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Accelerating the case for public chargepoints

By Geoff Murphy

The Department for Transport (DfT) recently announced that it was going to extend the On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) into 2021/22, which equates to an extra £20 million cash injection to boost the number of on-street EV chargepoints across the UK. This is of course great news – with the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles banned from 2030, and with a target of net-zero to meet by 2050, the need to get a comprehensive UK charging infrastructure in place is more pressing than ever. Anything that helps to achieve this goal is to be welcomed.

Since 2017, ORCS has supported applications from more than 140 local authorities, leading to the installation of nearly 4,000 chargepoints. This funding boost hopes to double that number. But on the same day the DfT announcement was made, the Policy Exchange think-tank released a report which said that a lot more had to be done, with a need for 400,000 public chargepoints by 2030, compared to the 35,000 that currently exist.

The Policy Exchange report made a couple of interesting recommendations. Firstly, in areas where chargepoint roll-out is still slow, it advised the Government should issue contracts to private firms to boost installation. Secondly, the report suggested the Government should fund dedicated ‘chargepoint teams’ in local authorities to accelerate rollout in their area.

Here at the Charge Project, we’re behind any initiative that increases the number of public chargepoints to make EV ownership a viable option for all. For instance, the Smart Charging Connections trial that we’re currently running in the North West – incidentally, one of the areas highlighted by the Policy Exchange as being under-served – is looking at ways to accelerate the deployment of public chargepoints onto the electricity network beyond what is currently possible.

But there are other reasons why we don’t already have more chargepoints on the streets of our towns and cities. In particular, the ‘business case’ for public on-street installations is challenging while EV uptake is in its infancy. While the Policy Exchange’s idea to get more private firms involved is sound, convincing them to provide equal access to charging may be more difficult. The locations with the strongest business case will be those that provide rapid charging or are in relatively affluent areas and most likely to see more early adopters of EVs. We need to see an approach that encourages widespread EV adoption through fair access to public chargepoints for everyone. Regardless of the location, we are still in a chicken and egg situation: we need more chargepoints to drive EV ownership and vice versa.

Similarly, having dedicated chargepoint teams at local authorities is also a great idea, but they would still need to work with a myriad of stakeholders – both public and private – to get projects off the ground. We all know that more chargepoints need to be made available, but identifying the right location for them, where both public EV charging demand is high and installation is feasible, is more of a challenge. Going through all the necessary steps to establish a strong business case can be a time-consuming process – but time is most definitely not on our side if we’re to get the EV revolution properly underway.

At SP Energy Networks we believe we are in a unique to provide assistance and through our innovative Charge and PACE projects we have started to trial and deploy a range of solutions to support this process.

PACE has demonstrated the value of local authorities and government working with a DNO to deliver their public chargepoint roll out. Through the project SP Energy Networks undertook an optioneering exercise to identify which of the chargepoint sites shortlisted by the Scottish Government and associated local authorities could be deployed cost-effectively and in a timely manner. The findings from PACE suggest that more than £200m of savings could be leveraged across the UK if the same approach was widely adopted.

Charge looks to provide our local authorities and stakeholders with the tools and data to undertake the optioneering exercise themselves. Charge is developing the ConnectMore online tool which will enable users to accelerate their chargepoint deployment plans. It will enable them to identify optimum locations for charging infrastructure based on forecasted demand for public charging and available network capacity. The public charging demand maps provided from a first of its kind DNO-owned transport model for the SPM licence area simulate the movement of EVs and cover a range of uptake scenarios between 2025 and 2050. Network capacity data will be made available through our highest ever granularity LV and HV heatmaps. Cross referencing both will highlight locations where chargepoints can be quickly accommodated by the network and are likely to be highly utilised. As we move forward ConnectMore will enable customers to generate their own budget connection cost estimates.

We want to ensure that every last pound on offer from ORCS is snapped up by local authorities, by empowering them with a tool that makes their submissions as pain-free as possible. We also want to make it easier for private firms to identify where opportunities exist to run a chargepoint scheme that quickly justifies its outlay. Because however much the Government attempts to drive the adoption of EVs and encourage both the public and private sectors to build out the necessary infrastructure, stakeholders will always want hard evidence to justify investment before fully committing to the electric future.



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