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Current± Predicts: The energy transition in 2020, part six

Image: Nottingham City Council.

Image: Nottingham City Council.

Today’s instalment in Current±’s series of predictions for 2020 features the expectations of Engenie chief executive Ian Johnston and Jack Dobson-Smith of the Solar Trade Association.


Ian Johnston, CEO, Engenie

Benefit in Kind (BiK) tax changes will make 2020 the first year of mass market EV drivers

The BiK tax reduction to 0% from April 2020 will make driving an electric company car cheaper per-month than driving a non-EV, significantly reducing the personal tax liability for those who opt to go electric. With over 50% of all UK new car registrations company cars, this will have a huge impact on the numbers of EVs in our roads. The shift to drivers choosing EVs will also kickstart a second-hand market for ex-lease EVs when they return to dealers after the 2 - 3-year term, providing retail consumers the ability to choose from a national stock of affordable and available second hand EVs.

Charging companies’ ability to solve at-charger ‘experience anxiety’ will determine the network winners

The government has called for all new public EV chargers to provide debit/credit card payment by Spring 2020, a standard that major charge point providers are actively providing to solve ‘experience anxiety’ - concern about turning up and not being able to charge. Tap-and-go payment will become the experience expected by mass-market drivers to whom public charging will be a new experience. Networks unable to offer a seamless and reliable end-to-end customer experience will lose the faith of the new mass market customer quickly, and may not be able to recover their market reputation.

Public concern about climate change will make ‘100% renewable’ a given for EV infrastructure, with knock-on effects

Whilst EVs fuelled by the current energy generation mix produce 50% less CO2 than their internal combustion engine counterparts over their total lifecycles, public concern often focusses on the renewable credentials of the fuel itself. It will become expected and simply essential that electricity provided via charging infrastructure is procured from renewable generators. This in turn will support the renewable and storage industries, as well as encouraging workplaces and homes onto greener tariffs.

Jack Dobson-Smith, public affairs advisor, Solar Trade Association

Commercial rooftop’s time to shine?

With the economics of commercial rooftop PV becoming increasingly favourable, and corporate climate ambition on the rise, we are edging closer to a tipping point that will unlock the true potential of the vast swathes of under-utilised industrial roof space in the UK. Tesco have set the bar high, revealing plans to have solar installed on 187 sites, financed via power purchase agreements (PPA), and there is seemingly more to come in the pipeline.

Ground-mount innovation

PPAs are also driving some ferociously innovative ground-mount projects, and it’s not just the private sector piling in. Early this year Warrington Borough Council revealed its deal with Gridserve for two solar parks located in neighbouring Yorkshire and the Humber, with a combined capacity of 60.4MW plus 27MW of battery storage, featuring pioneering technology including bifacial PV modules and tracking. Other local authorities will be keeping a close eye on the project, holding grand ambitions of their own.

Building standards on the rise

With the government’s Future Homes Standard out for consultation, we can be confident that a rise in the standards for new dwellings is forthcoming, and there is a reasonable expectation, given the legally-binding Net Zero by 2050 target, that the government will adopt a standard that encourages the deployment of rooftop PV. It remains to be seen whether local authorities will retain powers to set standards above national requirements, though with more than half currently enforcing higher standards, withdrawing these would almost certainly hinder decarbonisation efforts.

Solar-powered EV infrastructure

Growing demand for electric vehicle charging points will see the proliferation of more clever, solar-powered infrastructure. The stand-out 2019 example comes from Dundee, where the local council has invested in three solar-powered rapid-charging stations with battery storage which can charge 20 vehicles at a time, providing for the city’s rapidly growing number of EVs.

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