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Minister Naughten Opening Remarks for Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment Budget 2019 Press Conference

 

Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment Budget 2019 Press Conference

October 10th 2018

Press Conference Opening Remarks by

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten TD

 

 

Check Against Delivery

 

Introduction

Through Budget 2019 I have secured total investment funding of over €2 billion over the next 3 years, from 2019 to 2021. This significant programme of investment reflects the scale of my Department's ambition and policy commitments across key areas of national strategic importance. This multi-annual budget will primarily focus on broadband and the climate agenda, including energy efficiency.

In 2019, my Department will oversee a total budget of €647 million, representing a €66 million or 11% increase over 2018.  Increased funding in 2019 will accelerate progress on two key national strategic outcomes in the National Development Plan, specifically "Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities", and "Transition to a Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Society".

Connectivity & Climate Change – 2 key pillars

Delivery of high capacity and reliable digital connectivity under the National Broadband Plan is fundamental to maintaining and enhancing competitiveness, as well as ensuring balanced regional development and equality of opportunity for all communities. 

Climate change is the global challenge of current and future generations. It is a complex whole-of-Government and whole-of-society issue, with long-term impacts that require policy solutions and behavioural change in the near term. 

The National Development Plan commits over €1 in every €4 of its total spend to climate action and sustainable mobility, and this capital investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions over the period to 2030, as well as realising opportunities for sustainable economic growth.  In driving economic growth and innovation, it is also critical to ensure the right signals are in place to shape investment choices and infrastructural developments and reorient them towards decarbonising options.

My Department's new Climate Action Fund of at least €500m over the period to 2027, will support a broad range of innovative projects that will help Ireland to address its climate and energy targets. Projects in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, district heating, electric vehicle charging networks and enhanced environmental protection.  I can confirm that almost 100 applications have been received in the first Call for Applications, which I launched in July. An assessment of these applications is currently underway.

ENERGY

Energy Efficiency

Using less energy and using it more efficiently is the most cost-effective way to combat climate change. Since becoming Minister, I have achieved an overall step change of 82% in the allocation for the Energy Programme area. In money terms that means we are moving from a base at the formation of this Government of €90 million in 2016 to €164 million in 2019.

My Department is focussed on increasing the growth of renewable transport, renewable heat and renewable electricity generation, in the transition to a low carbon economy, and a more decentralised and decarbonised electricity system.

To date, State investment in energy efficiency has supported the upgrading of more than 360,000 homes, or 1 in every 5 homes in the country.

In 2019, funding of €90 million will be invested in sustainable energy projects in 26,000 more homes, saving at least 110,000 tonnes in carbon emissions every year and supporting around 3,500 jobs, while also reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.   

Trusted advice to energy consumers and local communities to bring about behavioural change forms a key part of our approach.  We aim is to support deeper energy efficiency measures in more homes, retrofitting exisiting stock and supporting the change out of oil boilers to heat pumps, while regulating new build to the highest standards.

We are committed to thousands of actions, in thousands of homes and businesses across the country.  It is about insulation and heating controls, heat pumps and solar panels. Micro generation will allow citizens in local communities to generate their own electricity and contribute towards Ireland's climate action targets.  It is about reclaiming one home at a time, for the best standard we can provide, for a sustainable future.

The commercial and public sectors have huge energy saving potential, and I am devoting some €27 million to further expand the supports available and to build on the successful initiatives to date.  Companies will benefit not just in terms of reduced energy spend, but improved efficiencies, competitiveness and resilience.  The adoption of renewable heating systems by commercial, industrial, agricultural, district heating and other non-domestic heat users is also being promoted under the Support Scheme for Renewable Heat, which I launched this year.

I want the public sector to continue to reduce consumption and play their part in moving Ireland to a low-carbon future, through the achievement of 33% energy efficiency improvement by 2020. Having already achieved 20% efficiency improvements – with cumulative spend savings of €737m and 2.68 million tonnes of avoided emissions by end 2016, I am confident that this impact will be even greater when the figures for 2017 are published shortly. 

 

I have secured €13 million to continue the electric vehicle purchase grant, the home charger grant and SEAI's public engagement programme in 2019. In addition, my Department, in conjunction with the SEAI, is working on how best to support the provision of greater levels of on-street public charging.

I welcome yesterday's Budget which continues the benefit-in-kind relief for battery electric vehicles for three years (subject to a cap of €50,000 on the value of the vehicle) and VRT relief on hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for one year. These measures will help us to get us on the right path to meet our target that all new cars in 2030 will be zero emissions capable, one of the most ambitious targets of its kind in Europe.

I have written to the CEOs of all the leading banks to urge them to introduce reduced-rate interest on loans for those people wishing to buy electric vehicles or invest in green energy home improvements. I have told the lenders that they should consider cheaper loan repayments for business owners seeking funding for environmentally friendly projects.

