Regulator ‘expects’ ESB to sell electric vehicle charging network

Electricity customers will no longer be partly funding assets through charges, CRU says

A Volvo hybrid car connected to a charging point. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

A Volvo hybrid car connected to a charging point. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

 

The energy regulator has said ESB Networks should sell the electric vehicle charging network and not spend any more customers’ money developing it.

ESB Networks developed the electric vehicle charging network with €25 million in funding sourced through a levy on electricity customers’ bills, €6 million of their own resources and EU funding, which brought the project to an estimated €40 million.

But in a decision announced at the weekend, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) said ESB customers should not be expected to cross subsidise the development of the network.

The Commission said it “expects” ESB networks to sell the network to recoup money for its “investors”. It also said that pending a sale the network should be “maintained by ESBN on a commercial basis”, meaning charges should apply for its use and maintenance.

The network currently provides free electricity for drivers of electric vehicles at some 840 alternating current (AC) charging points across the Republic, mainly based in towns.

A further 70 direct current (DC) charging points are located along key inter urban motorways.

AC charge points can take up to six hours to fully charge an electric car, depending on the vehicle. DC or “fast charge” points as they are known typically provide about an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes.

However, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), formerly the Commission for Energy regulation, said the electric vehicle network infrastructure should “either be sold or maintained by ESBN on a commercial basis”.

The CRU is also of the view that the current network value is “minimal”. Because of this “the CRU considers that, at the current time, the assets should remain in ESBN’s ownership for a transitional period”.

“Moreover, the CRU has decided that there will be no further funding of the assets through charges” on its electricity customers.

“Therefore any further funding required would have to come from other sources such as, for example, subsidies or from fees recovered from the users of EVs.”

A “commercial basis” would involve charges for electric vehicle users. But with numbers of electric vehicle users fewer than 4,000, the commercial basis would be unlikely to raise enough money to develop the network which is already overcrowded and deficient in parts.

There is just one fast charging machine in Co Kerry, for example, while facilities for newer vehicles such as the Hyundai Ioniq are extremely scarce on the network.

The CRU expects that until the sale is ready, ESB Networks will ensure that the assets are adequately operated and maintained.

The Government initially committed in 2008 to having 10 per cent of its vehicle fleet, some 250,000 vehicles running on electricity by 2020. A major factor in this was the aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potential EU fines. However, the target was whittled down to 50,000, and later was refined to 20,000.

Earlier this year a new target was set that by 2030 all new cars and vans sold in the country will be “zero-emissions capable”. There are currently 25 electric vehicle models available – just two were on the market when electric vehicle grants were introduced in 2011.

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