Thursday, April 5, 2018

Electric Trucks and Vans Are the Future - but Who is to Pay the Infrastructure Bill?

Motorways Need Charging Points but Union Suspects the Cost to Fall on Homeowners
Shipping News Feature
UK – Whilst just about everyone, except perhaps the most avaricious oil executive or speculator, is keen to see cleaner energy powered vehicles roll out as soon as practical, there is almost always a potential downside attached to such advances. Van and lorry owners are keen to take up a technology which offers them a greener footprint and the road freight industry is in both the forefront, and the firing line, as the logistics sector trials the latest electric and hybrid vehicles whilst simultaneously being hit with a variety of congestion and toxicity charges.

Now, throwing another spanner in the works, is a question put forward by none other than the GMB Union, which represents workers across a panoply of sectors from energy to transport. In the language we have grown to know and love (or otherwise) the union asks some searching questions behind the funding for what will become the backbone of electrically powered vehicles in the future - the infrastructure of charging points particularly along Britain’s motorway network.

The GMB says that the support from National Grid for an early ban on new petrol and diesel car sales is a ‘Trojan Horse’ to extract ‘extra taxpayer cash to pay for expensive and difficult to co-ordinate new charging infrastructure’. It goes on to say the company, which runs the UK’s national electricity network and wants to build superfast car charging points at motorway services, should ‘be straight’ about where the money will come from.

The GMB is calling for the Government and Ofgem to reassure the public that the costs of setting up electric vehicle charging points at motorway service stations across the country won’t be passed on to ‘household bill payers’ after National Grid recently said it would support the government bringing forward its 2040 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales by a decade, forecasting up to 35 million pure electric vehicles will be on the roads by 2050. Such a scenario envisages peak demand from electric vehicles rising by 30 gigawatts, the equivalent of 10 Hinkley Point power stations, adding to a current peak demand of 61GW according to the union’s calculations.

A separate National Grid Report from March 2018 says gas will be fundamental to any realistic future energy scenario and that it is not feasible to switch over to electric heating on the scale required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by the middle of this century. The report says that a move to electric heating would require a seven fold increase in the capacity of the grid to 290 gigawatts, emphasising the future importance of gas and the need for the UK’s own independent gas supply.

So what of the much heralded ‘free energy sources’ from wind and sun to reinforce the energy drain? For the 12 months from 7 March 2017, every one in 5.6 days was a low wind day (65 days in total) when the output of the installed and connected wind turbines in the UK produced less than 10% of their installed and connected capacity for more than half of the day. Meanwhile for 341 days in the year, solar output was below 10% of installed capacity for more than half of the day. Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, observed:

“When National Grid wraps up a warm welcome to the end of sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 with vital upgrades to motorway service station electricity infrastructure, it is not being upfront. What National Grid fails to make clear is that as Ofgem guidelines stand, it could be household energy bill payers who are hit with the huge costs of installing sufficient electric vehicle (EV) charging points into all the country’s motorway service stations.

“National Grid needs to be straight and stop using its support for an early ban on new petrol and diesel car sales as a Trojan horse for extra taxpayer cash to pay for ‘expensive’ and ‘difficult to co-ordinate’ new charging infrastructure. When Grid says the more rapid roll out of EV’s ‘could be facilitated by the close alignment of the transmission and motorway networks’, what they really mean is with some extra cash.

“GMB is saying very loudly and very clearly to Goverment and Ofgem - make clear now that the costs of upgrading the electricity grid to Britain’s motorway service stations with sufficient electric vehicle charging points will not fall on household energy bill payers.”