The Budget also introduces Accelerated Capital Allowances for gas-propelled vehicles and refuelling equipment which will encourage investment in natural gas and biogas as a substitute for diesel.

 

ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION

The Environmental Protection Agency will be allocated €37 million to regulate, to research, and to advocate for our environment, with a significant focus on climate change and waste enforcement next year. 

Preventing waste, saving energy and ensuring we have clear air are all steps towards a cleaner environment, towards tackling climate change and part of a circular economy.

In addition to €9 million in funding for the remediation of environmentally-degraded landfill sites, I will be making funds available again next year to tackle the scourge of illegal dumping. However, money alone cannot solve our litter or waste problems. It requires behavioural change and personal responsibility.  We have to enable people take action to avoid, to reduce and to reuse, and so I have allocated €1 million to the national waste awareness campaign.

DIGITAL

National Broadband Plan

In the last century Ireland became the first country in the world to bring electricity to every home.  Now we are determined to do this with broadband.

For Ireland this is a monumental task as 37% of our population live on 96% of the land mass of Ireland.  We have the most dispersed population in Europe.

As of today and under the commercial stimulus provided by the National Broadband Plan, 7 out of 10 premises have access to high speed broadband. 26% of homes and businesses in rural areas have direct access to pure fibre optic cable to their door.

And now we want to finish the job so as to allow all citizens, no matter where they live, access to all the opportunities the digital world has to offer.

Following a complex procurement process, a final tender under the National Broadband Plan to connect those not served by current commercial investment was submitted to my Department on 18 September last.  Evaluation of the final tender submission is ongoing and on conclusion of this process, my Department will make a recommendation on whether to appoint the bidder as preferred bidder. I will then bring the matter to Government for decision.

Support Small Businesses & Digital Skills
Ireland's digital economy is predicted to be worth €21 billion by 2020. Transforming small businesses to trade online has the potential to spread real growth to all regions. People are now spending almost €14,000 every minute online, some €6,000 of which goes overseas. 

My Department's Trading Online Voucher Scheme will continue to support small businesses to develop their digital capabilities. Our research into the enterprise impacts of the Scheme tell us that businesses grow on average by 21%, those businesses that are growing employ 35% more people, and 60% export for the first time.  Moreover, urban and rural based businesses benefit equally from the online opportunity.

Under the Digital Skills for Citizens Scheme, community and voluntary organisations will receive funding of over €2 million to provide more than 25,000 people with 10 hours of free digital skills training.  Training is targeted at people over 45, farming communities, small business owners, the unemployed, persons with disabilities and disadvantaged groups and is delivered in local communities across every county.

BROADCASTING

Budget 2019 sees an allocation of €265 million, comprising an increase of €9.5 million over 2018 to help ensure the State broadcasters to remain relevant in the context of changing technology, media consumption and commercial trends. This level of funding underpins the continued delivery by RTÉ of its public service objectives and supports TG4 as the national Irish language public service broadcaster, while promoting the development of new programming.

 

CONCLUDING REMARKS

The economy, our climate, the communications networks that link us together and support our jobs, enhance our quality of life and underline the viability of our communities are key priorities for this Government since its very first day in office.

Budget 2019 delivers leadership. It builds on what is done. It develops capacity to do more. In delivering resources, it underlines our priorities. In enabling homes and businesses to makes critical changes, it changes culture.

Ends/

 

Notes to the Editor

 

Resource Allocation 2019-2021

 

The multi-annual expenditure ceilings for the Communications, Climate Action & Environment Vote Group for the period 2019-2021 are presented in the table below.

Communications, Climate Action and Environment201920202021
 €m€m€m
Gross Voted Current Expenditure391391391
Gross Voted Capital Expenditure256297317
Total Gross Voted Expenditure647688708

 

 

 

Public Services to be delivered in 2019

This funding will enable a significant level of services to be delivered across all programme areas in 2019. The funding provided reflects the scale of the Government's ambition and policy commitments across a number of areas of strategic national importance, including communications, broadcasting, energy efficiency, climate action, environment and natural resources.  In particular, increased funding ensures progress on two key national strategic outcomes in the National Development Plan, specifically "Strengthened Rural Economies and Communities", and "Transition to a Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Society". Selected measures are set out in the table below.

 

 

Programme A - Communications

The aim of this Programme is to contribute to the ongoing growth and development of the Irish economy and society by facilitating investment in high speed broadband networks across the country, by developing an innovative and secure digital communications, and by promoting the use of digital technologies by businesses and citizens. Under this Programme, the 2019 allocation will allow the Department to:

 

  • Support the delivery of the high speed broadband network under the National Broadband Plan, facilitating balanced regional development and equality of opportunity for all communities;
  • Continue to promote engagement in the digital economy by indigenous small business, supporting a further 1,500 small businesses to trade online through the Trading Online Voucher Scheme;
  • Continue to promote digital inclusion by providing digital literacy training under the Digital Skills for Citizens Scheme to support a further 25,000 citizens to get online for the first time; and
  • Support the National Cyber Security Centre in its strengthened role in relation to the protection of Government networks and critical infrastructure.

