UK unprepared for surge in electric car use, thinktank warns

20th April 2017 | Commercial Energy

According to a report, the UK’s energy networks are not ready for a surge in electric cars and solar panels, which is coming in the next few years. Clusters of battery powered cars could result in 1% of the UK experiencing unplanned drops in voltage the Green Alliance said. This could potentially damage electronic equipment.

The thinktank warned that as few as six electric vehicles located near on another, most likely in an affluent neighbourhood, could lead to such “brownouts”.

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.

Ministers also recently called on electric car owners to ensure they are not charging at times of peak energy demand.

Electric Car

Network operators want people to use smart chargers, which can defer when cars are topped up. Most of the 12,000 plus charging points in the UK are “dumb”. Smart technology has only been used in pilot projects. The Green Alliance said that by 2025, up to 70,000 electricity users could suffer blackouts due to a lack of non-smart chargers.

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

Distribution network operators, who connect the national grid at a local level to homes and businesses, fear clustering of electric cars. They say such hotspots have not yet become a serious problem for their infrastructure.

However, the Green Alliance noted that electric car sales were up 56% last year on 2015 figures, and said falling costs would drive a rapid uptake.

The thinktank predicted a similar growth in the next few years in the installation of solar panels. These are already disrupting the energy system. Falling solar prices mean that by 2020 it will make economic sense for commercial building owner to install solar even without subsidies.

The combination of solar and household batteries, such as Tesla’s Powerwall, could result in houses being able to supply their own electricity independently for months at a time by 2025.

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