A spike in demand for electricity to power the growing network of plug-in cars could cripple the National Grid by 2040, an energy expert has warned today.
Mark Sait, chief executive of SaveMoneyCutCarbon believes that if UK electric car sales rise at the same rate as they have across the rest of Europe, it could result in blackouts and the grid crashing due to insufficient power supplies, similar to those experienced last week.
He warned: ‘A rapid upsurge in hybrid and full electric vehicles could create real concerns.’
Power warning: Spike in demand for electricity to power a growing network of battery cars could cripple the National Grid by 2040
The uptake of electric cars in Britain is currently way behind other markets across the EU, the energy expert pointed out.
This is down to a number of factors, though the most significant centre around more enticing financial subsidies for the purchase of electric cars and a better charging infrastructure than what’s on offer in the UK.
And the proof is in the statistics.
A report from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association shows the sale of hybrid and full electric vehicles in Britain in the first quarter of 2019 increased by a modest 2.9 per cent in the last year.
This compared to the EU average of 40 per cent.
Sait describes Britain as being at ‘the starting blocks’ of battery vehicle uptake, while in countries like Norway – which is one of the leading nations for electric car adoption – almost half of new models registered in 2018 were plug-in models.
But he warned that if Britain caught up with the rest of Europe in terms of electric car adoption, the National Grid would not be able to cope by 2040.
According to Mark Sait (pictured) if UK electric car sales rise at the same rate as they have across the rest of Europe, it could result in blackouts and the grid crashing due to insufficient power supplies
UK plug-in vehicle registrations are well behind the rest of Europe. While 2.5% of all new models last year were electric of plug-in hybird, almost half were of vehicles sold in Norway were ultra-low emissions cars
‘The spike in demand from EVs could very well cause blackouts in certain areas of the UK, with there not being enough power generated, or particularly if the technology generating that power had not been upgraded,’ he explained.
The National Grid has come under scrutiny in the last week following power cuts that caused travel chaos and left more than a million homes without electricity on Friday evening.
Operators blamed issues with two generators for the blackouts, with Ofgem demanding a full investigation for the cause of the power cuts.
Previous reports from the National Grid have said it would require an additional 20 per cent energy capacity by 2050 in preparation for an increased number of vehicles plugging into the mains.
However, Sait said these estimations were made without factoring in a significant rise in potential EV uptake in the UK similar to the rest of the EU.
The chances of more drivers being convinced to make the switch to electric vehicles is a real possibility in the coming years.
Models like the Volkswagen I.D. range are due to hit the market soon, offering genuine alternatives to combustion-engine models thanks to longer ranges, more performance, shorter charging times and – hopefully – more affordable prices.
Previous reports from the National Grid said it would require an additional 20% energy capacity by 2050, however, Sait said this was without factoring in a significant rise in potential electric vehicle registrations
Electric car sales are due to boom in the new few years as the current range of models (like the VW e-Golf pictured) are replaced with new cars with longer ranges, more performance and shorter charging times
Higher taxes on diesel cars in particular, restrictions from Ultra Low Emission Zones and Clean Air Zones and the impending ban on the sale of new vehicles with traditional engines will also see appetite for plug-in motors increase.
But Sait warned that the cost to improve the nation’s electrical grid to cope with such increases in demand would be ‘significant’.
Last week’s blackouts
Just last week, National Grid power cuts caused travel chaos for thousands and saw one million homes, businesses and even hospitals across London, the South East, Midlands and North West lose electricity from 5pm on Friday.
System operators blamed the ‘incredibly rate’ cuts on issues with two generators: a gas-fired power station in Little Barford, Bedfordshire and at a wind farm off the coast of Yorkshire.
However, reports suggest that the nation had dodged a trio of blackout ‘near-misses’ in the three months before last week’s power outage.
National Grid is being investigated by the energy watchdog and is facing criticism from the industry for failing to do enough to prevent blackouts.
Industry figures claim that National Grid has known of the increasing risk of a major outage ‘for years’.
Every month since May has seen a major drop in the grid’s frequency, which usually operates at 50Hz. On three occasions, the frequency has fallen below 49.6Hz – the most severe drop since 2015 – with the legal limit being 49.5Hz.
Friday’s blackout saw it drop as far as 48.8Hz.
He explained: ‘According to the National Grid, the UK’s energy system could push electricity demand from 348TWh (Terawatts per hour) per year today to 491TWh per year in 2050 – significantly above the 422TWh a year the National Grid believes will be needed under a 2C warming trajectory.
‘Peak demand would spike at 115GW (Gigawatts) in 2050, almost twice today’s level.’
He added: ‘As more and more EVs are plugged into the grid, the demand in electricity will constantly rise.
‘Take a 600-room hotel with 500 parking spaces for example – what happens when 500 of those spaces have a Tesla plugged in? Will customers have to dine in the dark?’
SaveMoneyCutCarbon, which provides sustainability solutions, specilaises in helping hotel chains like the Radisson Hotel Group and schools, including Eton and Harrow, to reduce their energy use.
However, he said government and businesses need to take similar measures now to lessen the strain on the grid in the future.
‘To cope with this increased demand, a reduction in usage is needed now,’ he urged.
‘This change could come from more efficient LED lighting, smart energy management and better education on avoiding bad energy habits.’
Earlier this week, new Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced he will double Government funding for on-street electric charge points in the UK.
The extra £2.5million will allow the installation of more than 1,000 additional charge points on residential roads.
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