The roll out of electric charging points in Galway City and County
I thank the Cathaoirleach’s office for choosing this Commencement debate and welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber.
I tabled this matter to Deputy Eamon Ryan as the Minister for Transport but also as the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, given that the issue of electric vehicle, EV, charging points is one that is covered by both of his ministerial responsibilities in ensuring an adequate network of charging points across the country.
The roll-out of electric cars is running apace, which is to be welcomed, and the car manufacturing industry is increasing production of electric cars in light of fossil fuels being phased out across Europe by 2030 or 2035. EV charging point access will become increasingly important. While it is estimated that home charging will be responsible for more than 80% of EV charging, there will still be a need for an adequate network of charging points across the country. People are on the road, tourists are going to and from various parts of the country and people have anxieties about electric cars’ ranges. While ranges and battery lives are improving, there will be a need to reach a point eventually where every town has at least one public charging point.
Local authorities should be central to the siting and placing of charging points. The then Minister, Deputy Bruton, established a grant scheme for local authorities in 2019 with €5,000 payable per point to support the development of on-street public chargers. The uptake of the public charging points scheme is low so far. I do not know whether there is an inadequate level of funding or local authorities are too short-staffed for the design, acquisition and installation of facilities. Perhaps there needs to be an investigation into why there has not been a greater roll-out. I understand that some local authorities are ramping up delivery now, which is to be welcomed, but the reality is that private businesses are leading the way. For example, some exclusive hotels have facilities that are out of the reach of the ordinary person who is not staying there. Understandably, it is an important offering that such hotels provide to people who stay with them.
I contacted the ESB this year and a number of years ago about its policy. Its policy is to start with motorways and national primary routes, which are the most travelled routes. The ESB is supported through the climate action fund. Everyone who pays the carbon tax pays into this fund. There is an attempt to look at destination points, for example, national parks, visitor centres, Office of Public Works properties, etc. This is to be welcomed, but there is a need for public charging points in towns in my area – Moycullen, Oughterard, Barna, Claregalway and Oranmore – as well as in Galway city. There needs to be increased visibility of public charging points to allow people to grab a cup of coffee or tea nearby, relax and wait for their cars to charge.
I look forward to the Minister of State’s response on the roll-out across Galway county and city.
Deputy Frankie Feighan
I thank the Senator for raising this important issue, which is worthy of many local authorities and towns across the country. I am taking this debate on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan.
The Government’s policy regarding the increased usage of EVs is primarily driven by the climate action plan, which sets a target of having 936,000 EVs on Ireland’s roads by 2030. To support these EVs, Ireland has a comprehensive charging network available to EV owners to charge their vehicles. A number of operators provide these charge points, with the majority being rolled out by EasyGo and by the ESB through its ecars programme. Each provider has a map outlining the availability of these charge points, which is updated in real time.
Charge point operators in Ireland mainly provide charge points that are standard 22 kWh or higher 50 kWh and 150 kWh. Standard charge points are located on streets and in strategic destinations, such as train stations, hotels, shopping centres, etc. The fast and high-powered charge points are mainly focused along the motorways. In addition to the main network, charge points are provided at locations such as places of employment and private car parks. Currently, there are circa 2,000 charge points in Ireland, with this number continuing to grow.
Some €10 million was committed from the climate action fund to support ESB investment in the charging network. This has leveraged a further €10 million investment from ESB.
Deputy Frankie Feighan
This intervention alone will result in 90 additional high-power chargers, each capable of charging two vehicles; 52 additional fast chargers, which may replace existing standard chargers; and 264 replacement standard chargers with more modern technology and each consisting of two charge points. The project is due to be completed in 2022.
In March, the Department of Transport published a draft EV charging infrastructure strategy, which is currently out for public consultation. Once finalised, the strategy will provide a key framework for ensuring that we continue to have sufficient infrastructure in place to keep ahead of demand as we move towards the climate action plan goal of almost 1 million vehicles on the road by 2030.
Regarding Galway city and county, the Department of Transport has been informed by ESB ecars that its charging network in Galway has 12 standard charge points, nine fast chargers and four high-powered charge points, with all 12 of the standard charge points featuring two connections for a total of 24 individual points where an EV can be charged.
In addition to the existing network, the public charge point scheme has been in place since September 2019, providing local authorities with a grant of up to €5,000 per charger to support the development of on-street public chargers. It is intended that this scheme will be expanded significantly to coincide with the launch of Zero Emission Vehicles Ireland, ZEVI, in the coming months. The primary focus of the scheme is to provide support for the installation of infrastructure that will facilitate owners of EVs who do not have access to private parking spaces but rely on parking their vehicles in public places near their homes to charge their vehicles. The Department is making significant funding available this year and next through ZEVI to support the installation of destination charge points in locations such as hotels and parks.
Senator Seán Kyne
I thank the Minister of State for that response on behalf of the Department. I welcome the information in it, according to which County Galway has 12 standard charge points, nine fast chargers and four high-powered charge points. County Galway is the second largest county in the country and has a large tourist destination in the form of Connemara, where public charge points are non-existent. Work is needed if there is to be a proper roll-out of facilities in towns in such areas, for example, Moycullen, Oughterard, Barna, An Spidéal, An Cara Rua and Clifden, and if we are to ensure adequate facilities so that tourists or people who are on the road travelling for business, weekend vacations or the like have certainty that there are electric charging points in those areas. I urge the Department to engage proactively with local authorities to ensure that the level of ambition and delivery is ramped up across County Galway.
Acting Chairperson (Senator Fiona O’Loughlin)
I apologise for the disturbance caused by my phone during that exchange.
Deputy Frankie Feighan
Senator Kyne has raised an important issue. I would have expected there to have been more than 12 standard charge points in County Galway. More needs to be done.
We continue to expand the national charging network through support for on-street chargers. A report was published by the County and City Management Association giving guidance to local authorities on the provision of charging infrastructure. The document may be viewed online.
To support home-charging, the SEAI, on behalf of the Department of Transport, administers an EV home charger grant of up to €600 towards the purchase and installation of an EV home-charger unit. As regards existing apartment buildings, work is currently being progressed to expand the EV home-charger grant to include shared parking in apartment blocks and similar developments. The Department of Transport is working closely with the SEAI and expects a scheme for apartments to open shortly.
On new builds, there are charging points. The Senator has highlighted an issue. We probably need more chargers in County Galway and in many other counties and cities around the country. I look forward to all of the stakeholders working together to achieve that.