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Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources Budget to support economic, employment and social recovery

Dublin, 14 October 2014

  • €172 million provided in 2015 to support programmes in the communications, energy, broadcasting and natural resources areas
  • Further advancement of the Government's National Broadband Plan, including the launch of the state procurement process
  • Funding of €3m to get an additional 1000 businesses trading online
  • Postcodes project to be delivered in 2015 with funding of €9m provided
  • 2,900 jobs supported from a €47m exchequer investment in energy efficiency, with 10,000 low-income homes to receive energy efficiency upgrades
  • €10 million for offshore ocean energy programmes and energy R&D
  • Additional €3 million funding for Tellus mapping project in 2015

The Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Alex White T.D., today welcomed the continuation of programmes across his Department to support economic recovery, saying "Energy, broadband connectivity and the digital economy are amongst the most significant strategic sectors for Ireland's economic, employment and social recovery, and Budget 2015 demonstrates ongoing support for these key areas."

High Speed Broadband – building an inclusive digital society for all.

Delivering high speed broadband of at least 30mbps to every citizen, business and community in Ireland is a top priority for Government. The commercial sector is expected to deliver high speed services to at least 1.6m premises in Ireland by mid-2016. The Minister re-iterated the Government's strong commitment to facilitating the expansion of commercial broadband provision, and actively preparing to provide high speed broadband infrastructure to homes and businesses which are otherwise unlikely to be served by commercial providers. That could include up to 700,000 premises, depending on the extent of any new commercial investments that might emerge over the next 12 months.

"The Government recognises quality broadband as a key infrastructure for a 21st Century Society and we are planning an ambitious investment programme that reflects the importance of broadband, particularly for rural areas. Over the coming weeks, we will publish detailed maps which will show the areas where commercial providers are successfully in place or plan to provide services, and those where state intervention is required. A full public consultation on these maps will be launched, allowing operators, consumers and citizens to share their views. Intensive design work is ongoing in the Department, including the preparation of a comprehensive intervention strategy to be published in mid-2015, with a view to launching a major public procurement process." Minister White said.

In parallel with this major investment, the National Digital Strategy will continue to help businesses and citizens to reap the rewards of better connectivity. A further €3m has been allocated to the Trading Online Programme, allowing the Local Enterprise Offices to continue with a nationwide programme aimed at getting at least 2,000 small businesses trading online. "EU research suggests that companies that trade online grow twice as fast, export twice as much and employ twice as many people." Minister White said.

"Early results from the Trading Online initiative suggest that this is also the reality for small Irish businesses. Getting business online is therefore good for jobs, good for the economy and good for rural Ireland" Minister White continued. The Minister also underlined his intention to continue funding training for citizens – particularly older people, the unemployed and those with disabilities– with a view to ensuring their full participation in an increasingly digital society. "This year, we reached a milestone of 100,000 people receiving training under an initiative funded by my Department. The BenefIT scheme delivers internet training in approximately 600 locations nationwide and we intend to continue this scheme in 2015."

Energy Efficiency – managing energy use to cut costs and reduce emissions.

The allocation for the Better Energy Programme will total some €47 million in 2015, which will assist in the realisation of energy saving of over 460GWh next year. "One in six homes in Ireland have now been retrofitted through the Better Energy programme. The schemes also provide support to low-income households with over 10,000 low-income homes to benefit from energy efficiency upgrades next year." Minister White said. In overall terms, activity under this programme will lead to a reduction of 115 kT CO2 and will support an estimated 2,900 jobs in the economy.

The exchequer funding provided under the Better Energy Programme is only one element of an overall strategy to support energy efficiency measures. The €70m Energy Efficiency Fund, of which €35 million is provided by Government was launched in March this year and is performing well. The Minister commented on this investment, saying "Alongside the Government investment in energy efficiency, we are starting to see the commercial banks offer similar products, extending the number of energy efficiency projects that will be undertaken, and creating even more savings for businesses in Ireland. This is indicative of the growing level of international confidence in the Irish economy and a signal that the market is responding to the significant investment opportunity in energy efficiency projects."

The Minister welcomed the budget decision by the Minister for Finance to continue the Accelerated Capital Allowances (ACA) Scheme for energy efficient equipment. The scheme allows companies to claim 100% of the capital cost of certain energy efficient plant and machinery against corporation tax in the year of purchase. Since its introduction the ACA has expanded to include 10 categories, 49 different technologies (from 5 initial technologies) and has now more than 10,500 products on its register. It is estimated that energy cost savings worth over €13m to companies every year have already been achieved and the expectation is that the ACA will result in energy savings of approximately 975 Gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2020.

Ocean Energy and Energy Research Programmes

€10 million has been allocated next year to ocean energy research, development and demonstration, following the publication of the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan earlier this year. This funding will facilitate the development of the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site off Annagh Point in County Mayo; ongoing activity at the Galway and Mayo Test Sites; and the co-funding of the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster in Ringaskiddy, County Cork. The funding will also allow for the continued operation by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland of the Prototype Development Fund, the main focus of which is on stimulating industry-led projects for the development and deployment of ocean energy devices and systems.

Eircode

The introduction of a national postcode system in 2015 will be significant first for Ireland. A unique seven character code will be allocated to every letter-box in the State by the middle of 2015.

This will become a vital part of the national infrastructure, with improved efficiencies for postal delivery and other public and private services.

Under the new system, Ireland will be the first country in the world to have a public database of unique identifiers for all properties. This will assist citizens, public bodies and businesses to locate, and communicate with, individual households in the State.

Geoscience Data Collection

The Tellus Project, which has received additional funding of €3 million in Budget 2015, is a world class mapping project (geophysics & geochemical) collecting environmental data on soils, water and rocks around Ireland, which will be extended form the Border and Midland counties.

The Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Joe McHugh T.D., noted the important impacts of this project, saying "Information from the project will assist environmental management and support sustainable development of natural resources across Ireland. Critically the data allows improvement in geological mapping, which can then be used by public authorities and other sectors for activities such as groundwater protection, aggregate development, mineral exploration and environmental protection."

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