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Collaboration will ensure 'no one left behind' in the green vehicle revolution

By Calum MacLeod

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Joined up thinking could give the UK the world's most extensive electric vehicle charging system by 2025, and help the economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Joined up thinking could give the UK the world's most extensive electric vehicle charging system by 2025, and help the economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

THE UK could have the world’s most extensive electric vehicle (EV) charging network within five years, according to leading electricity distribution network operator Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) – but only if Government and industry work together.

The call is among proposals SSEN makes in its newly published Accelerating a Green Recovery plan.

The universal provision of charge points can be secured through electricity networks working with local authorities on “area-wide tenders”. This will support a cost-effective transition to a system that provides access to EV charging capability to communities without access to off-street parking and in locations where local businesses are reliant on footfall like town centres and seasonal tourist areas.

A similar programme in the Netherlands in January 2020 led to 20,000 public EV charge points being contracted across an area with a population of 3.2 million. This compares with just 32,000 public EV charge points for the UK's 66.8 million people.

Colin Nicol, SSEN’s managing director, said: “Delivering charge points in communities across the UK will support green jobs and spread investment.

“Local authorities should be empowered on this journey. We want to unlock and enable the communities we serve to realise their net zero ambitions. Local Area Energy Plans, will allow targeted investment, avoiding unnecessary cost and disruption in the transition to net zero.”

“Universal access to EV charge points is critical to a fair transition. With the right policies the UK could have the world’s most extensive EV charging network by 2025, and ensure no one is left behind.”

Analysis for the Committee on Climate Change found strategically planning and investing in the UK’s electricity networks could avoid £34 billion of unnecessary expenditure between now and 2035.

Transport is now the biggest single emitter of carbon and it is estimated that an 11,000 per cent increase in EVs will be needed in SSEN’s central southern England and north of Scotland regions alone to meet net zero targets.

Other proposals in the Accelerating a Green Recovery plan include bringing forward the ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars, allowing revenue from Clean Air Zones to go toward EV infrastructure and giving communities greater say in their energy future.

Standardisation of charging, allowing EVs to be plugged into any charge point is also key to get more people out of petrol and diesel cars and into EVs.

Incentives to make the switch and enable cars and vans to be used as “batteries” could also support flexible national and local electricity grids and help keep costs down, whilst encouraging the development of UK “gigafactories” to build the batteries needed for transport decarbonisation could create an army of green jobs and ensure the UK creates and retains a global competitive edge in the EV supply chain.

SSEN’s owner, SSE plc, has outlined £7.5 billion worth of investment to 2025 to help spur a green economy recovery from coronavirus, investing in low carbon projects and creating and supporting over 100,000 jobs across the UK. It operates the seventh largest private vehicle fleet in the UK, and the largest in Scotland, and has pledged to switch 3500 of its vehicles to electric by 2030.

SSEN’s Accelerating a Green Recovery EV plan is available to view at www.ssen.co.uk/EV.

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