed and wireless services to customers across Ireland” Minister White said, noting that eircom in particular has already passed 1 million homes with its eFibre service.
Minister White said he intended to publish a map in the coming weeks, which will show (a) the areas of planned commercial investment by 2016 and (b) the remaining areas, which will be the focus of the Government’s intervention. A public consultation be launched on the map, and on the technical standards that will apply to the State intervention. The Minister said that he intended to move to the procurement stage of the State’s intervention in 2015.
October 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
Today the contract was signed for the construction works for the GPO: Witness History Interpretive Exhibition Centre. Construction will begin in November and is expected to take 12 months. GPO: Witness History will officially open on Easter Sunday 2016. The overall development will cost €7.8 million.
The GPO: Witness History Interpretive centre will form a centrepiece of the 1916 commemorations. Its Easter 2016 opening date is hugely significant historically but the centre will also be an enduring facility for the nation’s citizens to enjoy, and an impressive and informative visitor attraction that will help explain Ireland’s story to the rest of the world.
October 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m pleased to note that Dublin Bus has introduced extra departures at 15.45 and 17.40 on the 145 service from the 39a stop at Belfield Campus.
Three extra buses have been added to the 145 route from the city centre between 17.00 and 17.45, a move which is intended to alleviate demand on the 84x service.
Two extra departures have also been added to the 84x route for the duration of the peak Winter period at 18.10 from the City Centre and at 17.00 from Donnybrook Church.
These measures should offer a big help to commuters, particularly those travelling to and from Stillorgan, Mount Merrion and Belfield.
October 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
My main priority as Minister is to further advance the National Broadband Plan. Delivering high speed, high quality and future proofed broadband to all parts of Ireland will provide jobs and improve social inclusion, including in rural communities. It will create infrastructure that allows businesses and communities to thrive. To this end, we are in the process of ensuring that high speed broadband becomes available to every citizen and business in the country irrespective of their location.
The introduction of a national postcode system will make 2015 a significant year for Ireland as every household will receive a unique ‘Eircode’ by the middle of the year. Eircodes will assist in logistics planning, accurate address capture, better customer service and enhanced fraud detection and data management.
For the fourth year in a row, we will roll out the Better Energy Programmes. These programmes have successfully delivered major energy savings, created jobs, tackled fuel poverty and helped reduce carbon emissions. In 2015 a further €47m will be provided to the Better Energy Homes Programmes and the Better Energy Warmer Homes programme. The total number of beneficiaries of the Better Energy Warmer Homes programme will rise to 118,000 in 2015.
Overall Expenditure on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources
Allocation to current spending €83.6m
Allocation to capital spending €89.0m
Total Budget for 2015: €172.6m
National Broadband Plan
- Further advance high quality, high speed and future proofed broadband network for Ireland
- Q4, 2014: Map of priority interventions for broadband to be published.
- Economic, legal and technical design and scope of plan to be finalised in mid-2015 and published for further consultation.
National Postcode system – Eircode
- Public Information Campaign to begin Q2, 2015
- Every household in the country to get a unique code by mid-2015
National Digital Strategy and digital entrepreneurship
- Further funding of €3m to accelerate Trading Online Voucher Scheme – €2,500 available to small enterprises – through Local Enterprise Offices.
- Renewed funding for the BenefIT programme, which bridges the internet divide, through a network of 700 community organisations.
- €2.7m to conclude the Schools broadband programme giving every secondary school in Ireland 100mbs high speed broadband.
- €5.5m 2015 spending for the National Digital Research Agency and the Digital Hub.
- The 2015 allocation is €242.47m. TV licence fee revenue funds the delivery of public service broadcasting by RTÉ and TG4.
Better Energy Programmes
- €47m allocated to Better Energy Programme, which supports an estimated 2,900 jobs.
- Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme will continue to target low-income households for energy savings resulting in warmer homes and reduced energy costs.
- Better Energy Homes will continue to provide retrofitting grant aid to Irish homes.
- The €70m Energy Efficiency Fund (€35m from the Government) was launched this year. Fund managers believe that as much as €200m in leveraged funding could be achieved.
- €10m funding allocated to Ocean Energy research in 2015.
Inland Fisheries Ireland
- Overall expenditure of €27.6m includes funds to ensure patrol man hours and inspections to assist in the detection of illegal activities.
