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21 April 2017

Think tank finds UK networks ill-prepared for surge in EVs and solar

According to a new report by think tank Green Alliance, the UK's energy networks are not prepared for the growth in EVs and solar over the next few years.

Green Alliance is a charity and an independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership for the environment in the United Kingdom.

Reporting on the findings of the research conducted by the Alliance, The Guardian notes that "clusters of the battery powered cars could result in 1% of the UK experiencing unplanned drops in voltage – potentially damaging electronic equipment – without action by 2020."

It added that even six EVs charging simultaneously - located in close proximity - could lead to brownouts.

The Guardian adds that "charging one car requires a similar amount of electricity as a typical home uses in three days, and simultaneous demand at a local level could damage networks without costly reinforcements."

The Alliance notes that network operators want people to use smart chargers, which can defer when cars are topped up, but most of the 12,000-plus charging points in the UK are “dumb”, with smart technology largely only used in pilot projects.

It says that up to  700,000 electricity users could suffer blackouts as a result of non-smart chargers by 2025.

“The government should say all chargers from now on must be smart. Once they’re in, it’s very expensive to retrofit them,” said Dustin Benton, the author of the report.

Ill-prepared networks

The Alliance also found that distribution neywork operators in UK, who are resposible for connecting the national grid at local level to homes and businesses, have expressed concerns around the clustering of EVs, but say these "hotspots" have not yet posed a problem for their infrastructure.

Electric car sales in the UK are also said to have incresed by 56% on 2015 figures.

The adoption of solar panels is expected to witness similar growth over the next few years, with costs decreasing to the extent that it "would make economic sense for commercial building owners to install solar even without subsidies."

The Green Alliance reccomended that "immediate action" be taken to be able to manage the expected surge in EVs and solar.

A National Grid spokesman told The Guardian: “Growing use of solar power and electric cars will change the way the energy system is managed, but National Grid has been consistently dealing with evolution in the energy sector for decades, and these latest changes also present great opportunities.

“For example, electric vehicles can be used to help feed energy back into the system at key times, while solar power will play a crucial role in providing clean energy as coal-generated power stops being used.”

The Guardian concluded by saying that the body representing distribution network operators said it was piloting innovative new technologies to more actively manage its members’ networks.

 

Image credit: Shutterstock

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