Over 200 low carbon projects are getting a chunk of £300 million in investment from Ofgem to support electric transport and heat.
The projects – which will be delivered by Britain’s Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) – include the installation of 1,800 new ultra-rapid charge points at 39 motorway service areas and trunk road locations, triple the number currently available.
Additionally, 1,750 charge points will be installed in towns and cities, helping support the growth in electric vehicles (EVs). It follows research from the regulator released on Friday 21 May that found that one in four consumers are planning to buy an EV in the next five years.
Ofgem found that 36% of households who aren’t intending to transition to an EV are concerned about the lack of charging points; today’s investment announcement will help tackle this ‘range anxiety’.
The 204 projects represent £300.5 million of investment across England, Scotland and Wales, with cities like Glasgow, Kirkwall, Warrington, Llandudno, York and Truro highlighted as set to particularly benefit from the funds.
It is just the start of building back a greener energy network, said Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, with well over £40 billion of investment planned for Britain’s energy networks over the next seven years.
“The payment will support the rapid take up of electric vehicles which will be vital if Britain is to hit its climate change targets. Drivers need to be confident that they can charge their car quickly when they need to."
Today’s investment decision follows Ofgem, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) and each DNO putting out a call for evidence in February for paths for decarbonisation.
The funding for the projects – which will run over the next two years – has been partly sourced through DNOs' existing allowances as part of the RIIO-ED1 price control as well as through newly-raised funds.
ScottishPower Energy Networks
DNO ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN) has been awarded £61.7 million of the funding for 40 projects over the next 18 months.
These will create over 650MW of electrical capacity across the company’s network, enabling it to install around 500 rapid or ultra-rapid vehicle chargers and 4,000 domestic heat pumps as well as other significant connections.
“To tackle climate change we’re electrifying transport, decarbonising heating and buildings and connecting more wind and solar energy generation than ever before. Our network must be ready to support these changes and set the foundations for a net zero future,” said Frank Mitchell, CEO of SPEN.
“We have ambitious plans to revolutionise the distribution network between 2023 and 2028 – we’re going to reinforce or replace hundreds of miles of cables, upgrade more than 800 substations and bring new technologies online to help us manage the increased energy flowing through our grid.”
Projects set to benefit from today’s funding announcement include; super-fast EV charging at nine service stations along the M56, M6, M62, M74 and M8 motorways; eight new substations including the construction of a £6 million site in the centre of Glasgow and a project to remove a grid constraint in North West England that will enable a community hydro facility.
Scottish and Southern Networks
Scottish and Southern Networks (SSEN) is to receive £41 million from the total £300 million to unlock over 122MW of additional capacity.
This will cover 12 different programmes of network investment, which the DNO has chosen from over 150 submissions to the call for evidence from local authorities, developers and community groups.
These are spread across the company’s network, including; £9 million for infrastructure in Rownhams for EVs and low-carbon technologies; £2.7 million for a new substation in Orkney; £2 million for new transformers in the Western Isles and £7 million for a number of upgrades in Oxfordshire that will add 28MW of capacity.
Chris Burchell, managing director of SSEN Distribution, said that the investment into network upgrades will help the DNO address "the twin challenges of the economic and social recovery from coronavirus and the impending climate emergency”.
“The green recovery scheme provides a blueprint for future agile investment in our networks in the coming years, where rapid progress will be required to keep pace with net zero. By undertaking £40 million in strategic network investment now, we are helping unlock innovative low-carbon projects at the right time, boosting local economies and supporting communities to achieve their net zero ambitions.”
Northern Powergrid (NPg) has received £53 million for 14 network infrastructure projects that will help accelerate green growth and job creation.
“This is targeted investment in the region’s energy networks, which will kick-start projects and increase prosperity across the North,” said Patrick Erwin, policy and markets director at the company.
“We play a critical role powering the everyday lives of the communities we serve. Electricity is one of the most important building blocks for economic growth. In the coming years our reliance on electricity will increase as we turn to electricity to heat our homes and power our cars.
"As more projects and plans come forward to proactively tackle the climate emergency, they will bring with them the jobs of the future for not only ourselves, but our children and grandchildren and we will play our part in making our future clean, green and prosperous.”
The projects that will receive investment include; £11.6 million for Durham, Washington and Woodhall to support EVs; £3.75 million to support regeneration of Grimsby and Immingham to unlock 120MW of capacity to support wind power, green shipping and hydrogen and £11.5 million to unlock large-scale solar generation potential as well as EV charging infrastructure in areas by Scotch Corner junction and Wetherby.
Western Power Distribution
Western Power Distribution (WPD) has received £60 million of the funding to upgrade network infrastructure across the Midlands, south west England and South Wales. The DNO is expecting up to 1.5 million EVs and 600,000 heat pumps to be in use by 2028, and these upgrades will help support the adoption of these technologies.
The investment is set to increase network capacity by 617MW, the equivalent of connecting 171,000 heat pumps, 385,000 domestic EV chargers or 12,000 rapid EV chargers. Additionally, it will allow for 589MW of generation growth across the network.
“Our wide-ranging projects will help with some of our biggest net zero challenges, including electric vehicle range anxiety, battery storage and the decarbonisation of our heating systems,” said Graham Halladay, WPD’s operations director. “The time is now to cut emissions and ensure the clean and sustainable future of generations to come and we are proud and delighted to play a vital role in this.”
The green projects to receive funding will include; increasing capacity in Truro, Cornwall by 30MW to enable solar parks as well as EV chargers and heat pumps; extending the network towards Gloucester Services as well as expanding capacity to enable 160 rapid EV chargers at the services and installation of a new substation in Nottingham to add 24MW of additional capacity for demand and 18MW for generation.
UK Power Networks
UK Power Networks (UKPN) will deliver 76 EV rapid charging stations with its chunk of the investment, including developing hubs at key motorway stations such as Toddington, London Gateway and South Mimms. The £38 million of total investment will provide the capacity for 2,700 rapid chargers.
Additionally, it will invest £3.9 million in supporting seven bus garages across Greater London to go electric, delivering extra capacity that is equivalent to 1,000 rapid chargers.
The DNO will also invest £12,000 in Hastings to build the infrastructure needed for new heat pumps for a community-run building.
“Electricity networks are on the front line of this exciting green revolution,” added Sul Alli, director of strategy and customer service at UKPN. “This investment demonstrates what we can achieve by working together as an industry with the support of government and our regulator, Ofgem.”
Electricity North West
The final DNO group to be awarded a chunk of the funding is Electricity North West (ENWL), which is set to upgrade its network across Cumbria and Carlisle amongst other areas.
New low carbon connections will be developed in the Windermere lakeside area thanks to £700,000 of funding from the Ofgem pot, and a further £1 million will be used to strengthen the upstream 33kV network.
In St Cuthbert in Carlisle, ENWL will look to add 8.5MW of capacity to support renewable and low carbon heat and generation. Additionally, it will target EV charging at Southwaite Service Station on the M6 motorway, which provisionally needs between 2MVA and 7MVA to meet requirements.
“With just a few months left until COP26 we are delighted to have been able to bring forward such a crucial enabler of the Prime Minister’s green recovery ambitions,” finished David Smith, chief executive of ENA. “Delivering a green recovery for seas, skies and streets, over £300m of electricity distribution network investment will enable wide-ranging projects which help tackle some of our biggest net zero challenges, like electric vehicle range anxiety and the decarbonisation of heavier transport.
“This new funding shows the social, economic and environmental benefits that can be brought forward by industry working closely with a flexible regulator.”