I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 57 together.
The Low Emissions Vehicle Taskforce, which is co-chaired by my Department and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, is considering the measures and options available to Government to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles. As Deputies will be aware, this has led to a range of additional supports being introduced for electric vehicles.
For instance, earlier this month, a new Electric Vehicle Public Awareness Campaign was launched by the SEAI. This campaign includes a website (www.DrivingElectric.ie) providing information on buying and driving an EV including the models available and links to dealers to arrange a test drive. There will also be an advertising campaign “The Face of Driving Electric” which will highlight how electric vehicles are compatible with virtually everyone’s daily lives. Public road shows and fleet trials will be rolled out later in the year providing more people the opportunity to trial electric vehicles.
A key focus of the work of the Taskforce is examining options for infrastructure, regulation and pricing including the examination of options to facilitate the expansion of the public charging network. While the vast majority of EV charging happens at home, which aligns with both technology and patterns of use of vehicles, the National Policy Framework for Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017-2030 which was published in May 2017, sets out the need for increases in the number of domestic and public charge points to support the growth of electric vehicles.
The majority of the existing network of publicly accessible charge points was rolled out by the ESB, through its eCars programme. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities approved an application from ESB Networks to recover the costs of this project to a maximum of €25 million from use of system charges.
Following a public consultation process, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities published its independent regulatory decision in relation to the ownership of this infrastructure in October 2017. A key outcome of the decision is 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. This is in keeping with the proposals set out by the European Commission in the Clean Energy for All Europeans package which was published in 2016.
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. Funding has, therefore, been allocated in my Department's budget this year to support the provision of public charging.
The Low Emissions Vehicle Taskforce is examining how best to support the development of the public charging network. This has included examining options in relation to a competitive tendering process, as suggested by the Deputy, grant schemes, and other potential support measures. A stakeholder workshop held in November 2017 and meetings with relevant representative groups has helped inform this work.
The first phase of the Taskforce's work, which focuses on electric vehicles, is nearing completion and I expect to bring forward proposals that will support the provision of effective and efficient publically accessible electric vehicle charging.