Government advisory body says electric vehicle revolution can switch on the UK’s energy system


AN EFFECTIVELY managed integration of electric vehicles with the energy system can significantly improve electricity network efficiency, increase system resilience and limit the requirement to build costly new infrastructure to meet growing electricity demand, according to a government-backed task force.

The Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce was established in 2018 to make proposals to government and industry to bring together the auto and energy sectors to ensure that the GB energy system is able to accelerate the mass take-up of electric vehicles while also delivering benefits to the electricity system.

Minister for the Future of Transport George Freeman commented: “We are 100% committed to decarbonising the UK’s road network.

“Our £1.5bn Road to Zero strategy is supporting a thriving electric vehicle market; last year in the UK a battery electric vehicle was sold every 15 minutes.

“Government commissioned the Taskforce to advise how we can best work with industry to make sure the energy system is ready for the transition to electric vehicles. This report provides important evidence to shape the next stage of our Road to Zero road map.

“Three important recommendations relate to the correct use of consumers’ personal data and the means to ensure people’s privacy is properly protected and smart electric vehicle charging is secure.”

The infrastructure spending required to prepare the UK electricity networks for the electric vehicle transition is likely to run to tens of billions.

However, the Taskforce believes this cost can be significantly reduced if the right decisions are made and the transition is effectively coordinated between government and key energy, infrastructure and transport industry stakeholders while a prior study put this figure at between £2.7bn and £6.5bn.

The task force suggests that there are twenty-one key proposals for actions to be taken by government and industry to enable an effective and efficient electric mobility transition.

The proposals are included in the task force’s new report published this week.

The Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce, an unprecedented collaboration (established jointly by energy and transport ministers at the Prime Minister’s Zero Emission Vehicle Summit, in September 2018) is made up of more than 350 organisations.

Philip New, Chief Executive, Energy Systems Catapult and the Electric Energy Taskforce Chair, said ahead of the report being published: “Ensuring that the mass roll-out of electric vehicles delivers benefits for both drivers and the wider energy system requires actions from industry, government and the regulator, including creating the new markets and policies that can unlock electric vehicles’ huge potential.”

In its formal report to the Government, the Taskforce sets out a range of proposals to enable the efficient integration of electric vehicles with the energy system during the electrification transition. These include:

  • Providing financial incentives to electric vehicle drivers to ensure that the potential energy storage capacity of millions of electric vehicles is used to reduce peak demand;
  • Prioritising greater standardisation across the charging network to ensure it works resiliently, efficiently and securely with the electricity system;
  • Establishing an independent body to promote the benefits of smart charging through a major publicity campaign to ensure electric vehicle drivers are confident and well informed;
  • Extending the principle of ‘open data’ in the energy system to include electric vehicle charge points and electric vehicles to allow more effective smart charging of electric vehicles.
  • Co-ordinating energy and transport planning to ensure we have the right infrastructure in the right place.

The Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce is believed to be the most wide-ranging collaboration between the UK’s energy and transport/mobility industries.

The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership was asked to convene and facilitate the work of the Taskforce.

The Taskforce states that ‘the transition to electric motoring is now well under way’, but that the pace must increase.

Fintan Slye, Director of National Grid ESO said: “Electric vehicles will play a key role in decarbonising the UK’s transport and electricity sectors.

“Smart charging and vehicle-to-grid technology means we can use renewable energy more efficiently, charging when the sun shines or the wind blows and potentially discharging back to the grid at times of peak demand.

“With an estimated 35 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2050 or sooner, we have a fantastic opportunity for the transport and electricity sectors to work together to deliver a low carbon transition that benefits all electricity consumers.”

Road transport accounts for 28% of the UK’s total energy consumption and 25% of carbon emissions.

Coordinating the introduction of a smart charging infrastructure will enable network operators to balance demand and supply through an electricity grid increasingly incorporating intermittent renewable energy sources.

Electric vehicle drivers willing to charge their vehicles during periods of low electricity demand or when surplus renewable energy is being generated will benefit from lower fuel costs in the transition ahead.

David Smith, Chief Executive, Energy Networks Association (ENA), added: “To develop and deliver a smart efficient national electric vehicle charging network will require effective local and national energy planning and coordination to enable efficient investment, mediating the balance between futureproofing and asset stranding.”