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EV infrastructure to get cash boost from Ofgem

Date: 24 May 2021   |   Author: Simon Harris

Ofgem is targeting motorway service areas and key trunk road locations across the country with cabling needed to install 1,800 new ultra-rapid charge points, tripling the current network.

The energy network regulator said a further 1,750 charge points will be supported in towns and cities, talking of the need to upgrade infrastructure to support the switch from petrol and diesel vehicles to electric.

The investment will be delivered in the next two years and is part of a plan that aims to ensure Britain has the energy infrastructure it needs to support the move to low carbon transport and heating while maintaining secure supplies. The magnitude of this investment is expected to be in the order of over £40 billion through Ofgem's regulation of energy networks.

Every region in Britain is said to benefit from the announcement, with 204 net zero projects worth £300 million across England, Scotland and Wales. These low-carbon projects will start this year, supporting clean transport and heat, and opening up local electricity grids to take on more low carbon generation. 

While electric car ownership is on the rise, Ofgem research has found that 36% of households that do not intend to get an electric vehicle are put off making the switch over a lack of charging points near their home. Ofgem believes an extensive motorway charging network and more charging points in cities and train stations will help address it.

Cities such as Glasgow, Kirkwall, Warrington, Llandudno, York and Truro will benefit from increased network capacity to support more ultra-rapid charge points, increased renewable electricity generation and the move to more electric heating for homes and businesses. Investment also covers more rural areas with charging points for commuters at train stations in North and Mid Wales and the electrification of the Windermere ferry.
Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, said: "This £300 million down payment is just the start of building back a greener energy network which will see well over £40 billion of investment in Britain's energy networks in 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. We're paving the way for the installation of 1,800 ultra-rapid charge points, tripling the number of these public charge points. Drivers will have more charging options for longer journeys.

"In the year that Glasgow hosts the COP26 climate summit, the energy networks are rising to the challenge and working with us and partners to accelerate projects that can start now, benefiting consumers, boosting the economy and creating jobs."

Rachel Maclean MP, transport minister said: "I warmly welcome today's news from Ofgem, which will greatly improve the resilience of our charging network as we build back greener.  

"With more than 500,000 electric cars now on UK roads, this will help to increase this number even further as drivers continue to make the switch to cleaner, greener vehicles." 

David Smith, chief executive at ENA which represents the UK and Ireland's energy networks businesses said:  "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. 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."

Keith Bell, member of the Climate Change Committee, said: "This joint initiative by Ofgem and the electricity distribution network companies is a welcome development, showing flexibility in the regulatory arrangements in the long-term interests of energy users. On the journey to Net Zero, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to manage without their combustion engine cars.

"Electric vehicles are looking more and more attractive, but we need to make sure they can be charged easily, and that means having the right infrastructure - charge points and network capacity - in the right place at the right time.

"As well as enabling charging of electric vehicles and the electrification of heat, network investment will provide support for supply chains and, where projects require expansion of the workforce, the creation of new jobs. It will be an essential complement to a smarter power system where innovative information technology and attractive energy tariffs for consumers will ensure we make best use of our electricity system infrastructure."

John Wilmot, CEO of car leasing comparison website LeaseLoco, said: "This announcement by Ofgem is exactly what is needed if the green motoring revolution is to stay on track.

"Consumers are committed to greener motoring, and that was confirmed in a recent survey we carried out of UK car owners. Almost a third said they would consider buying electric as their next car, but had concerns about the capability of the charging infrastructure.

"At the end of the day, car owners will be reluctant to trade in their diesel and petrol motors for electric if they feel that charging their cars will become an inconvenience.

"If they are going to be persuaded to early switch to electric now, investment in the charging infrastructure has to be the top priority."