Electric vehicle owners to get reduced tolls, says Naughten

Government to introduce series of measures in effort to increase uptake of technology

 A Tesla electric car parks at a charging station. A new grant to support installation of home charger points for buyers of new and second-hand electric vehicles will be rolled out next year.  Photograph: Alexander Becher/EPA/

A Tesla electric car parks at a charging station. A new grant to support installation of home charger points for buyers of new and second-hand electric vehicles will be rolled out next year. Photograph: Alexander Becher/EPA/

 

The Government is rolling out a series of measures to accelerate deployment of electric vehicles in Ireland, according to the Minister for Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten.

Delivering the Government’s second annual statement on Ireland’s action on climate change, Mr Naughten said the Low Emissions Vehicle Taskforce was considering a range of new measures to encourage electric vehicle use in addition to measures adopted in the budget.

During 2018, a new grant to support installation of home charger points for buyers of new and second-hand electric vehicles would be rolled out, and incentives for the adoption of electric taxis. The public charging network would be expanded including the number of “rapid chargers”. Electric vehicle owners would also benefit from reduced road tolls.

Micro-generation of electricity with community ownership would be a key element of a new renewable electricity support scheme. This could have “an important role in Ireland’s transition to a carbon-free economy, in assisting Ireland meet its renewable electricity targets, and increasing social acceptance of and promoting renewable energy projects right across the country”, Mr Naughten said.

He confirmed a new renewable heat incentive scheme would be announced shortly.

“The inclusion of eligibility criteria and budgetary controls in the scheme will prevent many of the negative outcomes experienced in other jurisdictions, while also ensuring that heat generated is applied to useful purposes only,” he added.

On emissions from agriculture, Mr Naughten said a “smart farming initiative” was making a difference.

“For the farmers involved, smart farming has a real effect, identifying average cost savings of over €8,000 and reducing climate impact by 10 per cent on participating farms.” The Irish beef genomics programme was one of the most innovative measures globally to reduce carbon in farming.

The climate statement, which was delivered in the Seanad, is required under the 2015 Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act. All relevant Ministers (for energy, transport, agriculture and housing) are required to update on measures taken to reduce polluting emissions in their respective sectors and report on progress made on national and EU commitments.

In his report Minister for Transport Shane Ross said the State faced a considerable challenge to transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society by 2050. “The transport sector has a critical role to play in achieving this national objective,” he added.

He outlined progress in reducing transport emissions including the redesign of the Vehicle Registration Tax and motor tax regimes in 2008 to be based on CO2 emissions rather than engine size which had a very positive effect in changing buyer behaviour and encouraging the take up of low-emission vehicles. Older and more polluting models now represented just 4 per cent of all vehicle purchases, he said.

Mr Ross said he had secured €100 million for multi-annual cycling and walking programmes and a 275 per cent increase in capital investment in public transport infrastructure over the next four years, amounting to a spend of more than €2.7 billion.

He underlined the need to “meet our growing transport demand with green public transport alternatives”. With this in mind, the National Transport Authority anticipated purchasing low-emitting buses next year as part of the Bus Connects programme with a target that by 2023, some 500 buses should be converted to low-emission vehicles.

Smaller targets

Senator Grace O’Sullivan (Green Party) said that the Government needed to take a stronger leadership role in addressing climate change. There were targets in place to reduce emissions but too many of them were being missed. Achieving a smaller number of targets might be a better approach rather than much aspiration, she said.

Recent extreme weather events had illustrated the scale of the problem, she said; notably the impact of Storm Ophelia, which saw the highest wave ever recorded off the Irish coast – the size of a six-storey building – while recent flooding in Laois had caused devastation in areas that had never flooded before.

A massive economic transformation was required, Ms O’Sullivan added, but with measures to ensure “a just transition” and support for communities that would be affected were largely absent in the Government’s plans.

Senator James Reilly (Fine Gael) criticised the lack of guidelines and regulations needed to develop the solar energy sector which could benefit so many communities including farmers.

The Government’s national mitigation plan lacked vision and ambition, said Senator Terry Leyden (Fianna Fáil), while there was very slow progress in tackling emissions arising from transport and home heating.