New moves to help UK achieve net zero carbon target

Boosting the electric car charging network and accelerating local power production are part of Ofgem’s plans to help the UK reach its carbon reduction targets.

Tom Harrison
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Posted 31 JULY 2020

With 11 million electric vehicles projected to be on the road by 2030, energy watchdog Ofgem has announced plans to unlock investment and secure capacity.

The plans also involve measures to help achieve the UK government’s ‘net zero’ carbon emissions target by 2050, including:

  • Encouraging investment in the infrastructure needed to deliver clean heat to Britain’s homes and businesses, for example with heat pumps.
  • Enabling more clean renewable energy to be produced locally.
  • Helping local networks cope with rising electricity demand in smarter ways, including through new technology like battery storage.
  • Creating a fairer balance between shareholders and consumers, delivering investment to support a greener emissions-free Britain while keeping costs as low as possible. 
  • Proposals for fast, reliable network upgrades in anticipation of forecasted increases in local demand for electricity.  

Money to fund strategic plans and innovation

A new strategic innovation fund, worth an initial £450 million, is being set up across all energy networks to help drive more research and development into green energy. 

Additionally, a system-wide ‘net zero’ fund will unlock significant, potentially unlimited, additional funding to drive good value green infrastructure upgrades. This could fund, for instance, co-ordinated upgrades to the transmission and distribution power grids to enable a nation-wide charging network for electric vehicles.  

Keeping power flowing smoothly

Ofgem is proposing measures to ensure that network operators can efficiently manage the electricity flowing through their grids, as increasing generation from local renewable sources requires them to take on more system operation responsibilities.  

This includes requiring companies to grow their capacity using ‘flexible’ solutions where they can, such as battery storage or smoothing peaks in demand, rather than building expensive new network capacity.

It also includes increasing coordination and planning across the energy system, digitalisation of the energy system, and making better use of electricity network companies’ data – including sharing this with flexibility providers.

Improving the electric vehicle charging network 

Flexible solutions to increase capacity could pass on price cuts and faster charging to consumers. According to Ofgem analysis, at least 60% more electric vehicles could be charged if electric vehicle drivers use ‘flexible’ charging – where they only top up outside peak demand times on the grid – compared with vehicles charged only at peak time. 

Dan Hutson, head of motor insurance, said: “Solving the infrastructure challenge is one of the final pieces of the electric vehicles puzzle. Ofgem’s focus on building capacity for 11 million electric cars in the UK will be welcome news to many who want an electric car but are concerned about the volume of charging points. Improving the electrical infrastructure is essential to increasing the number of charging points.

“Charging points have been identified as one of the main deterrents for more people buying cars, with 53% saying they would be concerned about where to charge their electric vehicles. Capacity, which Ofgem is tackling, is the first step in addressing this but there still needs to be a significant increase in the volume of charging points before we see broader take up and our electric dreams are realised.”

Cutting costs to consumers

Ofgem is continuing its approach to price controls, saying it expected to see lower returns for investors: “This means less of consumers’ money goes towards network companies’ profits, and more towards improving the network and fighting climate change”.

This package of measures will help keep the costs of delivering a green, emissions-free economy for Britain as low as possible for consumers.

Planning for a greener future for power

Ofgem’s CEO Jonathan Brearley said:

“Our proposals will help turn Britain’s streets green, putting in place the wires and technology for families to travel in electric vehicles and heat their homes and businesses with clean energy.

“The green energy transformation is not just about putting more copper in the ground. We need a modern, digital grid that uses all our energy assets as efficiently as possible”

“Local electricity networks will be at the forefront of eliminating harmful carbon emissions from the country, helping tackle climate change, so it’s vital they have the investment they need to do this whilst keeping costs as low as possible for consumers.”