National Grid has said the power system could cope with an overnight boom in electric vehicles (EVs) and that the extra generation capacity required to handle millions of vehicles is no big deal.
Nine million electric vehicles on UK roads might require 8GW of extra power generation capacity if people charge them when they like. But smart charging could cut that to 4GW, potentially less, according to National Grid’s EV lead, Graeme Cooper.
Cooper was questioned alongside Ofgem and the Energy Networks Association (ENA) this morning by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee.
Cooper said the firm’s modelling suggested “not a tremendous amount of new generation is needed” if energy companies can “marry up the challenge of the generation and the wires to get the generation in the right place”.
Even if uptake of electric vehicles is more aggressive than National Grid’s modelling suggests, Cooper said the system would be able to cope.
“People who lease a car tend to be on a three to four year cycle; people who buy private vehicles tend to be on an eight to nine year cycle. So while a change overnight could be more dramatic [it is unlikely to be] a cliff edge,” he said.
While the UK’s generation mix is changing relatively quickly, the system is “very robust” and is responding to that change, said Cooper. “So I think there is enough time even if we see sharper uptake, to respond in the right way.”
Stewart Reid, who chairs the ENA’s low carbon technologies working group, told the Committee that EVs, if charged flexibly, would also help the system cope in the other extreme, when there is too much inflexible generation on the system.
“Flexible charging brings an opportunity to de-constrain wind. So flexibility is the key,” he said. “It provides additional capacity and also enables us to get the maximum out of existing network assets.”
Asked whether the UK government’s target to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 should be brought forward to 2030, Cooper said he believed National Grid “would support a more ambitious target” and could “absolutely” cope in that scenario.
The ENA’s Reid said network companies worked on the premise that there could be a “bow wave” before that, based not on government policy, but customer choice.
Cooper agreed. “[Regardless of government mandates] the list of consumers buying combustion cars post 2030 will be a very short list.”
He said even if ramp up of electric vehicles met its most aggressive scenarios, the transmission system would not require a “wholesale upgrade”.
Watch the session here.