Thursday, 28 November 2019

Ceisteanna (9)

Thomas Byrne


9. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the timescale for the roll-out of electric car charging points in County Meath under Project Ireland 2040. [49416/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (10 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Communications)

This question is to ask the Minister the timescale for the roll-out of the network of electric car charging points in my county of Meath in the context of what is planned as part of Project Ireland 2040.

Under the first call for applications from the climate action fund, funding of €10 million is being provided to the ESB to develop a nationwide, state-of-the-art electric vehicle charging network. The ESB is matching that with €10 million in funding. The project includes the installation of 140 fast chargers and consists of 90 150 kW chargers, each capable of charging two vehicles simultaneously. They will be able to charge vehicles fully in six minutes, so they are very powerful. Another 50 existing standard chargers will be upgraded to 50 kW chargers. The project will also involve replacing more than 500 existing standard charge points with next-generation high reliability models.

This is a multi-annual project and is expected to be fully completed by 2022. The locations of the chargers installed as part of this project have not been finalised. However, a provisional map of the planned network, showing indicative locations, was developed by the ESB and has been published on my Department’s website. The location of the planned installations will, once finalised, be published by the ESB.

An allocation of €36 million has been provided for electric vehicle uptake in 2020. This includes €2 million in funding to support local authorities in the roll-out of on-street public charge points for electric vehicles. This can support the installation of up to 400 on-street chargers in 2020. All local authorities can now apply for funding to the Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland, SEAI, in respect of that initiative. In addition, in the first quarter of 2020, we will develop a charging infrastructure strategy and we will also carry out an updated needs analysis for fast chargers based on having 75,000 electric vehicles by 2022. Each year, there will be additional inclusions, meaning there will be some 1,200 local chargers over time.

The indicative map published just before the local elections is typical of this Government. It was all talk, all announcements and no action, as far as I can see. It is not right to simply publish a map of where chargers might be. When money is being committed and major announcements made, my constituents are entitled to know where the chargers will be and when they will be installed. There are a couple of chargers in Kells and Dunboyne and a fast charger halfway between Ratoath and Ashbourne in my constituency. Other than that, however, there is little in the way of electric vehicle infrastructure. That has to change.

When these announcements are made, we are entitled to find out where the Government is planning to carry out these measures. On major infrastructural projects, what is repeatedly happening is that something is announced and the action is then nowhere to be seen. That is the difficulty I have with this announcement.

The information I have is that there are 22 standard charge points and four fast chargers, including non-ESB units, in Meath now. Regarding the roll-out of the project, I announced the funding and the roll-out is now proposed, with that provisional map. Of the 90 fast chargers, 45 will be put in place in 2020 and we currently have 98 50 kW chargers. That number will increase to 52 in 2020.

The upgrading will continue. We will also have the local authority ones I have mentioned. Meath County Council has an opportunity to apply to participate in the scheme that involves 400 additional chargers. I am sure that at the Deputy's urging, the council will get in its application quickly.

I am trying to work out where are the four fast chargers. There is one between Ashbourne and Ratoath and there is one in Navan. I do not know whether the Minister is including the two on the M4, which are just over the border in County Kildare. Maybe the Minister could list them. I have an electric car.

I will get the list for the Deputy.

Are the other two fast chargers at the Applegreen facility?

I will find out.

If the Minister can do so, it would be appreciated. I drive around the county. I know where they are. I use them. They are simply absent in many of the towns in my constituency of Meath East. This is a big problem. There are simple things that we could do. The Minister must do what is needed to fund them. Local authorities should not be allowing service stations to be developed without chargers. That is a very simple thing that could happen immediately. More and more petrol stations are opening, or reopening after being refurbished subject to planning, without being required to have electric car chargers from the start. This must change. It could happen without any Government money. Somebody must end this inaction by telling local authorities to do this. I hope that when the Department makes a submission on county development plans, including the County Meath plan, it will recommend that local authorities should insist on the installation of these chargers as part of their strategies. I think that can be done as well as providing money and plans.

I agree. The planning system already provides certain conditionality. New buildings with ten parking positions must have a charger. From 2025, every building that has 20 parking places will need to have a charger. The Deputy has proposed that we make a change in respect of service stations. I think many of them are planning the installation of these facilities. I suppose this has been triggered by the plan to introduce a charge for fast chargers. That gives people in the private sector an incentive to install such chargers. I believe we will see growth in public chargers and an increase in these alternative sources. Of course the optimum which we try to encourage is for people to charge their cars at home at night.