Check Against Delivery
Today, the step change in political commitment which the establishment of my department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment marked and which Budget 2017 underpinned, was further built on.
I have secured a total capital investment of almost €1.1 billion from 2018 to 2021. This multi-annual budget will primarily focus on energy efficiency.
Except for Housing the biggest capital increase in 2017 and 2018 across Government is in my own Department.
Delivering on the scale of change I am determined to lead and I believe people are willing to embrace, will be transformational. It is a marathon not a sprint.
Energy efficiency is the best contribution to tackling climate change. Since becoming Minister, I have achieved a step change of 83% in the overall energy allocation.
In 2018, the capital funding will be invested in sustainable energy projects which will save over 120,000 tonnes in carbon emissions every year, supporting around 3,500 jobs, mainly rural, while also reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels. Next year we will spend 43% more on energy efficiency programmes than this year. In money terms that means we are moving from a base at the formation of this government of €84 million in 2016 to €154 million in 2018.
This means a commitment to thousands of actions, in thousands of homes and businesses across the country. It is about boilers, roofs, walls and windows. It is reclaiming one home at a time, for the best standard we can provide, for a sustainable future. It is painstaking work that makes a lasting difference.
The difference can be measured in giving comfort at home, in delivering greater efficiency in business and the public sector, in tackling fuel poverty for the disadvantaged, in saving on energy now and in tackling climate change globally.
I want the public sector to reduce consumption and play their part in moving Ireland to a low-carbon future. When I published the Public Sector Energy Efficiency strategy in January this year, I secured Government agreement that public bodies that save energy can keep the money they save on energy bills to put back into services, facilities and equipment. This is a clear incentive that sits alongside the obligation on public bodies to improve their energy efficiency by 33% by 2020. I have allocated €9 million to help deliver on this objective in 2018.
Committing more resources on energy is accompanied by more resources for the environment and waste management. In Budget 2018 we are spending 19% more next year, which builds on the base created by an increase of 31% in 2017. Over these two years expenditure on the environment is increasing from €42 million when I took office, to €65 million next year. That’s an increase of 55%.
Energy efficiency, climate change and our environment are all part of one holistic whole.
This year the Environmental Protection Agency will be allocated €35 million more to regulate, to research, and to advocate for our environment. Let me explain the difference some of this allocation will make.
Air quality is critical for our health. Measuring it is essential, to policing it. We have 30 monitoring sites in place now and we will deliver another 12 next year and a further 12 in 2019.
This is important for us all, but particularly for the one in five children who have asthma in this country and those people at risk of respiratory illness.
Funding of €10m will be allocated to the EPA’s research programme, with a significant focus on climate change next year.
The scourge of illegal dumping is not something we as a people will tolerate. More than €1.3 million will be allocated again next year to deal with this head on.
But money alone cannot solve our litter problems. It requires behavioural change and personal responsibility.
We have to enable people take action to avoid, to reduce and to reuse so I have allocated €1.6 million to fund a national waste awareness campaign.
Tackling 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.
Also part of that circular economy are key investments in electric vehicles.
I have secured a doubling of the budget next year to €10 million to incentivise the use of electric vehicles. New grants to support the installation of home charge points will be available from the 1st of January for new and second-hand electric cars; there will be a 0% rate of benefit in kind for electric vehicles for one year as an interim measure while a review of benefit in kind on vehicles will take place in the meantime.
Additional funding will be provided to support the provision of public charging with an increase on the number of rapid chargers. I also intend to launch a new Electric Vehicle Public Awareness Campaign to drive uptake.
It will include an awareness campaign, a public driver experience roadshow, public sector and commercial fleet trials, and an electric car sharing programme.
My colleague the Minister for Transport Shane Ross will be announcing additional measures on electric vehicles tomorrow.
Small businesses are the backbone of our towns and villages but only less than 1 in 4 trade online. People are now spending almost €14,000 every minute online but a staggering €10,000 of this goes overseas. Businesses need to trade online to grow.
For this reason €3 million will be spent next year on my Department’s Trading Online Voucher Scheme to support a further 1,500 small businesses to develop their digital capabilities.
Transforming Irish small businesses to adopt trading online has the potential to spread real growth to all regions. Ireland’s digital economy is predicted to be worth €21bn by 2020.
Last year I launched the new Digital Skills for Citizens Scheme to give people who have never used the internet the confidence and skills needed to take their first steps online.
Under the scheme, community and voluntary organisations will receive funding of €2.2 million to provide more than 30,000 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.
A key social, economic and political priority for me is Broadband and the National Broadband Plan in particular. This Plan will play an integral role revitalizing businesses and communities across provincial towns in rural Ireland. Additional funding of €15m has been set aside to finalize the tender process in 2018.
There is not just an economic need. There is a social necessity for high speed broadband. Seventeen months ago only five out of ten premises had access to high-speed broadband. Today that is closer to seven out of ten premises. By the end of next year it will rise to almost eight out of ten. By 2020 more than nine out of ten premises (at least 91%) will have access to high-speed broadband.
As of today and under the commercial stimulus provided under the national broadband plan, Ireland has now become a global broadband leader with 13% of premises outside of our cities now with direct access to pure fibre, 1000 megabits per second, super-fast broadband. I am not aware of any other country on the planet that has achieved this particular milestone.
This year mobile and wireless operators spent €78m in the acquisition of rights in the 3.6 gigahertz spectrum auction, which released 86% more capacity to the industry.
As a result Ireland is the first country to have successfully concluded a spectrum auction to facilitate the roll-out of 5G.
We are on the vanguard of Europe in deploying 5G by both fixed and wireless operators. This allows them provide faster fixed wireless and mobile services to their customers.
A number of the successful bidders are now looking to deploy fixed 5G and I’ve been informed by one company that it expects to cover 85% of the land mass of Ireland by 2019.
€8m is currently being invested to facilitate the reallocation of the 700mhz spectrum away from TV broadcasting to support our broadband and mobile telephony plans in rural areas.
This means a very valuable spectrum band is being freed up to deliver better mobile data services in rural areas.
Broadband is not primarily a budgetary issue. It’s about people trying to cope in the modern world, without the essential means to do so. The fact of roll-out elsewhere only deepens the relative isolation of those who still remain behind. This is about families, it’s about children. It’s about farmers and small businesses coping day to day. It my job, to make their life easier. This is the single issue that is my personal political imperative.
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 priorities that were chosen by this government on its very first day in office.
They are connected; not stand alone responsibilities. Leadership from government, and from me has to be seen and be tangible. We are all called to be deciders, implementers and change makers, not passive observers.
Budget 2018 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.
In changing together, we can tackle climate change successfully. That is why this department was established. That is what this budget is for.