Geological Survey of Ireland
- Further €3m allocated to GSI to advance Tellus project mapping Ireland’s environment and natural resources and the continuance of INFOMAR, the near shore mapping project.
Minerals exploration and mining
- The allocation for 2015 is €3.58m, including €1.4m expenditure on the remediation of former mine sites in Avoca, county Wicklow and Silvermines, county Tipperary.
I am working to advance key Labour values in my Department which is strategic by its very nature. The development of an ambitious broadband plan, and the delivery of ‘Eircodes’, demonstrates the capacity of the state to intervene and invest where the market has failed. By doing so, we will ensure that the right infrastructure exists for families, businesses, our society and economy to thrive and reach its full potential.
October 7, 2014 § Leave a comment
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry that I cannot be with you there today in person, unfortunately pressing European business means that I am unavoidably detained elsewhere.
I firmly believe that the challenge of energy affordability is one of the most pressing we face as a society. Energy is not a luxury, it is a fundamental requirement of modern life and we have a shared responsibility as a society to ensure that everyone can afford to heat and power their homes.
This is a daunting challenge and there are no quick fix solutions. Addressing energy poverty requires holistic solutions. Industry, Government and consumer groups all need to work together to develop the type of solutions that can make a real difference for those in energy poverty. Today’s conference is a tangible example of the kind of collaborative approach we need to further develop and I would like to commend Energy Action for its organisation.
The case for addressing energy poverty is clear. Studies in the UK and further afield have demonstrated that allowing people to live in homes that are comfortable and warm has an enormous impact upon the quality of their lives, which is reflected in lower costs for our health system.
I believe that it is important that more field research is carried out in this area and indeed that the current body of research is brought together. This evidence-based approach will help to inform policy-makers to identify the most effective solutions to fuel poverty.
Unfortunately it is often the case that the customers experiencing the greatest difficulty with their energy bills are those families living in sub-standard accommodation. In effect, they end up having to spend more money to achieve the same or a lower level of comfort than a family in a home with better insulation. This can turn into a vicious cycle of rising health and energy bills and invariably the point comes when something snaps.
We need to break this cycle and we have the means to do so. Improving the thermal efficiency of our homes replaces imported fossil fuel with domestic jobs, lowers our emissions and lets people heat their homes with less energy and lower bills. Already, working with organisations like Energy Action, the Government’s Warmer Homes programme has upgraded over 105,000 homes, with a further 12,000 homes to be upgraded in 2014 and I will fight to ensure that Budget 2015 protects programmes like the Warmer Homes scheme.
These retrofitting programmes also support the economy by substituting our dependence on imported fossil fuels with local employment throughout the country. I remain committed to the Community based organisations playing a vital role in the in the scheme as we move towards a new tendering system in the new year, alongside private contractors
We also must ensure that the competitive energy market is working on behalf of all consumers, not just the most sophisticated consumers. We need to educate and engage consumers. Through new initiatives like the energy engage code, which protects a customer who engages with their energy supplier from disconnection and the series of workshops my Department is embarking on to seek input on the Energy Green Paper, I hope that more and more people will become engaged energy citizens.
We cannot forget that around seven hundred thousand households in Ireland are using oil to heat their homes. That’s nearly half of the homes in the country. Many of those households are in rural areas and areas without access to the gas grid. The economic downturn has left some of these households struggling to save the funds required to fill their oil tanks for the winter months, particularly as the price of oil can vary making it difficult for them to budget adequately. We need to consider practical and innovative solutions that could be implemented to give these customers some of the protections that other energy consumers already enjoy. For example, working with Saint Vincent de Paul, my Department is about to embark upon an oil stamps saving scheme, that if successfully piloted, we will roll out nationally.
It is a core commitment of the Programme for Government to help people at risk of energy poverty. We will continue to upgrade people’s homes through retrofit measures. We will continue to support the most vulnerable in our society through the social protection system and we will continue to promote the development of healthy competition in the energy market and ensure that the market delivers for consumers. We will also work closely with the organisations represented at the energy action conference.
To this end I would like to inform you all that my Department is currently working on a review of the Government’s Affordability Strategy and I aim to publish a consultation paper on what should form the basis of the Government’s next affordability strategy in the coming weeks. I look forward to your input into this process.
I wish you a productive conference and I look forward to hearing your views in the forthcoming energy affordability consultation and through the Energy Policy Paper process.
Thank you very much.