Businesses who wish to install workplace electric vehicle (EV) charging stations have encountered a significant obstacle in the form of exorbitant costs associated with upgrading their substation due to insufficient power capacity at their location.
As a result of new regulations from regulator Ofgem, which went into effect in April 2023, the distribution network operators (DNOs) are now primarily responsible for covering the upgrading costs.
The regulations, known as the Access and Forward-Looking Charges Significant Code Review (Access SCR), eliminate the need for upgrades for “demand” users, or those who use the grid to obtain electricity for personal use.
Customers that create their own electricity using solar panels or wind farms, for example, and feed some of that energy back into the grid, known as “generation” customers, only pay a portion of the upgrading costs, which are allocated based on their voltage level at the point of connection.
The cost of providing each new connection (extension assets) is still borne by each and every client. For many firms, the modifications have resulted in a substantial reduction of EV infrastructure expenses.
According to Lorna McAtear, head of fleet at National Grid, “you had to pay for the upgrade if it took the entire estate above the capacity limit, even if you were only installing two chargers.”
Fleet managers no longer have to worry as much about the expense of tipping over capacity.
“In the past, the costs could be prohibitive – we heard horror stories from AFP members who were quoted anything from £450,000 to £1 million for an upgrade,” said one Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) board member, who praised the revisions. Businesses can now convert a larger percentage of their fleet to electric vehicles much more easily and affordably thanks to Access SCR.
According to Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), stakeholders and SCR.
A spokesman claims that “DNOs are now fully funding reinforcements associated with demand applications which require an upgrade to supplies, including those required for fleet charging installations, for a large portion of connection requests, which has drastically reduced project costs for many customers.”
The new regulations have helped one of Scotland’s biggest utility fleets, which needed a new substation at its Inverness location in order to establish a multi-rapid charging hub for its commercial vehicles.
Although the project would cost £640,000 in total, the fleet will now pay about £130,000 because the DNO is now in charge of reinforcing expenditures.
According to a member of the fleet team, “this means the project has gone from not being financially viable to one which we can realistically consider.”
“We don’t anticipate grid reinforcement at many of our sites, but the new regulations should significantly impact many fleets and make it more feasible to pursue previously unfeasible projects.”
A lot of the goods and services that UK Power Networks has been working on for the past five years are set in stone with Access SCR, which is good news for fleets, according to Ian Cameron, director of customer service and innovation.We’re dedicated to lowering the cost, simplifying, and speeding up the process for fleets to link their charging systems to our network, and we’re collaborating closely with organisations like Logistics UK and the BVRLA to support their members.
He continues, “With Royal Mail, we created a free depot planning tool as part of our Optimise Prime innovation programme, which culminated in the world’s largest EV fleet trial this year.This cutting-edge tool is available to all fleets.Our immediate focus is on enabling fleets to connect as quickly and affordably to the network as possible while ensuring the capacity we all need is there in the long run. We have also developed a range of new connections products, such as timed connections, which allow you to access more capacity at specific times of the day, and profiled connections, which create a bespoke offer based on the times you use electricity.
preparing for upcoming needs
According to McAtear, companies wishing to build EV charging stations should get in touch with their DNO “as soon as possible.”
“To find out how much capacity you have at your site, work with your energy company,” she advises.
“Access SCR does not apply to you if you already have enough within your authorised supply capacity limit and you do not need the upgrades.”
Companies who have previously lowered their capacity in order to save money should be aware that they won’t be able to easily reclaim that capacity.
According to McAtear, “new housing developments or shops may have been built and that capacity may have gone to them.”
She suggests that fleet managers prepare for future EV charging needs and employ a “phased” strategy, also called “phased capacity management,” in which they apply for the electricity capacity they might require to convert their entire fleet to electric vehicles, even if it will take some years before they do so, and “draw down” their capacity as needed.
Kester Jones, National Grid’s connections strategy manager for electricity systems, states: “Even if you’re not using that capacity right now, we will lay the extension assets now.”In contrast to a piecemeal approach, where you tell us you want “X” amount of demand now, we lay some cables, you want a bit more demand in a few years, and those cables still have some capacity, then a few years later they are full and we need to put bigger cables in, the advantage is that we lay the cabling and extension assets only once.
Jones claims that even though it is subject to an annual review, it is a means of “future-proofing” capacity.
Applications and connections will increase quickly in volume.
More than a million residential EV charger applications were expected annually if the sale of new petrol and diesel automobiles was banned in 2030.
The additional 600,000 heat pump targets set by the government are not yet known to have an impact from their decision to push back both deadlines until 2035.
With four licencing zones (about a third) owned by National Grid Electricity Distribution, the company anticipates 500,000 low carbon connections to the network, or 2,000 connections every working day.
Compared to 41,000 EV and heat pump applications in 2022 (164 working days), this is an increase.
In order to handle it, National Grid is digitising its connections and applications processes and has established a centralised staff.
Businesses may now access data on available network capacity, use a tool to assess their budgets, and submit EV applications online.
The planning experts at National Grid also provide connection surgeries, allowing companies to talk through their needs before submitting an application.
In a similar vein, SSEN often hosts webinars, workshops, and connection surgeries. A commercial relationship management staff is also present, providing specialised assistance for every market niche.
Smaller EV charger requests now be submitted online and verified by UK Power Networks “in minutes,” and the company is moving all other connection applications to an enhanced online platform.
Fleet customers can also take advantage of a number of pre-application support services, such as an email service called “Ask the Expert,” a self-service Open Data Portal, and in-person or online surgeries where they can speak with an engineer in-depth about their project.
After going through the process, a fleet manager suggests that other companies familiarise themselves with the web system of their particular DNO in order to establish new connections.
“They are all different, but in terms of the user experience, they’re getting better,” he claims.
“When a new application is filed, you will frequently receive confirmation of the person handling your case.”In my experience, speaking with the people in person produces far better results than exchanging emails. “Also be aware that your installer should be informing the DNO of any EV charger installation, to help the grid keep informed of forthcoming additional loads, regardless of whether you are using a new or existing connection.”