Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
63. Deputy Simon Coveney asked the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources if he has read the Drive to Zero electric car document published by the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security; and if he will implement the recommendations of the report. [19121/09]
Deputy Eamon Ryan: I have read with considerable interest the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security on electric vehicles and I am grateful to members of the committee for their valuable contribution. The recommendations made in the report are being considered in the context of our work to implement an overall strategy for electric vehicles.
Much of the report resonates with the Government’s strategic initiatives to ensure Ireland is ahead of the curve in the electrification of transport. Together with the Minister for Transport, I have announced plans for the large-scale deployment of electric vehicles in Ireland. The target of 10% of all vehicles to be powered by electricity by 2020 will represent up to 250,000 cars on Irish roads in the next 12 years. This scale of deployment of electric vehicles will have a very positive impact in reducing carbon emissions and imported oil consumption in the transport sector.
Initiatives to advance the strategy are under way. The interdepartmental-agency task force is meeting regularly to progress the framework for deployment of electric vehicles in Ireland. It is chaired by my Department and comprises the Departments of Transport, Finance, the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, SEI, the ESB, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. As the Deputy will appreciate, good planning and preparation are vital to ensure our ambitious targets in this area are met. Accordingly, the task force is developing the options and timeframe for putting in place the necessary infrastructure and other arrangements for the national roll-out of electric vehicles. We will also take full account of global developments as the technologies mature. The task force will shortly report its initial findings and advise on next steps.
Three working groups have been set up under the aegis of the task force, namely, the transport-infrastructure group, the fiscal group and the enterprise group. The reports of these groups will critically feed into the task force’s main report. Employment opportunities, the costs involved in providing car charging infrastructure and all associated issues, including funding options, will be addressed in the report.
The ESB and SEI have been working intensively as part of the task force and visited Israel and Denmark last year to study their approaches to fast-tracking the deployment of electric vehicles. I am satisfied there is sufficient expertise available to the task force and in the key agencies to enable planning to be effectively achieved.
The recently concluded memorandum of understanding with Renault-Nissan will ensure Ireland will be one of the first countries to be supplied with both Renault and Nissan electric cars. This represents a major opportunity for Ireland. Under the memorandum of understanding, ESB Networks will be able to avail of data on developments in electric vehicles which will inform our consideration of optimum infrastructure, support mechanisms and the potential benefits accruing. The role of the Government is to develop and consider options for the establishment, operation and maintenance of an electric vehicle charging infrastructure network in Ireland, together with considering measures to develop a market for the vehicles. The memorandum of understanding does not convey exclusive rights in the provision of electric cars. Ireland is open for business to all manufacturers and I look forward to building relationships with all global players in the sector.
Deputy Simon Coveney: I hope the report is evidence that what the Minister said in response to our last exchange, namely, that my party was in some way seeking short-term political gain in the energy sector, is nonsense. We strongly support a very aggressive and ambitious roll-out of electric vehicles. I ask the Minster to accept that what he said in a heated exchange a few minutes ago was nonsense. He can ensure cheaper electricity while at the same time pursuing an aggressive climate change agenda, a point he does not seem to accept.
This is an all-party report. Does the Minister accept the committee’s conclusion that we should be talking to those in Northern Ireland, in particular the Northern Ireland Assembly, to try to pursue an all-island project for electric vehicles? The situation will be very difficult in Border counties if we do not do this, particularly if there are hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles and a proper charging infrastructure south of the Border but none north of the
Will the Minister ensure those responsible for providing the tens of thousands of charging points which will be required in Ireland to facilitate electric vehicles on a grand scale, not just pet projects in different parts of the country, will ensure an open tendering process that will allow all companies which wish to tender for this business to do so? Perhaps the ESB will win the tender competition because it has the capacity to do so — who knows? However, we should not create a monopoly by stating the ESB should roll out this infrastructure. We should open it up to public tender to ensure other companies will also have an opportunity to put the infrastructure in place.
Deputy Eamon Ryan: I welcome the report of the Oireachtas committee which is progressive and in line with our thinking. I also welcome the suggestion of close co-operation with Northern Ireland and agree with the Deputy that it makes sense for us to develop this as an all-island project. As an island nation, we have an advantage in that there are certain distance limitations which mean that, as battery technology develops, it may be easier to deploy here than in Texas or some other location.
In terms of supply company exclusivity, in all of what we are doing there are no exclusive arrangements. While we have entered into memoranda of association with the ESB and Renault-Nissan, this in no way precludes other motor or supply companies which may wish to deploy the infrastructure. It is important to recognise that having access to vehicles was a major step forward because we now know that in a very short timeframe of approximately two years, standard vehicles, including family cars, will be available. It is also important that the ESB has committed to this and will create jobs in installing access points. However, that is not to preclude another company applying on whatever basis with regard to the billing system and the power supply system chosen.
I gave the list of members of the steering committee. This is a Government initiative and it primarily involves departmental, agency and State company representatives. That is not to stop bodies such as SEI which has a central role working with other private operators. This is not an exclusive arrangement. It is frontier technology. With Israel, Denmark and Portugal, we are developing an infrastructure that has not yet been tried or tested. It is a new infrastructure for the 21st century; therefore, this is only the beginning. It will involve a huge number of companies and has huge economic potential for Ireland, a country that does not have any oil but does have significant renewable resources.
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