Ofgem is set to invest £300 million in over 200 low carbon projects across the UK, with a key focus on upgrading electrical infrastructure.
The energy regulator is making the cash available to companies who want to upgrade their networks around key bottlenecks. This includes motorway service stations that want to install rapid electric vehicle chargers but don’t currently have the capacity.
Companies will be able to access the cash for the next two years, with the aim of supporting more than 1,800 new ultra-rapid charging points at motorway service areas. That would triple the current network and help alleviate range anxiety worries.
Work has already been taking place to improve charging facilities along major motorways, with UK Power Networks recently helping Ionity to install new chargers at Cobham Services on the M25. However, there are still electrical supply constraints at some service stations, with Southbound Tesla Superchargers at Fleet Services still offline due to issues in the area.
Ofgem says that its latest investment is part of a broader programme for safe, secure and clean energy, with £40 billion confirmed already and more to follow in 2022.
Motorway service stations won’t be the sole beneficiaries of the new funding, however. A further 1,750 charge points will be supported in towns and cities. With the regulator aiming for the cash to go to every region in Britain, which should help address the inequality faced by EV drivers outside of London and the South East.
Cities like Glasgow, Kirkwall, Warrington, Llandudno, York and Truro will benefit from increased network capacity to support more ultra-rapid charge points, increased renewable electricity generation and the move to more electric heating for homes and businesses. Investment also covers more rural areas with charging points for commuters at train stations in North and Mid Wales and the electrification of the Windermere ferry.
Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, said, “This £300 million down payment is just the start of building back a greener energy network which will see well over £40 billion of investment in Britain’s energy networks in the next seven years.
“The payment will support the rapid take up of electric vehicles which will be vital if Britain is to hit its climate change targets. Drivers need to be confident that they can charge their car quickly when they need to. We’re paving the way for the installation of 1,800 ultra-rapid charge points, tripling the number of these public charge points. Drivers will have more charging options for longer journeys.
“In the year that Glasgow hosts the COP26 climate summit, the energy networks are rising to the challenge and working with us and partners to accelerate projects that can start now, benefiting consumers, boosting the economy and creating jobs.”
Rachel Maclean, Transport Minister, added, “I warmly welcome today’s news from Ofgem, which will greatly improve the resilience of our charging network as we build back greener.
“With more than 500,000 electric cars now on UK roads, this will help to increase this number even further as drivers continue to make the switch to cleaner, greener vehicles.”
David Smith, chief executive at ENA which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, commented, “With just a few months left until COP26 we are delighted to have been able to bring forward such a crucial enabler of the Prime Minister’s green recovery ambitions. Delivering a green recovery for seas, skies and streets, over £300m of electricity distribution network investment will enable wide-ranging projects which help tackle some of our biggest Net Zero challenges, like electric vehicle range anxiety and the decarbonisation of heavier transport.
“This new funding shows the social, economic and environmental benefits that can be brought forward by industry working closely with a flexible regulator.”
Keith Bell, Member of the Climate Change Committee, noted, “This joint initiative by Ofgem and the electricity distribution network companies is a welcome development, showing flexibility in the regulatory arrangements in the long-term interests of energy users. On the journey to Net Zero, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to manage without their combustion engine cars. Electric vehicles are looking more and more attractive, but we need to make sure they can be charged easily, and that means having the right infrastructure – charge points and network capacity – in the right place at the right time.
“As well as enabling charging of electric vehicles and the electrification of heat, network investment will provide support for supply chains and, where projects require expansion of the workforce, the creation of new jobs. It will be an essential complement to a smarter power system where innovative information technology and attractive energy tariffs for consumers will ensure we make best use of our electricity system infrastructure.”