UK charging developers face grid connection challenge

Pace of EV adoption could be slowed by inability of chargers to access supply in a timely manner or at an appropriate size

UK charging developers face grid connection challenge
Jason Simpson sees improvements but still work to go on UK grid connections

"We should be encouraging electrification, because it is the most renewable friendly and greenest way of doing things.” So says Jason Simpson, CEO of UK charge point operator RAW Charging.

But he is concerned that grid connection issues are retarding the buildout of public charging infrastructure key to developing the integrated solution to speed the country’s e-mobility revolution.

“In the next decade, the uptake of EVs — regardless of where the government ends up sitting on its 2030 commitments — is on that journey now,” Simpson continues. But grid connection “is certainly a challenge in the UK”, he concedes.

“There is a lot more investment required in the grid to make it fit for purpose and smarter”.

RAW has a number of sites “where we know the solution we would like to put in”, Simpson tells EV inFocus. But sometimes the upshot is “the grid cost is such that we have to change to a less optimal solution”, he says.

The firm has even had to turn down sites as a result of grid cost. “Or we need to go on what is called local supply… but that limits the amount of power,” the Raw chief laments.

“It is difficult sometimes to get accurate quotes from the distribution network operators (DNOs) of how much it is going to cost us or how long it is going take to put a connection in,” Simpson continues.

This can be a particular problem if the firm is aiming to develop a new charging hub and therefore requires the installation of a new substation. “You go onto a site and you hope that it will be efficient. And suddenly the grid costs just make it uneconomic,” he complains. But he is sanguine at the same time.

Compared to those needing grid access for large-scale solar or wind — “long distance, pretty powerful connections” — who can be waiting for up to seven years, there is something of a case of counting blessings. “It does not prevent us doing what we need to do; life could just be easier,” says Simpson.

Getting better

There has also been some recent improvement. “Previously, whoever was the first person who needed the upgrade on location, a lot of those costs were borne by that first mover,” he explains.

“Now the regulation has changed in such a way that you take your share of that upgrade based on what capacity you need, and the costs are socialised with the other people who will benefit from that upgrade over time.”

This is important in that “it does not penalise that first mover”. But more progress would be ideal.

“It needs to be something that is on the government and the regulators' agenda,” Simpson suggests. Issues with getting appropriate grid connections, with the subsequent impact on provision of public charging, “has the risk of being a blocker further down the line, which is not in anyone's interest”, he concludes.

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