DSO Development Manager, Western Power Distribution
We interviewed Paul Jewell to get his opinion on the development of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure in the UK from Distribution System Operator’s perspective. Paul is an experienced DSO Development Manager at Western Power Distribution and has been directly involved in one of the most notable EV Smart Charger Trial projects in the UK.
Western Power Distribution is responsible for delivering electricity to approximately 7.9 million customers in the UK and committed to investing around £1 billion on its network annually. Its network area covers the South West, South Wales and East and West Midlands. The distribution element makes up around 18% of an average customer’s annual bill which is around £100 a year or 27p a day.
Western Power Distribution’s role in EV charging is to provide the network capacity to allow EV charging points to be connected. We are also attempting to predict future charge models as our network assets have a 50 year life so we must plan ahead. EV charging is changing the face of electricity usage in the UK, with more energy consumption at home and a prediction of huge increases in demands for en-route rapid chargers.
The scale of change in energy usage is clear as energy that was previously supplied by petrol or diesel transitions onto our network. As an example, an EV charged at home uses the same amount of energy as a home and we predict that motorway services will need the level of capacity we’d normally plan for a small town.
To understand the impact of EV charging we completed the Electric Nation project, looking at the charge behavior of EV customers who charge at home. The project drew on earlier work from the “My Electric Avenue” project completed by SSEN. We took the research further, crucially with a wider range of vehicle manufacturers and more customers. Our project team also included experts in their fields; EA Technology for network modelling and assessment, Drive Electric for vehicle advice, Lucy Electric for substation monitoring and the TRL for insights into the future.
We wanted to understand the impact of EV charging on electricity networks. Our concern was that lots of EVs charging at the same time could fill our network using a range of vehicles as previous smaller trials had often restricted to one model of car. We also wanted to understand how vehicle usage affects charging patterns and, to help avoid peaks, investigate how customers might react to a level of management being applied to their ability to charge.
The project was funded through Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance (NIA), which enables DNOs to spend money on projects which increase learning in the sector for the benefit of customers.
Electric Nation was a £5.9m project with 673 EV customers participating in the research. It ran from April 2016 through to late 2019. In fact, timing proved to be key as the project was underway at the same time as the market for EVs was beginning to expand. Only three years before My Electric Avenue had focused on Nissan Leafs, our project had a wider range of vehicles and charge behaviors to test and demonstrate.
It was still a relatively new market area in 2016 though, one of the main risks at project inception was the sign-up of participants with EVs. We knew we needed between 500 and 700 to get a statistically robust set of data. In fact, this risk was quickly downgraded as it was relatively easy to get participants as EVs were becoming more commonplace in the timeline of the project.
One of the project goals was to assess the impact of charging and this became a key finding. We can now confidently plan our networks with a level of diversity in charge habits as we were able to prove that customers do not charge their EVs every day or even at the same time. This is key as it allows us to confidently accept more EV charging on our network before we undertake reinforcement works.
Findings from the project have directly influenced our Electric Vehicle Strategy document, which is now in its second revision. We were the first DNO to lay out our plans for EV charging in a specific document. Electric Nation gave us the data, research and confidence to set out our position in our strategy document. Our strategy and other guidance documents are on the Electric Vehicles section of our website for customers to download. We also have an EV capacity map available for customers to see how their local networks can accommodate EV demands.
We are now making plans for the 2023-2028 period of Ofgem funding. Our role will build as more energy use transitions to electricity with the decarbonisation of heating and transport. A new key area for us coming into this period is en-route charging at Motorway Service Areas. The changed demands that this energy use will make on our network are immense. We predict that motorway services will need the level of capacity we’d normally plan for a small town. The connections to these locations will need to be reviewed, upgraded and future proofed to ensure we make best use of network investments.
Our network assets have a working life of around 50 years so we need to plan now for full net-zero.We need to look to the long term, decarbonisation in 2050, and then work backwards to ensure that work done now is not wasted in the future.It is key that we include all stakeholders in this planning and extend our reach to customer groups and energy uses that will connect with us for the first time as the transition to net zero takes place.
EV Charging Infrastructure Team: What is your advice to your counterparties?
Look to the long term, decarbonisation in 2050, and then work backwards to ensure that work done now is not wasted in the future.
Paul will be presenting a review of the Electric Nation project looking at charge behavior of EV drivers and its key findings at our EV Charging Infrastructure, AC, DC, V1G, V2G Stakeholder Focus Day on 9 October and is happy to have further conversations with his peers.
If you would like us to pass your message to Paul prior to Focus Day please contact Jane Huggins on firstname.lastname@example.org who will be able to facilitate your communication with him.