 

Programme B - Broadcasting

The aim of this Programme is to support high quality public service broadcasting, and a broadcasting sector underpinned by a proportionate and effective regulatory regime. Under this Programme, the 2019 allocation will allow the Department to:

  • Support the continued delivery by RTÉ of its public service objectives;
  • Support TG4 as the national Irish language public service broadcaster; and 
  • Stimulate the development of new television and radio programmes and the archiving of material through schemes established under the Broadcasting Fund.

 

Programme C - Energy

The aim of this Programme is to deliver on energy policy which is focussed on ensuring a secure, competitive and sustainable energy system and to contribute to the reduction of energy-related emissions as Ireland transitions to a low carbon, climate-resilient economy, in line with the Government's National Mitigation Plan. Under this Programme, the 2019 allocation will allow the Department to:

 

  • Provide grant funding for energy efficiency improvements, including new and innovative technologies and deep retrofit works, in a further 26,000 homes, as a key measure to tackle climate change;
  • Continue to assist communities, SME sector and large energy users to deliver significant energy savings and reductions in CO2 emissions, including support for public sector bodies to achieve the 33% energy efficiency target;
  • Continue to invest in applied energy research, development and demonstration projects, including ocean energy to diversify away from fossil fuels; and
  • Increase the growth in electric vehicles, further supporting the transition to a low carbon economy. 

 

Programme D - Natural Resources

The aim of this Programme is to manage Ireland's mineral, hydrocarbon and other geological resources in a sustainable and productive manner, and to provide reliable geoscience support for environmental protection and the sustainable development of Ireland's natural resources. Under this Programme, the 2019 allocation will allow the Department to:

  • Continue the geo-environmental mapping project (Tellus), data which will allow improved geological maps and facilitate better land use planning and research;
  • Continue to progress Ireland's marine mapping programme (INFOMAR), which is managed by the Geological Survey Ireland, in co-operation with the Marine Institute;
  • Regulate licensing and leasing activities, encompassing mineral exploration and mining, and petroleum exploration and production; and
  • Provide further support for geoscience research activities.

Programme E - Inland Fisheries

The aim of this Programme is to protect, conserve, develop and promote Ireland's inland fisheries resource, including sea angling. Under this Programme, the 2019 allocation will allow the Department to support Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) to:

  • Rehabilitate and maintain up to 35,000 metres of streams and assess 147 rivers, sections of rivers and estuaries, as part of the annual salmon management programme;
  • Continue to deliver its licensing and inspection programme;
  • Continue to progress the National Strategy for Angling Development through a range of conservation, access and promotion works; and
  • Upgrade IFI's sea-going capacity and field equipment.

     

Programme F - Environment and Waste Management

The aim of this Programme is to promote the protection of Ireland's natural environment, the health and well-being of our citizens and the transition to a resource-efficient circular economy, in support of ecologically sustainable development, growth and jobs. Under this Programme, the 2019 allocation will allow the Department to:

  • Support the Environment Protection Agency in the performance of its legislative mandate and the delivery of its research commitments in areas including ambient air quality, non-ionising radiation and noise monitoring, as well as the climate change agenda;
  • Carry out remediation of environmentally-degraded landfill sites;
  • Continue to fund a national waste awareness campaign to target household waste collection, illegal dumping, end of life vehicles and tyres; and
  • Fund a range of activities in the climate area, including technical research and modelling to inform mitigation and adaptation policy measures, as well as international and national climate change obligations.

 

 

Full details on the allocation of the Department's 2019 Vote across spending areas will be set out in the Revised Estimates Volume (REV).


 

 

Selected MeasuresCost in 2019
€million

Energy
Investment in targeted measures to achieve Ireland's energy efficiency and renewable energy objectives.

  • Energy efficiency upgrades in the residential, commercial and public building stock in the drive to reduce CO2 in the built environment
  • Promotion of renewable energy and energy research to accelerate diversification away from fossil fuels to green energy.
  • Incentivisation of electric vehicles, further supporting the transition to a low carbon future.
164
Communications
Supporting the National Broadband Plan and promoting digital adoption among small businesses and citizens.
87

Broadcasting

Supporting the broadcasting sector, by ensuring high quality public sector broadcasting and promoting a diverse and plural media sector. 

265
Environmental & Waste Management
Continued promotion of environmental protection, waste prevention and the climate change agenda, along with remediation of environmentally-degraded landfill sites. 
70
Natural Resources and Inland Fisheries
Supporting the sustainable development of Ireland's natural and inland fishery resource.
60
Total647

*Rounding affects total

 

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