By Thomas Newby, chief operating officer (field and installation) at Tonik Energy
Humanity is on a mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral by 2050.
If that challenge isn’t already sizeable enough, consider that transport, traditionally perceived as a laggard when it comes to environmental matters, is currently the UK’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions - 23% according to The Climate Group.
Indeed, if we are to achieve the net zero target the transport industry will need to draw on all of its skills and experience to reduce the emissions of individual vehicles and the demand for motorised transport.
There are only about 210,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK. About 1% of households use an all-electric car and about 2% hybrids. This means tens of millions of cars will have to be replaced.
This is an enormous shift in cultural behaviour - as big as we have seen since combustion engines first became mainstream.
Of course, it can be done but as EVs and autonomous vehicles become the new normal, we can expect to see increasing pressure on businesses to meet new transport demands of its employees and fleet.
Nowhere is this more acute than infrastructure. One of the most pressing issues facing EV charging deployment at any scale is power availability.
Existing electrical connections were specified to suit the building needs and use cases at the time of construction. They are simply unsuitable for significant increases in demand without potentially costly upgrades.
Intelligent EV charging systems that can manage the total building load are suitable to a point, particularly where vehicles are parked for longer periods of time.
However, we’ll inevitably reach a stage where there simply is not enough energy available from the supply during the time period required.
This is why we have to consider alternative methods of power generation, particularly solar. Generating and storing energy on-site through solar and battery storage is an effective way to minimise expensive grid connection upgrades and provide the additional power on-demand.
This is particularly relevant to businesses looking to meet the demand from tens or even hundreds of EV chargers on a single site such as fleets or large car parks.
A move that is only likely to be expedited with the changes in the Benefit in Kind (BIK) rates from April 2020, which will see company car drivers choosing a pure EV paying no BIK tax in 2020/21 and very little thereafter.
Distributed generation and storage solutions also reduce the dependency on buying energy at peak times, easing pressure on the grid.
As network-wide deployment of cost-effective renewable generation increases, systems with sufficient scale have the potential to generate additional revenue supporting the grid.
These ancillary services, which help balance the network, reduce the threat of brownouts, particularly as clusters of EV uptake have the potential to create significant local distribution network challenges.
Distributed renewable energy uptake is critical if the reality of the UK’s smart transport system and carbon reduction ambitions are to be realised. Solar generation is proven, sustainable and durable.
It’s becoming clear, both practically and fiscally, that renewable energy will be a linchpin as we navigate through this rapid time of change and the UK’s mission to achieving a clean air future.