Thursday, 4 July 2019

Ceisteanna (17)

Brian Stanley


17. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment his plans to increase the use of electric vehicles, EVs, here. [28305/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (14 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Communications)

I ask the Minister about his plans to increase the number of EVs on the road. This is one of the big challenges we face.

The climate action plan sets a target of 936,000 EVs by 2030. That would represent approximately one third of all purchases in the period between now and then. To support the achievement of this target, the plan sets out a range of actions which include introducing a legislative ban on the sale of new fossil fuel cars from 2030; developing the charging network to stay sufficiently ahead of demand - as the Deputy knows, we are currently rolling out 724 new or upgraded charging points; ensuring our regulatory regime for buildings requires the installation of EV charging infrastructure; consideration of a car scrappage scheme to promote the purchase of EVs; consideration of the recalibration of vehicle tax regimes to support uptake; and developing a roadmap for the optimum mix of regulatory, taxation and subsidy policies to drive the ramp-up in EV usage.

I also note the existing incentives, which include a grant of up to €5,000; vehicle registration tax, VRT, relief of up to €5,000; benefit-in-kind tax relief; a grant of up to €7,000 for EVs in the taxi sector; a grant of up to €600 for the installation of a home charger; accelerated capital allowances; a lower rate of motor tax; and tolling reductions of up to 50%.

These incentives have helped support strong growth in the uptake of EVs. In the first five months of 2019, more than 2,600 new EVs were licensed. This is almost three times the number licensed in the same period last year.

While the situation regarding EVs has improved this year, they are still a lot more expensive than ordinary petrol or diesel vehicles and are beyond the reach of many households. There are also concerns about range anxiety, which is a major issue. In that context, how many charging points are there in the State? What scale of increase in the number of such points is planned for the coming years? Who will own the charging points? The question of whether the ESB will retain ownership of its charging points has been batted back and forth for two years. How many charging points do we have? What are the Minister's plans to increase that number? Who will provide the charging points?

The Deputy is correct. The price of EVs is higher than that of conventional cars, but the running costs of EVs are approximately one eighth of those of conventional cars. It is a case of swings and roundabouts. It is worth pointing out that the price of batteries is decreasing rapidly and that their durability is improving. The expert opinion we have received is that, even if there were no tax incentives, the cost of EVs by 2023 or 2024 will result in them dominating the market. We have provided substantial grants and taxes on fossil fuels to add to the incentive.

The existing network comprises approximately 600 chargers. Some 724 new or upgraded charging points are to be rolled out. Of these, 500 will be higher-grade chargers to replace existing chargers. Most will be new, high-capacity chargers in strategic locations. They will be under the ESB. We are also looking at other providers such as local authorities. From 2025, anyone who has more than 20 parking spaces will be obliged to have a charging network. The network will not be solely State-supported. New obligations will be imposed on others.

If I have picked up what the Minister stated correctly, the ESB will own the existing 600 chargers, including the 500 that are to be upgraded. That is to be welcomed.

Some 500 are to be upgraded and there will be 224 new ones.

To move on to fees for charging, will the service stations, typical fuel suppliers, be encouraged to install charging points? Will the local Topaz garage have charging points? Are there any plans for such a scheme to be rolled out? Will there be a charge to use such points? How will it be regulated?

There is also in issue in respect of grid capacity. The revenue from petrol and diesel brings in a lot of money for the State. When we move to EVs, that source of funding will be cut off. On the other hand, the electricity grid will have to be upgraded. We know this from speaking with EirGrid and the ESB. It will require substantial investment. How will that mismatch between revenue and investment be bridged? What assessment of the grid's capacity to cater for new EVs and associated infrastructure has been carried out?

The ambitions of the electricity network are based on very substantial growth in overall demand for power. From memory, a 50% growth in power demand arising from a variety of sectors, including new EVs, is anticipated. The Deputy is correct. We should be looking to car manufacturers and service stations to make investment in this area. Thus far it has had to be leveraged by a State company with State support. As it develops, we expect to see the private sector coming forward to support the roll-out of the infrastructure.

In the context of the impact on traditional revenue sources such as diesel tax, VRT and so on, the Deputy is also correct. Over the next 20 to 30 years, there will be a rapid change as we move away from depending of fossil fuels for 85% of our energy needs and head towards 0%. This will require different sources of revenue to be found. That will have to be handled on a year-to-year basis by the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform.

The final question is from Deputy Browne. I did not think we would see any Wexford men this week after the county's great win last weekend, but they are all around.

We had three great wins.

There is more to come.

The seniors and minors both won and the ladies won the intermediate Leinster final as well.

That is correct. The Deputy has 30 seconds to put his question.

The under 20s won during the week as well. We are having a fantastic week. The strawberries are great this year as well.