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UTILITY Week 15th January 2015

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UTILITY WEEK | 15Th - 21sT JanUarY 2016 | 25 Customers Analysis T he move to electric vehicles (EVs) is a critical element in the global mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and one that is gathering pace. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, there are now some 50,000 EVs on UK roads. The sector is expected to develop at "breakneck" speed over the next ten years, according to analysts IDTechEx Research in a recent report, with support from chancel- lor George Osborne through an independent body to fast-track the building of new energy and transport infrastructure across the UK. In total, the global EV market is expected to be worth $500 billion by 2026. According to power engineering consul- tancy EA Technology, 2016 is "the year of the EV". There are 32 full or part EVs available to buy or lease in the UK already, with six new models coming to market this year. With 2016 barely begun, a new car manufacturer, Faraday Future, has entered the EV market with a new supercar. But nonetheless despite the push from car manufacturers, 2016 is unlikely to be the year that electricity dis- tribution network operators (DNOs) see any meaningful increase in electricity demand as a result of EV uptake. It could be more than five years before any significant increase is seen. But the rise of EVs is one of the key focuses of DNOs this year in the battle to get ahead of the curve. EA Technology has been leading one of the most important ongoing EV projects for DNOs, 'My Electric Avenue', looking at the effects of human behaviour on EV uptake. Dave Roberts, EA Technology's director, smart interventions, says the size of the EV market has already vastly increased com- pared with when the project started. "The advent and increase in EVs is real. EV sales have risen exponentially over the last two years. In real terms, registrations of new plug-in cars have rocketed by 716 per cent since 2013," Roberts says. But EV market growth over the next few years is more difficult to estimate. Current uptake is being driven by investment made before the oil market crashed, and with oil prices set to stay low and the climate agree- ment in Paris a slow burn, it is a "confusing picture" whether there will be a spike or step up in vehicle sales in 2016. The Institution of Engineering and Tech- nology's Energy Policy Panel chair Simon Harrison says any meaningful ramp up from the perspective of DNOs is unlikely this year or even in the near future. "I'm not sure that I yet see the kind of massive turn over to electric vehicles on the kind of timescale that would be really scary." Harrison estimates that "scary" levels of EVs are at last five years away, but also acknowledges that if the mobile phone mar- ket is used as a marker of likely uptake rates of consumer technology, an explosion within five years is not out of the question. What is important is that DNOs use what- ever time they have until that happens to prepare. One of the biggest fears about EV uptake from a DNO's point of view is the effect of "keeping up with the Joneses", resulting in "clustering" of vehicle charging that will put certain sections of the distribu- tion network under strain. DNOs have been hard at work to under- stand the likely direction of human behav- iour when it comes to clustering. My Electric Avenue and Low Carbon London, the Low Carbon Network Fund project run by UK Power Networks that released its findings late last year, have already shed important light on this area. Early indications are that there will be enough diversity in charging patterns to keep peak demand lower than feared, but Harrison says it is "too early to understand how universally applicable" the findings from these projects are when applied across different characteristics of network. Despite questions over universal applica- tion, the trials have already revealed huge potential savings in network reinforcement. My Electric Avenue alone has trialled tech- nology that could save £2.2 billion by 2050. "There's been some wonderful work done, we have learnt a huge amount in the last three years, but there is still quite a long way to go," Harrison says. "We will also probably learn by experience as it happens." Alongside investigating the potential effects of EV uptake, the industry is actively looking to support future growth. The Energy Networks Association met with the Office for Low Emission Vehicles within the Depart- ment for Transport last year, and the Depart- ment of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), to discuss support for growth in EVs, which resulted in the publication of Towards a Smart Energy System before Christmas. The document identifies potential barriers to the move to smarter grids and areas of focus for Decc and Ofgem in the future. EA Technology has also called for more interaction between the two industries going forward. "There is a crucial overlap between these two industries; the lack of capacity in some local electricity networks for EV charg- ing needs to be addressed, and it is a cross- sector issue," Roberts says. The company will be facilitating the establishment of an Automotive-Utilities Task Force "to ensure that the lessons learned from My Electric Avenue are transformed into action". EA Technology says the taskforce has already received backing in principle from all six DNOs and National Grid, and is now in the process of securing funding. This may not be the year EVs appear on every street and interrupt the daily life of the DNOs, but it is certainly time for the energy industry to change up a gear in preparation. 2016: the year of the EV? 32 EVs are available in the UK, with six new models coming this year. But although it could be five years before any major rise in electricity demand is seen, DNOs are making preparations, says Lucinda Dann. Tesla recently released Summon autopilot functionality as part of its Version 7.1 soware. Using Summon, a driver of a Tesla Model S or Model X electric car can prompt it to open a garage door, park itself inside, and shut down. And when you want to drive the car again it will open the garage door and come out to greet you. Eventually, the company says, the Tesla will be able to drive anywhere across the country to meet you, charging itself on the way.

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