Plans to boost a council’s electric charged fleet have hit the buffers over fears of “excessive costs” for a new electricity substation.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is currently accepting delivery of its new £7.4m fleet with the majority of the 77 vehicles being powered by fossil fuels.
Climate change concern has seen criticism of the order, with some small vans being changed to EVs (electric vehicles), however further environmentally friendly vehicles cannot be ordered until a power solution in Newry is agreed.
Downpatrick Alliance rep, Cadogan Enright said: “I am delighted that we have EVs going into Downpatrick (council depot), but we are pressing on with diesel in Newry on the grounds that we don’t have somewhere to plug them in.
“In the view of the fact we have a climate emergency, could we find somewhere to plug them in, in Newry?
“So, we could go for the cheaper to run option for the vehicles, when compared to diesel.”
The councillor added: “Could we now write to NIE expressing concern they are holding the council and forcing us towards using vehicles of higher cost?
“This isn’t just a problem in our area, but right across the whole of the district.”
A council officer responded: “On the EVs, I just want to make it clear, there is capacity in Greenbank (Newry depot), but there isn’t as much as there is on Strangford Road (Downpatrick depot).
“There is a limited capacity in Newry. We have investigated it with NIE and there is a difference between what we have got and what they can supply.
“We will be asking for additional electricity supply, we don’t know how much NIE will afford us. And then whatever they afford us, we would need to take it up or they will take it back off us again, I think that is the way they put it.”
He added: “If we require a greater supply of electricity than NIE can supply at the moment, they could hit us with the full cost fo a new substation.
“So, we just have to be careful the council doesn’t incur any unnecessary costs.
“If somebody else asks for it and they build a substation, we could get the benefit of it, but I would be concerned of exposing the council to excessive cost.
“We will seek in the first instance to use up the electricity supply there is.”