Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White has laid out the department’s finances for 2015, including a budget of €172m to roll out schemes and help businesses.
In his address to the Dáil in which he laid out the plan for the coming year, White said the Government’s priority for the coming year is rolling out high-speed broadband to Ireland, with a target of a minimum of 30Mbps to every home and business in the country.
A large part of this is expected to come from commercial operations, including the €450m ESB/Vodafone deal announced last July, which with other plans aims to have 1.6m homes connected to high-speed broadband by 2016.
However, the department has promised to ensure its rollout, should there be any shortcomings from the commercial sector.
Speaking of the importance of broadband in rural areas in his speech to the Dáil, White said: “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 … to be published in mid-2015, with a view to launching a major public procurement process.”
Budget 2015 allocates €3m to help businesses get an online presence
In order to help businesses keep pace with the necessity of maintaining an online presence, A further €3m has been allocated to the Trading Online Programme which will allow the Local Enterprise Offices to continue getting at least 2,000 small businesses trading online.
“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,” White said of the programme.
He continued: “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.”
Further information was revealed on Ireland’s move towards establishing its first post code system, known as Eircode which is due for introduction next year.
As part of Budget 2015, €9m has been allocated to get the service up and running which will distribute a seven character code to every household in the country in a bid to improve post the efficiency of An Post.
Better Energy Programme given €47 million in Budget 2015
With the introduction of a variety of energy savings initiatives, the Irish Government is expecting so save approximately 460GWh in electricity for 2015.
On top of this, 2,900 jobs supported from the €47m exchequer investment in energy efficiency will help support 10,000 low-income homes to receive energy efficiency upgrades.
White also discussed the budget in relation to the Accelerated Capital Allowances (ACA) Scheme for energy efficient equipment.
This scheme allows companies to claim 100pc 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. The Government estimates that energy cost savings worth over €13m to companies every year have been achieved and the expectation is that the ACA will result in energy savings of approximately 975 Gigawatt hours (GWh) by 2020.
€10m for ocean energy development
Meanwhile, €10m has been allocated next year to ocean energy research and to 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.
Fibre network image via Shutterstock