13 October, 2015
million provided in 2016 to support programmes in communications, energy, broadcasting and natural resources
€68 million allocated for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 2016, supporting 2,750 jobs
€9 million for geoscience initiatives in Ireland’s offshore and onshore
€5.4 million to support digital entrepreneurship through the Digital Hub and NDRC
€4.5 million for ocean energy research activities
The Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, Alex White T.D., today
announced details of his Department’s 2016 budget. Minister White emphasised that he had secured an increase in funding, enabling his Department to support the key actions that will underpin improved communications infrastructure, digital skills and a sustainable energy system.
Speaking this afternoon, Minister White said: “The Budget will enhance or maintain programmes to help citizens, communities and small businesses benefit from digital opportunities. This is in addition to recently-announced capital funding for the National Broadband Plan, which will deliver high-speed broadband access to every home, school and business in Ireland by 2020, with 85% covered by 2018. And we are continuing to roll out Better Energy Programmes, which are creating jobs, tackling fuel poverty, and contributing to reduced carbon emissions and major energy cost savings.”
A total of €68 million has been allocated for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 2016. An increased allocation will see the Better Energy Programme support an estimated 2,750 jobs, and several new initiatives will boost the energy efficiency of Irish homes, businesses and buildings.
An increased budget allocation will allow the Better Energy Homes scheme to provide more grants to householders who want to improve their energy efficiency. Applications are up 78% since the re-launch of the scheme last March, when the value of grants was increased.
There’s also an increased allocation for the Better Energy Communities scheme, which was 300% over-subscribed in 2015. This will enable more community groups to improve the energy efficiency of homes, local businesses, community facilities and sports clubs.
Continued funding for the Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme will underpin the continued provision of free energy efficiency upgrades to households at risk of energy poverty.
A pilot energy efficiency programme, targeted at people who suffer from acute health conditions and live in poorly-insulated homes, will be launched as part of a new Affordable Energy Strategy in 2016.
Businesses will be incentivised to switch to renewable energy through a Renewable Heat Incentive to be introduced in 2016.
Grants for motorists who switch to electric vehicles are being maintained at their current levels, but an extra €1 million has been allocated for the scheme to reflect the anticipated increase in sales of electric vehicles in 2016.
In addition, €4.5 million will be made available for ocean energy research activities.
Digital opportunities and entrepreneurship
€5.4 million has been allocated to support digital entrepreneurship in the Digital Hub and National Digital Research Centre in 2016.
Budget 2016 sees further funding of €3 million to support another 1,000 small businesses through the Trading Online Voucher Scheme, which offers grants of up to €2,500 – subject to matching funding – as well as training, mentoring and networking support to help small firms develop their online trading capability. Over 70% of participating businesses say they expect to recruit more staff to deal with increased business.
There is continued funding for the BenefIT programme, which has so far delivered over 135,000 training places to help people develop basic internet skills. The funding will provide training for a further 30,000 citizens in 2016. Training has been delivered to groups including older people, parents, job-seekers, farming communities, people with disabilities, and ethnic minority and traveller groups.
The School Digital Champion pilot programme will be introduced. This follows investment in recent years to rollout 100Mbps broadband connectivity to every second-level school in Ireland.
National Broadband Plan
The National Broadband Plan (NBP) will bring high-speed broadband access to every home, school and business in Ireland by 2020, with 85% covered by 2018.
The State intervention element of the NBP will go to tender by the end of 2015 and a contract (or contracts) will be awarded in mid-2016.
The allocation of an initial €275 million in the Capital Programme will provide funding for the initial build-out, in a project that will feature staged payments over a longer period of up to 20 years.
€9 million is being provided for geoscience initiatives including the INFOMAR and TELLUS programmes, which will support expanded geoscience research programmes in Ireland’s offshore and onshore.
Minister White concluded: ‘Our continued economic success depends on Government support for innovation across the economy. My Department has an important role in ensuring that the economic recovery is felt in homes and businesses throughout the country. Communications and energy are vital infrastructures that every citizen depends on. The initiatives supported by my Department are helping to provide the environment, infrastructure and public services that businesses need if they are to enjoy sustained success.”