Ofgem, the energy regulator, warned this week that electric car owners across the UK face higher bills if they choose to charge their vehicles during peak hours due to the current grid balancing arrangements, meaning those costs will be passed to all consumers as a result. What it points to is an inadequate energy strategy which relies on an increasingly ageing infrastructure no longer able to support near future requirements.
If electric vehicle users choose to charge during peak times, under current arrangements they will impose considerable costs, which will be borne by all consumers
There are estimated 160,000 plug-in cars on UK roads, a figure which is rising rapidly due to the perceived benefits of going green claimed by manufacturers but this means their impact on the energy grid has been underestimated. Currently, driver habits have shown a propensity to charge their vehicles, both electric and hybrid, between 4pm and 6pm which places a massive strain on the electricity grid which is already deemed peak demand.
Should this be a sustainable trend the likelihood is extremely costly upgrade work required which will ultimately be borne by everyone by a rise in energy bills to compensate. This would undoubtedly lead to a backlash against electric car owners.
Facing a Double Edged Sword
Although hardly a surprise, this revelation comes as Ofgem released a new report detailing at length the reforms needed to support electric vehicles. In the document, Ofgem restates that “increasing deployment of electric vehicles and heat pumps could lead to network capacity becoming constrained at peak times. This could require substantial investment in new network capacity with a knock-on effect on consumer bills.”
However, they go on to say that there is greater scope for smart meters that can switch on and charge plug-in vehicles during off-peak times automatically, removing the strain on the electricity grid and releasing network capacity. This approach is in line with the current smart meter rollout across the UK which has already been lambasted for being painfully slow and the perceived benefits questioned, a further initiative to cover the growing number of electric car owners who need additional meter equipment to lessen the strain on a burdened grid infrastructure may prove costly and unwelcome.
All Roads Lead to ‘Zero Strategy’
The National Grid recently revised its projections, taking into account the expected jump in electric car owners and plug-in vehicles, and said it expects 11 million electric vehicles by 2030, 2 million more than it predicted in 2017 – by 2040 it expects 36 million electric vehicles.
With this dramatic increase, the electricity regulator warned that penalties for not complying with smart charging initiatives may prove costly for owners who don’t follow them, although they were vague in how these would be applied or enforced in their consultation report.
However as reported recently in DIGIT the UK Government launched proposals outlining in a new Road to Zero Strategy initiative that could make the UK the “best place on earth to build and own electric vehicles, with massive investment in green infrastructure and the availability of technology a focal point of the plans.”
The new strategy includes a £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund to fast-track the roll-out of charging infrastructure and a revised Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme where electric car owners can apply for a £500 grant to install a chargepoint in their home. All new homes are required to have one as standard according to the strategy.
It is, however, unclear at this point where investment will come from to prop up the ailing electricity grid infrastructure to cope with the increasing demand; the Road to Zero Strategy only outlines funds being made available for the end consumer infrastructure and not the supply. It’s also unclear whether the Homecharge Scheme will need further revision as smart wall-charging units cost considerably more than the £500 rebate being offered.
The UK Treasury has just started a search for the Fund Manager who will take the investment forward. The new Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund manager will be tasked with raising 200 million pounds from the private sector to match the same amount of money set aside by the Treasury.