Wednesday, 12 December 2018
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
28. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the steps he is taking to promote the use of natural gas as a fuel source for the transport sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52109/18]
A transition away from conventional fuels to cleaner alternatives is a necessary step change if Ireland is to begin to decarbonise the transport sector. In transport, natural gas can offer a cleaner alternative to oil and biogas can offer a lower carbon emitting alternative.
Compressed natural gas (CNG) is an established source of transport fuel predominantly suited to larger vehicles, such as trucks and buses, travelling short to medium distances. Liquified natural gas is more efficient on longer road journeys with minimal start-stops such as transcontinental freight movement and in the shipping sector.
As outlined in the National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport, which my Department published in May 2017, natural gas, particularly CNG, is envisaged as a key alternative fuel in the heavy duty sector in Ireland. CNG is reported to emit few emissions, particularly NOx, SOx and particulate matter. Importantly, it is a pathway fuel to renewable biomethane which can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions in transport.
Under the Programme for a Partnership Government, a Low Emission Vehicle (LEV) Taskforce was established to consider the range of measures and options available to Government to accelerate the take-up of low-carbon technologies in the road transport sector. The Taskforce is jointly chaired by my Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. It includes representatives from across the public sector and consults widely with industry, stakeholders and representative groups. Phase 1 of the Taskforce focused specifically on electric vehicles, while Phase 2, which began its work in September, is examining the role of other alternative fuel technologies including natural gas in both its compressed and liquefied states. Working Group 4 of the Taskforce is considering the range of incentives and infrastructure requirements to encourage the take-up of such low emitting fuels. I envisage that Phase 2 of the LEV Taskforce will report to Government next summer.
It is also important to note that a number of valuable measures are already in place to encourage uptake of gas vehicles in Ireland. In Budget 2015 the excise rate for natural gas and biogas as a propellant was set at the current EU minimum rate (€2.60 per GJ) and a guarantee given that this rate would be held for a period of eight years. This rate puts CNG in a competitive price position with diesel. Budget 2019 saw the introduction of an accelerated capital allowance scheme for gas-propelled vehicles and related equipment. This will enable businesses to write down the cost of such vehicles or equipment up-front in the year of purchase rather than spread over 8 years.
Finally, Gas Networks Ireland has received funding from the European Commission, under the CEF Transport Fund, to install 14 public CNG refuelling stations (including a station at Dublin Port which is due to open shortly) and a large scale renewable gas injection point under the “Causeway Project”. The provision of refuelling infrastructure will support greater uptake of gas vehicles while the installation of a biogas injection facility is essential to enable indigenous renewable gas to become part of Ireland’s future transport fuel mix.