Smart approach to charging EVs will reduce pressure on the power network

As the number of electric vehicles continues to increase rapidly, demand-side response – where customers reduce or shift their electricity use at peak times – will be necessary to help the UK’s power grids cope with the additional demand.

That was the consensus among speakers at a recent House of Commons event on the future of electric vehicles in the UK.

The keynote speaker was John Hayes, Minister of State at the Department for Transport. He discussed the Government’s ambition to increase the proportion of electric vehicles on UK roads and to develop the infrastructure required to accommodate them.

The minister also highlighted the need to create a “smart” approach to electric vehicle charging, with consumers taking advantage of times when energy demand is lower.

“We know the demand for electric vehicles places the national grid under pressure,” Hayes said. “It’s critically important – we are working on this. It’s particularly important that we charge smart, so we flex demand and take advantage of spare capacity.”

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) pointed out that most owners of electric vehicles charge their batteries immediately after returning home from work — a time when energy demand is already at its highest point in the day. Time-shifting the charging away from the peak could alleviate much of the cost of power network upgrades required to cope with electric vehicles, the energy supplier explained.

Stewart Reid, head of Asset Management and Innovation at SSEN, said that the company was delivering various measures to ensure the UK’s electricity network can manage an increase in the number of electric vehicles being charged on the grid in the future, including the use of demand-side management.

“SSEN is taking steps to mitigate potential issues with electric vehicles, via its Smart EV project,” Reid said. “We’re working on creating and collaborating with other DNOs (distribution network operators), National Grid, DECC and Ofgem on an industry-accepted solution for managing future EV charging, in the form of an Engineering Recommendation.”

A “very big investment programme” will also be necessary, he added.

A spokesman for industry body the Energy Networks Association, quoted by the Guardian, agreed that investment in the power network would be needed.

But he also said: “Electricity network operators are developing a number of innovative solutions to enable people to charge their vehicles while minimising the impact on the power network.”

Sign up to our newsletter

Meet our experts