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Island falling behind on sustainable transport

News | Published:

DESPITE the States having committed to make 5% of the Island’s transport sustainable by 2020, only 1.2% of the 90,518 vehicles currently registered in Jersey are hybrids or electric.

Chris Ambler, chief executive of Jersey Electricity, charges an electric BMW. Picture: JON GUEGAN (24455780)

Acknowledging the shortfall on this commitment, which was made in 2014’s ‘Pathway 2050’ energy plan, Infrastructure Minister Kevin Lewis said that the Island is now ‘on track for some serious changes’, including making Jersey’s buses and every new States vehicle electric by the end of his term of office.

Meanwhile, Jersey Electricity chief executive, Chris Ambler, has offered to kick-start a change by contributing £150,000, if the States are prepared to match that amount, to create a ‘limited-life fund’ of £300,000 that would provide incentives for Islanders to switch to some form of ultra-low emission or electric transport.

Deputy Lewis explained that Jersey is the right size to make these kinds of changes happen.

‘Unlike the UK, we don’t have 500-mile motorways – we are just nine miles by five. We are the perfect location for electric vehicles,’ he said.

‘Part of my portfolio is the management of the entire States of Jersey car fleet, so what I want to do, subject to correct facilities, is to relatively quickly make it so that all new cars coming into the fleet will be electric.

‘Also, we have had talks regarding completely electrifying the bus system,’ he added. ‘We have been talking to several companies. We are just working out which is the best technology to have because, of course, we have the slight problem that our road system in Jersey means we use narrow-chassis buses. But those are the sorts of things we are working on at the moment.

‘This will definitely be happening within my term of office.’

Mr Ambler said that, while the States are ‘well shy’ of their sustainable transport target, more progress could be made if there was a ‘greater willingness to experiment’.

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‘One of the things that we have offered is for Jersey Electricity to put in £150,000 on a matched-funded basis with the States also putting in £150,000 to create a limited-life fund of £300,000 to provide other incentives and support mechanisms for Islanders who wish to buy into low-carbon transportation,’ he said.

‘I think the States could do more with these kinds of limited-life trials, where a limited piece of ring-fenced funding is provided, a scheme is then defined and a two- or three-year period is set as a limit for a trial.

‘Then at the end of that period, we can review the position and assess whether we can extend the reach of the scheme or, if we are not successful, then we can understand why and do something about it, change it or even scrap it.

‘There is space for more of this sort of thing to happen in Jersey. But there needs to be a greater willingness to experiment, to try new things and learn from them.’

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Commenting on the JE offer, a States press officer said that it is welcomed and will be carefully considered.

‘Ministers welcome this offer from JE and will carefully consider the appropriateness of the government contributing to such a scheme, alongside other policy options, to reduce the Island’s carbon emissions,’ she said.

‘The government must direct any financial subsidies at initiatives that provide the best value for money. Using taxpayers’ money to subsidise the private purchase of electric vehicles will need to be assessed on this basis.’

Sam Le

By Sam Le
Journalist

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