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Current±​ Chats: ENA's Randolph Brazier on the importance of data for transport electrification

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Earlier this year, the Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce reconvened with an aim of turning its proposals for facilitating the transition to EVs into action.

The taskforce brought together over 350 organisations to create the proposals, with the Energy Networks Association (ENA) being one of the founding members.

Current± caught up with the ENA's head of innovation and development Randolph Brazier to discuss the importance of data in the electrification of transport - an area he led on in the taskforce - as well as visibility of EV chargers and the need for the government's Rapid Charging Fund.

How much consideration should there be of data – and the ownership of that data – when it comes to the rollout of EVs?

From our perspective, there are two sides of data that need to be considered. There's data from the actual energy networks and energy system data, and then there's the electric vehicles themselves and the chargepoints and the data that comes from them.

In terms of our data, we very much want to make our data available to people in the spirit of the government's Energy Data Taskforce. We have a working group looking at data and we are effectively looking to create what we call a digital systems map, which was one of the recommendations from the Energy Data Taskforce. I like to think of it as the Google Earth of energy; it will allow people to zoom in to different parts of the country - and potentially in the future down to a street level - and understand where the networks are, where they can connect, how much capacity is available there etc, to help facilitate connections. We've done two demonstrators to prove that it can work and we're developing a proof of concept at the moment which should hopefully be available in Q1 next year.

One issue often talked about is networks not having visibility of where some chargers are being connected. Is this something the networks are still running into?

Although people have to tell the networks when they install a chargepoint, as you can imagine not all do and there's a range of reasons for that. Some of them just don't know that they have to tell the network, but in other situations they might think that ENA's connection process is too onerous, for example. So we are looking to simplify that process, and next year even digitalize the process to make it much easier for people to tell us when and where they're installing an EV.

We're working closely with the rest of the members of the Energy Data Taskforce to ensure that we have visibility of the data from cars and chargepoints because if we have access to that data we can plan, run and operate a much more efficient energy system and target investment to where EVs are ultimately being clustered or where the need is highest.

Connection costs, particular with higher powered chargers, are also often seen as a barrier. How useful do you think the government’s Rapid Charging Fund will be in facilitating those connections?

Range anxiety is frequently cited as one of the biggest blockers to EVs, but under the current charging regime that we have with Ofgem some of these connections could potentially be quite expensive, particularly for larger motorway service areas that want to put a lot of rapid charge points in. There's clearly a market failure there. The fact that the Chancellor put that £500 million pounds forward, we think it's going be really beneficial, and we fully support it. We’ve done a quite a bit of work already with our members and also with the MSAs to understand what the needs are, what needs to be put where, and who does what, effectively.

How much of a split do you think it will be between those traditional network upgrades and technologies such as battery storage to facilitate this extra demand created from EV charging?

A lot of people seem to think that it's either reinforcement or flexibility, smart grids. smart tariffs and all that sort of stuff. But actually, we don't see it as a case of one or the other. We see it as a case of both; you're going to need both of them and you will need a different mixture of them in different areas.


Alice Grundy Reporter, Current±


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