AQW 21866/17-22

Ms Claire Sugden
East Londonderry

Tabled Date: 06/09/2021
Answered On Date: 15/09/2021
Priority Written: No

To ask the Minister for Infrastructure (i) for her assessment of the current provision and reliability of electric vehicle charge points; and (ii) to detail what consideration she has given to establishing a comprehensive, publically-funded charge point network.

The electric vehicle public charge point network in Northern Ireland is owned and operated on a commercial basis by the Electricity Supply Board (ESB). I have met with ESB to encourage them to repair non-functioning charge points and I am pleased that ESB has commenced a replacement programme which will upgrade a number of faulty charge points with more modern operational charge points. ESB has recently confirmed that 4 AC double-headed charge posts (8 charge points) have now been replaced and a further 11 AC double-headed charge posts (22 charge points) are scheduled for replacement in September. ESB has advised that this work programme is being carried out in two phases with the second phase of 15 double-headed charge posts (30 charge points) to be carried out later in the year including the 5 Rapid charge points.
Many e-car drivers have already availed of the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) grant to install a charge point at home. However, it is clear that many e-car drivers are continuing to rely on the ESB network which, at this stage, is free to use. I have encouraged ESB to introduce charging as soon as possible and once e-car drivers have to pay to use the public network, it is anticipated, they will quickly begin to use home charging on a more regular basis where it will be cheaper. Obviously, this will have the knock on effect of freeing up public charge points for e-car drivers that really need them.
Clearly, this does not apply to all e-car drivers and this is where the On-street Residential Charge Point Scheme (ORCS), which is available to local councils, is essential to the overall solution. There has been a limited response to date from our local councils regarding ORCS applications and my officials will continue to encourage our councils to explore this funding opportunity. This funding cannot be accessed by my Department, it is only available to local councils and it is for them to apply individually or collectively.
Funding opportunities for the installation of charge point infrastructure in GB-NI are provided by OZEV. My Department does not currently fund the provision of electric vehicle charge points. I can advise that I have had a further meeting this month with Minister Maclean, Minister for the Future of Transport at the Department for Transport, to discuss the UK’s move to electric vehicles, the approach to installing charge point infrastructure and future funding including development opportunities for our charge point network. I have been assured that OZEV will continue to highlight opportunities for charge point operators in GB to consider entering the market here in the North.
My Department has also been leading on the Transport Working Group (TWG), set up to inform the transport elements of the Executive’s Energy Strategy. The Strategy, which is due to be published later this year, will include actions that need to be taken forward if we are to achieve a cleaner, greener transport system.
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.