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Assembly Written Question 17775/17-22

To ask the Minister for Infrastructure whether the current electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure is adequate; and for her assessment of whether Northern Ireland has the potential to lag in EV adoption compared to other European regions, due to the availability of charging facilities.

Answer: The most recent Department for Transport (DfT) data available indicates that there were 4,186 electric vehicles registered at 30 September 2020 in Northern Ireland. The EV public charge point network is owned by the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) and is operated on a commercial basis. There are currently 320 22kWh (Fast) charge points at 160 locations and a further 17 50kWh DC (Rapid) public charge points in the North.

ESB recently confirmed that it plans to replace approx. 60 charge points i.e. 30 charge posts and a further 5 Rapid charge points to upgrade and improve the reliability of the existing public network. I recently met with ESB to discuss what is required in order to ensure the current network is reliable and remains fit for purpose. Whilst the market is open to other commercial operators who would wish to provide charging infrastructure, to date, ESB is the only public network provider in the North. It is anticipated, however, that where possible the majority of EV charging should be carried out at home with the use of a home charge point.

I fully recognise the importance of having modern, reliable public electric vehicle charging infrastructure in providing confidence for users of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) and in respect of the connectivity improvements this would bring. My Department is, therefore, taking a number of actions in respect of the charge point infrastructure, including: introducing changes to the planning system, through permitted development rights, to make it easier to expand the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles which came into operation on 21 December 2020; contributing circa. £450,000 of match funding towards the EU INTERREG VA Funded FASTER electric vehicle network project to install a total of 73 EV Rapid charging points across the island of Ireland and the West of Scotland by 31 March 2023; and engaging with the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) and the Energy Saving Trust (EST), who administer the On-street Residential Charge Point Scheme (ORCS), to provide charge points for residents without off-street parking, and to ensure the scheme can be accessed by councils in the North.

My Department has also been leading a Transport Working Group, set up to inform the transport elements of the Department for the Economy’s Energy Strategy currently under development and consultation. A number of key areas have been identified for consideration including the electrification of transport and the charging infrastructure required to support the uptake of electric vehicles. As part of this work, my Department has commissioned research to consider future demand for charge points in Northern Ireland.

Following the British Government’s announcement that it is bringing forward its plans to ban sales of new diesel and petrol vehicles in the UK to 2030, I have also written to British Ministers to seek clarity on what funding will be provided to support the North in delivering greener, cleaner transport.

I remain committed to working in partnership with Executive colleagues and others across our islands to help deliver a change in the way we travel that also helps us to tackle the climate crisis.

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