EXCLUSIVE: Adapting national grid to re-charge 700,000 battery powered vehicles (BPVs) will add £200 million to Scots electricity bills, MSPs told

EXCLUSIVE by Scottish Energy News

MSPs yesterday considered that age-old philosophical conundrum: which came first – the chicken or the egg – in terms of battery powered vehicles (BPVs) and a massive and hugely-expensive re-configuration of the national electricity grid.. 

And the answer is? It depends. 

And the other answer is that it’s all going to cost. A lot. 

According to Gerry Boyd, commercial strategy manager at Scottish Power Energy Networks – the regulated grid operator for central and southern Scotland –  the cost of upgrading the country’s electricity grid to be able to re-charge a national vehicle fleet of 700,000 BPVs in Scotland by 2030 would be ‘at least £200 million.” 

And who is going to pay?  Answer – the consumer / BPV drivers of course through the portion levied in domestic electricity bills for system charges to maintain the national grid energy network. 

Household electricity bills will rise because of the actual electricity used to re-charge BPVs (which also throws up more un-answered questions on what sort of chargers are need in the home – ‘fast’ or ‘slow’? Or both? 

There is also no clear and present answer as to how BPV drivers in tenement flats will be connected to the grid to re-charge their electric vehicles. 

Ditto for street-chargers; where and how many and what type are also questions – which the minority SNP-led Scot-Govt does not currently have answers to, notwithstanding its ‘aspiration’ to ban all sales of petrol and/or diesel powered vehicles by 2030. 

And – assuming Scotland is still in the United Kingdom by 2030 – the British chancellor will be putting far more VAT on electricity consumed in re-charging BPVs to replace hundreds of millions of £s lost in petroleum taxes. 

Mark Ruskell, a Green MSP, who chaired yesterday’s meeting of the cross-party parliamentary group at Holyrood, asked: “What things should the Scot-Govt be doing now that it isn’t yet doing, and what should it do in future?” 

Boyd replied by saying that the Scot-Govt needs to be more clear on all the costs – financial, technical, and social – and to engage more with consumers. 

In his reply, Alistair Hamilton, chairman of the Electricity Vehicle Association of Scotland (EVAS) stressed the importance of having a joined-up, accessible, easy to use national network of BPV re-charging points. 

This is needed not just to keep the economy – people and goods and services – moving as efficiently as possible, but also so as to avoid ‘BPV-rage’ public disorder if drivers are not able to re-charge swiftly as and when they need to do so. 

One observer remarked; “There have been murders in Glasgow in rows over ‘you stole my car-parking space’ and frustration and fury over ‘you stole my BPV-charging space’ could also similarly boil over. 

Another delegate who drove 600 miles from Orkney to Holyrood in his BPV spoke of the fears over not finding a convenient re-charging point before the battery runs flat, or worse, arriving at a re-charging point to find it ‘shut’ or ‘out of order’. 

On the positive side, Felicity Jones, a V2G (vehicle-to-grid) expert at the Everoze consultancy – who travelled from Bristol to attend this meeting in Edinburgh – said that BPVs will no longer be regard as ‘simply a means of transport’. 

She said: “They can also be part of the answer to the ‘chicken and egg’ conundrum in that when BPVs are not being used for transport, they can also possibly provide power back into the grid as a passive ‘battery store’ of electricity when not being driven.” 

Ruskell added: “Clearly BPVs are rising rapidly rising up the political agenda, and with a Scot-Govt. statement due in parliament next week, electricity supply and generation remains a key topic.”

An off-road BPV at the Loch Leven nature reserve
An off-road BPV at the Loch Leven nature reserve

Meanwhile, Scottish Natural Heritage has now started replacing its petrol and diesel cars and aims to replace its fleet with all-electric BPVs by 2026.

23 Feb 2018

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