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Government and energy sector collaboration needed to realise electric vehicle benefits

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The government and energy industry must commit to greater collaboration if the UK is to capitalise on the benefits of increasing numbers of electric vehicles, according to a new report from the energy sector’s trade body.

Energy UK, which counts over 90 suppliers, generators, and stakeholders within the industry as its members, has said “the right policies and partnerships” need to be made now across the transport and energy sectors with both government and the relevant regulators.

At stake is the UK’s planned phase out of the sale of petrol and diesel cars in the UK by 2040 as well as a range of benefits that electric vehicles can offer, particularly the “important role” in providing energy flexibility services to the grid.

This could lead to reductions in electricity demand at peak times at both a local distribution level and national transmission level; enable electric vehicle owners to provide a range of response services by using their electric vehicle as a mobile battery resource; and provide the energy system with geographically distributed energy storage capacity.

To achieve these benefits, Energy UK says there is a need for “greater co-operation and co-ordination” between government departments and the energy sector. It has therefore called on government to work with its members to develop a regulatory framework which balances the need for long-term certainty with the need to leave sufficient space to innovate.

Energy UK chief executive Lawrence Slade said: “Electric vehicles are the perfect catalyst for a smarter grid that cuts carbon emissions and empowers consumers.

“However, the full integration of electric vehicles into UK’s energy infrastructure is a challenge that demands a ‘whole system’ approach. It requires ambition, close cooperation across several sectors and a vision that is based around empowering and benefitting the consumer.

“Issues like managing demand will need to be tackled but the prize is substantial – everything from the air that we breathe through to the manufacturing and tech sector’s stand to benefit.”   

Among its recommendations to government are:

  • A longer-term policy framework including electric vehicle charging in existing and future schemes, using:

    •  the Electric and Autonomous Vehicle Bill to further emphasise continued support for electric vehicles

    • the Clean Growth Plan to set out how electric vehicles will contribute to the Fifth Carbon Budget and the Air Quality Plan;

    • an extension to the one year Motor Fuel Greenhouse Gas Reporting Scheme to reward energy suppliers for charging electric vehicles.

  • Increased and continued support for innovation, particularly across the Information Communications Technology (ICT) elements of electric vehicles and smart charging solutions.
  • funding for research and development of vehicle-to-grid technology .
  • Mitigation of the concerns network companies may have over risks to the energy grid presented by electric vehicle uptake through smart charging arrangements

Addressing this last point, Energy UK’s report also pushes back on what it has described as “a tendency to assume the worst when discussing the actual rate of charge for electric vehicles”. 

Since National Grid published its latest Future Energy Scenarios document, which estimated the additional system-wide peak electricity demand from electric vehicles would range from 6 to 18GW in 2050, sparking a slew of inaccurate and negative headlines.

One stated the UK would need “ten new nuke plants” to cope, prompting National Grid to publish a ‘myth buster’ document, claiming its estimates had been “cited incorrectly and sometimes out of context” by national media outlets.

While Energy UK’s report does point out that the deployment of electric vehicles onto networks could potentially cause local network outage or other performance issues, it claims this evidence provides the impetus for smart charging solutions to be supported.

“It is important that options for a charging solution are established soon to allow a change in the tone of discourse around electric vehicle adoption,” the report states.

The initial findings of a landmark study by Western Power Distribution found that EVs are plugged in for 12 hours overnight by households in the trial, but are only charging for just over two hours. This suggests that there is likely to be sufficient flexibility to manage charging away from peak electricity demand periods.


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