The Government has set a minimum target of 300,000 electric vehicle (EV) charge points by 2030. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) recently highlighted that, to hit this target, charge points need to be installed at a rate of 100 per day. Current installation rates are less than a quarter of what is required.
One of the biggest barriers to speeding up installation is the delay in connecting those charge points to the electricity grid, with charge point sites around the country left sitting ready to operate but for the fundamental issue that they cannot access electricity. Charge point installers are publicly criticising the current management of the connection process by distribution network operators as being unduly complex and lacking a pragmatic approach.
This is not just a challenge for the EV rollout, but also poses issues for any new renewable energy generation projects, with some developers reporting waiting periods of over 10 years, causing concern for investors in renewable projects and potentially threatening the UK's ability to meet its ambitious Net Zero targets.
Due to the regulated "queuing" system for new connection requests, hundreds of projects are effectively on pause waiting to be given access to the grid, while potential grid capacity is, in some places, tied up in projects which are not as far developed as those in the queue and which may not be successfully built out. National Grid is working with Ofgem and industry to explore ways to speed up the process, but as the delays continue there are calls for Government intervention to remove the barriers and enable progress towards decarbonisation.
This is sure to be a key area of focus for the newly-formed Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, which has recently been challenged by the National Audit Office (NAO) to create a clear decarbonisation plan to allay fears that the Government will fail to achieve its Net Zero ambitions. The NAO suggested that progress against the plan should be reported annually to parliament to ensure appropriate visibility and scrutiny of progress.
Graham Stewart MP, appointed Minister of State for Energy Security and Net Zero in February, is quoted as accepting in response to questions around grid connection delays that "possibly it's the biggest challenge facing [Energy Security and Net Zero] department”. No doubt we can expect to hear more on this topic as the new Department finds its feet.
The question of where electricity is coming from to meet the increased energy demands of decarbonised transport, and more related topics will be explored at the Interchange conference at The Vox, Birmingham on 18 and 19 April 2023 where Burges Salmon sponsors the Energy Hub.
In its report, the NAO called on the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero to outline an overall decarbonisation plan, bringing together the various power sector and network goals and explaining how they would be met.