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Why the electrification of heat and transport offers the perfect opportunity to upskill

Griff Thomas

Griff Thomas

Managing Director of GTEC
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GTEC - Electrification of Heat and Transport

Griff Thomas, Managing Director of GTEC, explains how electricians can upskill for the electrification of the heating and transport sectors.

As we edge closer to our 2030 target for ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, the electric vehicle market is booming. The urgent need for charging infrastructure to support this growth offers new business opportunities for those in the electrical sector, particularly as it could also lead to a rise in other electrical technologies, such as domestic battery storage systems and solar PV. 

According to the latest statistics, 18.5% of new cars sold in 2021 were ‘plug-ins’ making it another bumper year for sales. Alongside the rapid development of renewable heating technologies, an exciting vision of the future is starting to emerge where those with electrical skills will be in high demand.

To achieve net zero by 2050, the UK must electrify two of its most carbon intensive sectors – heating and transport. According to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) this would involve up to 9 million electric and plug-in hybrid cars and vans by 2025, rising to 37 million by 2035 and up to 2 million heat pumps by 2025, rising to 15 million by 2035.

We could soon see a rise in electric self-sufficiency, with heating and hot water requirements met through super-efficient electric heat pumps and solar thermal, solar panels on the roof and surplus electricity stored in a home battery system or used to charge an EV.

EV opportunities

We’re waiting to hear further news from the government about its intention to mandate EV charging points in new homes starting this year (2022). This would equate to around 145,000 new domestic charging points each year, but Ofgem predicts we need far more than this – around 19 million by 2035 to meet demand.

Electricians are perfectly placed to deliver EV charging points, which could soon become part of their domestic electrical service. There is also a strong commercial demand from ‘destinations’ such as hotels, restaurants, retail parks and gyms. EV charging will soon be standard in public locations, so many businesses are investing now to gain the edge over their competitors as the market grows.

Training is a relatively quick upskill for engineers with experience of electrical installations, and associated inspection and testing. Training providers will offer the LCL Awards Level 3 Electric Vehicle Charging course which covers the installation of dedicated conductive charging equipment for the charging of pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric road vehicles (PHEV) and includes the extended range of electric vehicles (E-REV).

Successful candidates will be trained and qualified to prepare, design and install EV charge points in dwellings and commercial and industrial locations, including inspection, testing and complete handover to the client.

Electrification of heat

EVs fit perfectly alongside electrical heating technologies, a theory that is being tested this year on a mass scale.

A testbed scheme of carbon-negative homes, built by developer St Modwen, will explore the potential of electric technologies in affordable developments. The new-build homes, near Gatwick, will feature a combination of air source heat pumps, smart hot water tanks connected to solar PV panels, 2.6 KWh battery systems and EV chargers. It is thought that these technologies, alongside improvements to the fabric and ventilation of the buildings, could reduce household energy bills by at least 52%.

If the scheme is successful, we could see accelerated deployment of these technologies in new builds. Electrical engineers looking to expand could provide a whole building approach, installing a range of electrical technologies to improve the efficiency and reduce energy costs.

Solar PV and EVs are a match made in heaven. With a suitably designed solar energy system on the roof, homeowners can effectively generate ‘free’ power for their home and fuel for their car. Depending on lifestyle and location, homeowners with solar PV could expect to see installation costs paid back in around 15 years.

Homeowners can get paid for exports through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) but it’s more cost-effective to use generated electricity, which is when having an EV charge point in the garage can really pay off. Consumers can apply for funding for a domestic charge point through the OLEV scheme.

A Level 3 qualification in Solar PV Installation is ideal for experienced electrical engineers who want to expand into this evolving and lucrative area. An LCL Awards course provides the knowledge and practical skills to safely design, install and maintain solar energy systems and apply for MCS certification – a must for small-scale renewables installers.

Electrical energy storage – the future?

Energy storage is an emerging market that has seen rapid growth in recent years. It offers great potential for both small-scale residential systems and at grid level, playing a vital role in smart energy management.  

Residential electrical energy storage systems (EESS) are gaining momentum in Germany, where around 270,000 households are reaping the benefits of solar panels and battery storage. In 2020, around 70% of solar PV installations in Germany included EESS.

For climate-conscious consumers who have already invested in renewable systems, battery storage offers the potential to become more self-sufficient, using all the electricity they generate, while in many cases retaining Feed-in Tariff (FiT) payments. 

Last year, GTEC launched one of the first Level 3 EESS qualifications covering all the key requirements for the installation of EESS, including identification of equipment, arrangements and operating modes, design, installation, initial verification and handover. Candidates will benefit from the latest thinking around battery storage technology, enabling them to design more efficient renewable energy systems that reduce reliance on the grid and reduce energy bills.

We are moving towards a low-carbon society that relies on electricity for all its basic needs – from heating to transport and industry. By thinking outside the box and embracing new technologies and training, electricians have the opportunity to build an exciting business that is well placed to prosper in the low-carbon society.

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