ESB considering fee to use NI charging points

ESB considering fee to use NI charging points

ESB is considering levying fees to use the electric car charging network in Northern Ireland next year, a Stormont committee has heard.

The network is currently free to use in Northern Ireland, but ESB executives told Stormont’s Infrastructure Committee they are examining their options around commercialisation and introducing fees for charging.

Appearing before the committee were ESB executives John Byrne and John Walsh, who said there are 1,180 charging stations in the Republic and 170 in Northern Ireland.

There are currently 50,000 electric cars in use in the Republic, 4,600 in Northern Ireland, and the reliability of the charging network in the Republic is 98%, compared to 69% in Northern Ireland, they revealed.

Infrastructure committee chairman Jonathan Buckley MLA of the DUP described the figures as “disgraceful” and “startling” and said it appeared Northern Ireland was “the poor child” in comparison with the Republic in relation to the reliability of the network.

The ESB executives said the Republic’s network has benefited from an upgrade scheme over the last three years thanks to climate action funding from the Irish Government.

Levelling-up funding from the Westminster government will allow an upgrade of the Northern Ireland network over the next 18 months, replacing and upgrading charging points, which the ESB said will make the reliability here as good or better than the network in the Republic.

Levelling-up funding will provide £3.3m, which is 90% of the capital outlay required to upgrade the Northern Ireland network.

The ESB said the electric vehicle charging network operates at a loss in Northern Ireland.

In answer to a question from Alliance assembly member Andrew Muir, Mr Byrne said: “We are actively looking at our commercial models in NI in 2022, with a view to examining our options around commercialisation and introducing fees for charging.”