By September 1, 2017 Read More →

Power plants, grid unable to accommodate British EV plan

British EV plan

The British EV plan calls for the end of sales of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2014, but England’s current electrical infrastructure isn’t up to the task. photo.

British EV plan calls for ban on new diesel, gasoline vehicles by 2040

The British government’s plan to stop the sale of gasoline and diesel powered cars and vans by 2040 requires billions to be spent on new power plants, grid networks and electric vehicle charging stations if England wants to avoid local power shortages.

Currently, there are 90,000 EVs on the road in England.  The ban on gasoline and diesel vehicles would increase that number to 20 million.

According to a Reuters report, supporting millions more battery-powered vehicles in the run up to 2040 is technically feasible.

To help avoid any power pitfalls, drivers will need to be encouraged to recharge their vehicles overnight, when spare power capacity is abundant.  If this happens, huge infrastructure costs could be minimized.

Trans Mountain ExpansionBut, local networks may face particular problems.  England will need to employ new technologies for managing consumption to meet the rise in overall demand, estimated to be up to 15 per cent in overall demand and some spikes in power use that could reach 40 per cent at times.

“It will be a challenge and a lot of investment is required – in generation capacity, strengthening the distribution grid and charging infrastructure,” Johannes Wetzel, energy markets analyst at Wood Mackenzie told Reuters.

The goal of the British EV plan is to reduce air pollution and help England cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Should the number of EV vehicles reach 20 million by 2040, charging all of them will require a lot more electricity.

For England, though, producing more electricity is not an easy task.  The country currently is staring down a looming power supply crunch in the early 2020s as old nuclear reactors reach the end of their lives and any coal-fired plants remaining are phased out.

In 2013, far before the conventional car ban was announced, the British government said over 100 million pounds of investment would be required to ensure clean, secure electricity supplies and to help reduce electricity demand.

The report by Reuters points out that now, the cost of Hinkley Point C, the only nuclear power station under construction in Britain, is estimated to be £19.6 billion.

While gas-fired power plants are cheaper and faster to build than nuclear plants, they still add to carbon emissions and investment in them in England is flat.

Renewable energy, including solar and wind, while clean present problems of matching supply and demand.  Solar power produces no electricity at night when drivers are being urged to charge their EVs.

Experts surveyed by Reuters say that up to an extra 50 terrawatt hours (TWh) will be needed by 2040 to help power the anticipated number of electric vehicles under the British EV plan.

Analysts with Bernstein say overall demand could jump between 41-49 TWh, or 13-15 per cent of current levels.  They point out a 15 per cent increase would actually translate into a 40 per cent jump in peak demand if drivers charged their cars between 6 and 9 p.m., when energy use is at its highest.

Drivers may be urged to charge their cars overnight, when demand is significantly less.  Bernstein analysts said “We do not see the transition to EVs as posing a significant stress on peak demand if charging were incentivized to happen at off-peak times.”

As well, Britain has boosted its energy efficiency.  Between 2005 and 2016, overall peak power demand dropped by about 14 per cent, all while the economy grew by the same amount.

However, “There is definitely some slack in the transmission and distribution system to tolerate an increase in the peak demand,” said Bernstein.

The “extreme scenario” projection of 40 per cent increase in peak demand equates to 24 gigawatts.  However, the National Grid, which operates the UK transmission system, says the rise in peak demand can be kept to 5 GW if there is smart charging and time-of-use energy tariffs.

To encourage off-peak EV charging, power will have to be cheaper during non-peak times.

“A very large peak demand could be the outcome if other things don’t happen, such as smart grids, smart charging and energy storage, although we expect these technology solutions to be developed to support increasing power demand within sensible peak levels,” Richard Sarsfield-Hall, director at Poyry Management Consulting told Reuters.

…To be continued on Monday, September 4.

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