Making a connection

Typography
Opinion

Emma Chetwynd-Jarvis, business development manager at Rock Power Connections, asks – is it easy to get an electricity connection for EV chargers?

In short, it entirely depends on your location. 

Over the past six months, Rock Power Connections has received an increasing number of enquiries for electric vehicle [EV] charger projects. These projects have covered each of the different Distribution Network Operator [DNO] regions and have ranged from fairly small supplies for a couple of rapid chargers through to more considerable supplies for banks of rapid chargers. 

As an ICP that is experienced in working directly with the DNO and in providing clients with comprehensive information to aid them in the decision-making process, we pride ourselves on consistency. However, this consistency has been challenging to meet in obtaining information and quotes for the installation of EV Chargers, as demonstrated by our key findings below:   

1. The application process starts very positively. Each of the DNOs’ new connections teams have proactively made contact and talked us through how easy it should all be.

2. Once the application hits the design engineer who is responsible for compiling the quotation, the experience varies. Not between the different Distribution Network Operators, but between the individual design engineers. Some require certain forms (but never the same form), some require very specific technical data, some require Single Line Diagrams (SLDs), some require a site visit and some have tried very hard to talk me out of wanting an offer due to the fact it will be difficult or costly.

3. The timescales can be long and unquantified. Whilst there are regulatory timescales around how long a quotation should take, this can depend upon whether the offer is being provided at Low Voltage, 11kV, 33kV or whether major works are required. With each question the DNO asks you, the clock can stop and restart with your answer. If it is passed to a new team, the clock can reset to zero. If the design engineer has a holiday, the clock seems to pause. Very quickly, you can find yourself with little idea of how long an offer will take. At Rock Power Connections, we have found this can range from three weeks to over four months.

4. The outcome can be surprising; small load requests in urban areas may not be available, yet larger load requests in remote areas may be. It comes down to whether the capacity is available locally and whether the number and type of EV chargers will affect the network harmonics.

5. The design engineers are open to discussion. When a site has required upgrade works to supply a couple of EV chargers, the design engineer has helpfully checked whether additional chargers could be permitted. In other situations, where the full load has not been available, the design engineer has asked whether we want a reduced load locally or a larger load from further away.

The popularity of electric vehicles has soared in recent years, but with this accelerated growth has come the requirement for new processes, which are not yet ‘ironed’ out or completely efficient. Ultimately, the biggest challenges will be whether a particular area has enough capacity and whether an upgraded or new electrical supply can be provided at a pace required to meet this level of growth. From experience, persistence and consistency is the key to success.