Gas Networks Ireland (GNI) has launched a €2.9 million compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle grant scheme to support hauliers in opting for cleaner fuel.

The scheme will support the purchase of up to 400 gas-powered trucks, buses, and vans to help drive a more sustainable transport sector.

It will cover 20% of the difference between CNG and diesel-powered vehicles, capped at €5,000, with a maximum of €60,000 available to any one applicant. Grants can be used towards the costs of vehicles registered from 2020.

Declan O’Sullivan, GNI’s CNG programme delivery manager, said: “I am delighted to launch GNI’s CNG vehicle grant scheme and would encourage Ireland’s fleet operators and hauliers to take advantage of these additional cost savings and choose these cleaner fuel options for their vehicles.

“Carbon-neutral renewable gas made from food and agricultural waste, which was first introduced onto the gas network in 2019, is structurally identical to renewable gas and can be used in exactly the same way through the existing infrastructure, technology, and appliances.

“This means that as the volume of renewable gas on the network increases, vehicles fuelled by CNG will increasingly reduce their carbon footprint without needing to change a thing. Gas, natural today and renewable tomorrow is the best alternative for the environment and the economy.”

The path to cleaner heavy-goods vehicles (HGVs) and buses, which makeup only 4% of vehicles on Irish roads, but generate 30% of its road transport emissions, is challenging, because not only is the sector responsible for a disproportionate amount of transport emissions, but electricity is not a viable alternative to diesel in fuelling these long-haul vehicles.

CNG can reduce HGV well-to-wheel emissions by up to 23% compared to diesel, and deliver cost savings for operators of up to 35%. GNI believes this renewable gas is beginning to play a ‘major role’ in Ireland’s fuel mix.

The organisation’s previous grant scheme supported the purchase of 40 vehicles across 23 companies, including Virginia International Logistics (VIL).

“Receiving funding helped us to purchase six NGVs, reduce emissions, and lower our fuel costs,” said Ray Cole, transport director at VIL.

“As part of our ‘Green Logistics’ policy, introducing CNG-fuelled vehicles is one of the ways we are reducing our carbon footprint. The customer demand for alternate fuel transport is also increasing as companies focus even more on having a lower-carbon supply chain.

“Embracing CNG also contributed to VIL being previously awarded International Haulier of the Year and Irish Haulier of the Year at the Fleet Magazine Awards.”

GNI is also developing a CNG refuelling network in partnership with Ireland’s forecourt operators and hauliers. There are stations located at Circle K’s forecourts in Dublin Port and Cashel, with two more sets to open in 2021 in Dublin and Limerick, another under construction in Cavan a further eight in planning and development. Three private CNG stations are also in operation.

Additionally, the Department of Transport is set to announce its own scheme, the Alternatively-Fuelled HDV Purchase Grant Scheme to further support the decarbonisation of the Irish transport sector.

“It is very encouraging that the government recognises the potential and opportunity for alternatively-fuelled vehicles,” said O’Sullivan.