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Roll-out of electric vehicle charging points has 'ground to a halt'

The roll-out of Ireland's network of charging points for electric vehicles has ground to a halt, an expert said.

Transport emissions trends are moving in the wrong direction, a member of the independent Climate Change Advisory Council said, and the country is on course to miss its 2020 targets.

Joseph Curtin said expenditure needed to be rebalanced towards public transport and other infrastructure projects.

He said: "We have talked about rolling out infrastructure for electric vehicles, that has been very slow in Ireland, particularly for charging infrastructure.

"We started off quite quickly, it has ground to a halt.

"There are challenges to be overcome but we would see a move towards more electrification of the transport fleet as certainly something that can deliver a significant chunk of emissions reductions in the next decade."

The ESB operates a network of 1,200 charge points for electric vehicles, 300 of which are in Northern Ireland.

Energy minister Denis Naughten has previously said there are not enough fast charging points to ensure the required take-up of electric vehicles in Ireland.

He has also said the whole of Government is taking a "concerted" approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Tuesday's Council report said: "Simply put, Ireland will miss its target of reducing emissions by 20% by 2020 by a large margin."

It said the lack of penetration of electric vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles in the national fleet was exacerbating emissions, and an assessment of the adequacy of the current electric vehicle charging network should be undertaken.

Planning and incentivising the take-up of electric vehicles over the coming decade will be "vital" in moving Ireland to a sustainable growth path, it added.

Mr Curtin also raised the prospect of greater community involvement in renewable energy generation.

One community wind farm is working in Tipperary and planning permission has been granted for a second in Wicklow.

He added: "I think we are going to see a lot more community-driven and community-developed wind farms over the next decade.

"We are going to see a lot more community solar farms, we are going to see farms that are developed by developers but they are going to have shared ownership from communities.

"We are going to see projects that are led themselves by communities but that is going to take a while to turn the tanker around, if you like."

The Council said carbon tax should be hiked and the burning of coal and peat ended to help cut emissions.

The Republic is not on track to meet its 2020 targets or to decarbonise its economy by 2050.

Greenhouse gas emissions increased by 3.7% in 2015, data showed.

A statement from the ESB said it had built one of the first nationwide public charging networks in the world.

These include 92 fast chargers (75 in ROI), which can provide an 80% charge to a vehicle in 20-30 minutes, strategically placed along the main inter-urban routes.

Last year, the public charging network was used over 140,000 times to recharge electrically powered vehicles.

It said: "A working Group of the Government's Low Emission Vehicle Task Force is looking at public charging and how to ensure Ireland has adequate charging facilities to meet the increase in EVs on our roads.

"Part of the remit of this task force would include the creating of a regulatory and funding model to support additional investment in charging infrastructure.

"In general, ESB believes that the electrification of transport using clean indigenous energy will play a vital part of tackling climate change, reducing driving costs, lessening dependence on imported fossil fuels and improving air quality in our towns and cities."

Electric vehicles are three times as efficient as conventional internal combustion engines.

This means that even with the carbon content of electricity today, replacing a diesel powered car with an electric vehicle reduces CO2 emissions by 46%, the ESB said.

The carbon content of every unit of electricity has halved since 1990 and is continuing on a clear downward trajectory.

Twenty-six per cent of the electricity generated in Ireland today comes from renewable sources and by 2020 that will increase to about 40%, the organisation added.

It said: "When combined with dramatically improved air quality - especially in towns and cities - and much lower running costs, a worldwide switch to electric vehicles for private cars is increasingly seen as inevitable.

"One of the major benefits of electric vehicles is the ability to recharge at home using night rate electricity.

"Evidence both here in Ireland and internationally points to more than 90% of charging taking place at home where consumers can benefit from cheaper night rate electricity."