'Decarbonisation of Road Transport in Northern Ireland': Committee Report

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:45 pm on 29th November 2021.

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Photo of Andrew Muir Andrew Muir Alliance 3:45 pm, 29th November 2021

I entirely agree with the Member. The worst thing about having an electric vehicle is not being able to charge it when it needs charged. It is a nightmare. That fear puts a lot of people off even considering an electric vehicle. There are many examples in Northern Ireland of people turning up to the charger and it not working. That needs to be resolved.

The issue about how the market is regulated and the pricing of the market needs to be considered. The ESB network is currently free of charge. We need to move to a system in which there is a charge. Let us be honest: if the charger is free of charge, where is people's disincentive to take their vehicle away after a period? Many people leave it there for hours, during which time other people cannot access the charger. Those issues need to be addressed. That is why a coordinated, joined-up strategy is needed. I agree with the Member about the energy strategy. Where is it? We need to see the strategy for many different reasons, not just for today but because of the cost-of-living crisis.

I very conscious of two issues about electric vehicles. The first concerns how substances are sourced for the production of electric vehicles in an environmentally sustainable way and ensuring that good labour practices are observed. The second is about how we deal with waste from electric vehicles. The industry is not doing very well in that regard — it is actually doing appallingly — and needs to do much better in how it sources the materials and how it disposes of them.

The last area is hydrogen. We have talked an awful lot about electric, but I had the pleasure of meeting representatives of Hydrogen NI last week. That is something that we need to be looking for, but it has to be green hydrogen: grey hydrogen should not be acceptable. There has to be green hydrogen, and that requires us to improve the infrastructure across Northern Ireland, particularly in regard to public transport and the logistics industry. That will help us power a decarbonised future.

I welcome the report. It is good that we can come together in the Chamber to constructively debate these things.