Preparing UK Electricity Networks for Electric Vehicles

Supported by National Grid and EA Technology, this report discusses the potential rate of change of EV uptake by considering the national carbon/air quality landscape and government drivers, as well as looking at market signals from the automotive industry.

The primary focus is on households with off-street parking (about two-thirds of UK housing stock) who are likely to make up the majority of short to mid-term adopters of EVs. The report draws on existing published material only, pulling together disparate sources to review the impact EVs will have on the UK Electricity Networks.

Key recommendations:

  • Adapt demand forecasting arrangements: Forecasting future demands carry considerably more uncertainty than in previous decades, impacting the planning and financing of electricity networks. It will be necessary to improve forecasting arrangements, including the co-ordination between parties, in particular Distribution Network Operators (DNO) and Transmission Network Operators (TNO), and the automotive sector.
  • Progress with roll-out of smart systems: It is recognised that smart systems, including smart meters, smart charging and energy storage, could reduce the overall level of required investment and allow time for capital intensive/physical solutions to be deployed. However, there remain barriers to adoption centred around standards and interoperability of systems. It is recommended that standards to promote co-ordination of systems, recognising the specific, and often local, requirements of electricity network operators, are developed and implemented.
  • Develop a regulatory framework to enable investment: Network operators can be reluctant to invest in new infrastructure where they face forecasting risks, exacerbated by the fixed periods of the regulatory price reviews. Additionally, they may also face the risk of asset stranding. The key risk to the system and the smooth uptake of EVs is that capacity gaps form which cannot be filled with new infrastructure in a timely manner, as the lead times can be extensive. It is recommended that a regulatory framework is developed based on consistent and comprehensive distribution network asset data and better demand forecasting. This will improve network capacity forecasts. If necessary, policy and regulations could be updated to provide appropriate risk sharing across all stakeholders and make it easier to commit to and implement investment decisions ahead of potential capacity gaps emerging. Coupled with this the sector needs to take a whole energy system approach, with its portfolio of options for clean energy, to best serve the needs of consumers.