Transport | Alternative energy resources for rail and bus transport
To ask the Minister for Transport the degree, if any, to which any audit has been done to evaluate the extent to which rail or bus transport can rely on alternative energy with particular reference to indigenous methods; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications holds overall responsibility for energy policy, there has been no specific audit on the capacity and demand for low-emission energy in public transport networks undertaken by officials in my Department. However, my Department has completed research and pilot programmes, which have informed our bus and rail fleet procurement and will help contribute to phasing out the use of fossil-fuels in public transport networks across the country.
Between 2018 and 2022, my department evaluated a range of alternative fuels and technologies to inform future public service obligation (PSO) bus procurement. The trials, which reproduced real-world test conditions along modified urban bus routes in Dublin and Cork, found that battery-electric buses are the most efficient technology for Ireland’s urban bus routes. The final report was published on 23 May 2022 (available from: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/e2cd8-low-emission-bus-trial-final-report/).
In collaboration with the National Transport Authority, my department has also made significant progress in the procurement of low-emission buses to help reduce fossil-fuel energy use in transport. The NTA has introduced 119 hybrid-electric buses into service, and has also signed a framework agreement for the order of eight hundred battery-electric double-deck buses, with an order for 120 buses placed on 13 June 2022.
While intercity rail electrification is unlikely in the short- to medium-term, the DART+ programme will deliver a doubling of existing DART capacity and tripling of the amount of electrified track. Ninety-five battery-electric rail units are expected to enter service in 2025, and the DART+ programme will extend and enhance the current DART system in the Greater Dublin Area.
In line with the Renewable Fuels for Transport Policy Statement and Climate Action Plan 2021, my department has also set an indicative trajectory for the use of biofuels in transport, with an approximate blend of E10 (up to 10% by volume bioethanol blend in petrol) and B20 (up to 20% biodiesel blended into diesel) expected by 2030, with an interim target of E10/B12 (up to 12% biodiesel) by 2025. The blending obligation, which currently applies to road transport, will be expanded to the rail sector from 2024. My department will shortly be publishing a summary report on renewable transport fuel policy implementation, which will include consideration of the opportunities and challenges in relation to providing further indigenous supply of renewable fuels in transport, and research on the sustainability and availability of renewable transport fuels.
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