Wednesday, 10 October 2018
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
At last week's meeting of the Joint Committee on Climate Action, it was disappointing to hear the Secretary General of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport say that we are technology takers, in effect, as our transport system makes the transition to a low-carbon system. We have to hope, or push, for higher electric vehicle standards. I know the Minister is doing that in Europe. We are looking to push for higher emissions performance from vehicles. However, that will not be enough. If we are to remove fossil fuel combustion engine cars by 2030, we have to be proactive and we have to make that happen in a real way. Other than waiting for the car companies to change, what are the Government's plans for doing this? What mechanism is the State seeking to achieve to deliver on that objective?
The ambition set out in the national policy framework on alternative fuels infrastructure for transport, which was published in May of last year, is that by 2030 all new cars and vans sold in Ireland will have a zero-emission capability. The national development plan, which was published in February of this year, raised this ambition by proposing that no new non-zero emission cars will be sold in Ireland after 2030. A range of policies and measures will be required across the Government if this ambition is to be realised. Fiscal interventions to dissuade people from purchasing fossil fuel-powered cars will be needed, as will incentives to support the uptake of electric vehicles. Through the work of the low-emission vehicle task force, which is co-chaired by the Departments of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Government has expanded the range of supports available for electric vehicles. These incentives include a purchase grant, VRT relief, benefit-in-kind tax relief, a grant for the installation of home chargers, a grant for the use of electric vehicles as taxis and reduction in tolls for electric vehicles. In this regard, I welcome yesterday's announcement the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform of an extension of the benefit-in-kind relief for battery electric vehicles for three years.
The provision of charging infrastructure is critical to support the uptake of electric vehicles. In this regard, I welcome the publication last month by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, of its approval of the ESB Networks proposal on the future operation and maintenance of the charging network. This development ensures the continued operation and maintenance of the public charging network by the ESB and provides the certainty that users of electric vehicles need when they are purchasing electric vehicles. I would also like to highlight the role of the climate action fund. The first call for applications, which I launched in July, includes provision for supporting electric vehicle charging networks, along with a range of other project types. The deadline for applications has now closed. I can confirm that almost 100 applications have been received. The process of assessing these applications is under way. It is important that people are aware of the benefits of driving electric vehicles. That is why the Sustainability Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, launched an awareness campaign in April of this year as part of its electric vehicle public engagement programme. A dedicated website, , has been launched.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The website provides answers to the questions drivers have about electric vehicles and shows people why they should consider buying one. Yesterday, the CSO published the numbers of new vehicles registered to the end of September. In total 1,208 new battery electric vehicles have been registered in 2018. This compares to 586 registered in the same period last year and 664 for all of 2017. There are now almost 4,500 battery electric vehicles on the roads in Ireland. While this is a relatively low base, I am encouraged by the growth we are seeing.
A representative of the ESB said at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Climate Action last month that the direct State investment which is needed should not just happen through the climate fund.
Reference was made to €25 million for fast-charging stations which could be located on State property, in State car parks in schools, Garda stations and public offices. Why was there nothing in the budget yesterday for this? If we are serious about the scale of transition, we should have allocated €25 million yesterday to public charging infrastructure. There was nothing in the budget for that and people do not believe the Government when it says it is ambitious because effectively, it is doing nothing. It is leaving it to the market and waiting for the car companies to do something. It is time for the State to do something. Why did the Minister not get money yesterday for electric vehicle, EV, charging points rather than relying on the climate action fund to build same?
Second, I thank the Deputy for his support. He knows that yesterday Ireland led a campaign at the Council of Ministers to try to agree a far more ambitious set of emissions targets for the transport sector, both in terms of cars and light vehicles. Disappointingly, we could not convince our European colleagues to do that because of the influence of the motor industry across Europe. Ireland led a coalition of four member states and we hope to see progress made in trilogue over the next few weeks in terms of increasing the ambition in that area.
I agree that we need to improve the network of electric vehicle charging points across the country in terms of maintenance, speed and capacity.
The Minister has just said that there is money in the budget for publicly-funded charging infrastructure and I ask him to provide details. When is it intended to build the charging points, where will they be located and how many will be built next year?
As the Deputy knows, the local authority in Dún Laoghaire has already installed charging points on public lighting on a pilot basis. That is a pilot scheme that I would like to see extended across the country.