I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 10 together.
There are now approximately 5,400 electric vehicles on our roads. As the electric car market matures, it is vital that the charging infrastructure develops alongside it and I recognise that a range of charging options is necessary to provide the convenience and reliability that electric vehicle drivers require.
Home charging is the primary method of charging for the majority of electric vehicles both internationally and in Ireland. Charging at home at night is the most cost efficient and eco-friendly way of charging an electric vehicle. Given the high proportion of homes with driveways and dedicated parking spaces, Ireland has greater capacity for home charging than many other countries. From January of this year, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, grant of up to €600 is available to support the installation of home charging points. This is available to the purchasers of new and, more important, second-hand electric vehicle owners, thus providing certainty to the second-hand value of electric vehicles, which I have no doubt has contributed, along with the budget 2018 supports, to the significant increase in new electric vehicle sales.
The national policy framework, alternative fuels infrastructure for transport 2017 to 2030, sets out the need for electric charging in Ireland. Although the existing capacity of the public charging network is considered adequate, maintenance, availability of parking and the development of infrastructure to meet the growing demand is necessary. The majority of the existing network of publicly accessible charging points was rolled out by the ESB through its eCars programme where the majority of funding was recovered through the use of system charges as approved by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities.
The ESB intends doubling the funding it spends on the network this year to €2 million.
Following a public consultation process, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, published its independent regulatory decision on the ownership of this infrastructure in October 2017. A key outcome of the decision was that the charging network should not form part of the regulated asset base and therefore expansions of the network should not be funded from network charges. The decision also set out the need for the electric vehicle charging infrastructure to operate on a commercial basis. In the absence of State-led support, this is unlikely to happen in the near term. Capital funding of €1.5 million has been allocated in my Department's budget this year, therefore, to support the provision of public charging.
A key aspect of the work of the low-emission vehicle task force, co-chaired by my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, is to devise a sustainable policy framework to ensure sufficient and effective electric vehicle charging infrastructure. This work has included examining options for potential support measures for public charging, and I expect the task force to report on these options shortly. Support for public charging is available through the better energy communities scheme administered by the SEAI. This supports community-based partnerships to improve the energy efficiency of homes, businesses and community facilities in a local area. My Department, in conjunction with the SEAI, is also developing additional supports for the roll-out of public charging. I expect to announce those later this year.
In addition, the work of the low-emission vehicle task force includes the examination of the potential role of planning and building regulations. This includes the consideration of placing requirements on developments to install infrastructure to support the uptake of low-emission vehicles. This would include charging points for electric vehicles and potentially other infrastructure such as compressed natural gas fuelling. I expect the low-emission vehicle task force to report on planning specific aspects of its work later in the year. The implementation of any such regulations will be ultimately a matter for my colleague the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy Eoghan Murphy.