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Current± Chats: ENA’s Randolph Brazier welcomes the local focus in Budget 2020

Image: ENA.

The Budget has been met by mixed responses from much of the energy sector, with electric vehicle companies cheering the increased investment while solar has been left in the dark.

There were noticeable omissions in the Budget, which was presented yesterday by Chancellor Suank, but the energy networks have been broadly positive about the steps made, including £800 million pledged for carbon capture and storage and £500 million for EV infrastructure.

Current± caught up with the Energy Network Association's head of innovation Randolph Brazier to see how the changes could benefit DNOs, as well as the local benefits and what to expect from the white paper.

Can you just tell me your initial reaction to the budget?

The scale of the funding, the sort of energy related funding anyway, is something we've been asking for for a while. Previously, we've gotten bits and pieces here and there but to transition to net zero in a timely manner - basically in 30 years – the scale we’ve now seen, the £500 million and the £800 million, that is the sort of scale that we're talking about to make sure that that happens.

That's the sort of scale that we need to continue to see going forward. The initial reaction is obviously we're quite happy. We weren't expecting it, or weren’t expecting it to this scale anyway.

With the EV fund for businesses, will that take any of the pressure off for DNOs regarding grid connections?

It depends on how they cut this funding up and allocate it. If that funding does include money for reinforcement, or if it includes money for the EV charge points to also have associated things like storage or other flexible technologies, that can potentially take the strain off the grid as well.

I guess it really depends on exactly how that money's going to be chopped up.

Was there anything that you were hoping for from the budget that wasn't included?

Again, it depends on how it's cut up a bit. But speaking on behalf of our gas network members, I think we were hoping for something related to hydrogen.

Now, you could argue that the CCUS could obviously support hydrogen as well, it just depends on exactly how that's going to be spent. But I think it would have been nice to hear something on hydrogen.

With the CCUS, how optimistic are you for the technology going forwards given how many challenges there have been in developing it?

It's pretty unknown. But that's exactly why we have innovation so that we can trial and test these technologies, and learn fast to see if they are going to work or not.

We're hopeful, I would say, but we're still cautious because it hasn't been delivered at commercial scale yet.

Were there any particularly positive aspects of the Budget you’d highlight?

What has clearly come out of the budget - which we totally support and agree with - is that there's a focus on local policy as well and local installations. For the high power charge points and the CCUS clusters, that's really going to affect local communities in a positive way. And we believe that you need to marry that local and that national policy.

I think the budget recognises that which we're quite happy about.

Do you think that there was less focus on renewables because of their maturity compared with CCUS and EVs, or do you think that that's something that the government will expand on in the energy white paper?

It's a good question. On the decentralised sources perspective, we've got over 30GW of distributed generation connected, and we obviously have a smart export guarantee now. So I think that that is fairly well supported, and that is well underway.

Specifically from a network perspective, though, we've obviously got the Open Networks Project, which is looking to create that smart grid, particularly at a local level. That will involve some level of investment as well, but whether that should have been in there or not? You could probably argue that the detail could be in the white paper, but also, it's going to be critical to reflect that in the RIIO-2 plans.

I think it didn't address RIIO-2, probably because it's at too high a level, but we want that to be reflected well in the RIIO-2 plans. And that kind of goes back to what I was saying before with the EV charge points.

Obviously, it's great to rollout all these high powered charge points, but the network needs to be able to support them. So whether or not they included that funding for the networks in that or not, that’s probably going to be determined in the white paper.

But certainly we need that investment in networks to support the technology.


Molly Lempriere Deputy Editor, Current±

Molly Lempriere is deputy editor at Solar Media, responsible for its UK-facing publications Solar Power Portal and Current±.


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