EVs and Net Zero centre stage as energy networks launch draft business plans

With electricity demand set to double in the same time period as adoption of EVs, heating systems and industrial processes accelerates, energy networks will be a key enabler of this change and have now set out plans placing EVs and Net Zero transition at the heart of their proposals.

SSEN Distribution has revealed plans to increase its investment by around a third in the north of Scotland and central southern England over the RIIO-ED2 period (2023-2028) to accelerate the transition to smart, flexible networks and help deliver Net Zero.

From facilitating the connection of 1.3m electric vehicles and 800,000 heat pumps on its network, supporting the decarbonisation of heat across homes and businesses, to reducing power interruptions; the network operator is set to play a key role in delivering the UK’s Net Zero ambitions.

Similarly, Electricity North West, which is responsible for maintaining the region’s electricity network, has revealed plans to invest £1.8bn between 2023 and 2028, creating vital new capacity as the region transitions to using clean, green electricity for more of its needs. It plans to roll out innovations such as its Smart Street and CLASS programmes, which use technology to reduce demand for power at key times – saving customers money and reducing carbon while supporting the network.

UK Power Networks has also set out how it will ensure nobody is left behind in the transition to Net Zero, by planning a new £20 million Foundation to support communities, which will include £9 million to help 500,000 customers in or at risk of entering fuel poverty, with the remaining £11 million part of a social fund to help customers in vulnerable circumstances through the transition.

Their plan aims to enable people to connect with low carbon technologies, including increasing numbers of EVs and heat pumps, and supporting chargepoint installers to connect rapid EV chargers every 30 miles across its footprint area.

Chris Burchell, Managing Director of SSEN Distribution, said: “Networks will unlock the electrification of the economy with billions of pounds in investment to create modernised local electricity grids fit for a net zero future. Our RIIO-ED2 business plan represents an important and critical step in this journey.

“As energy policy and targets accelerate at pace, it’s critical we invest at the right level now to meet this ambition and avoid a higher cost future. We now need Ofgem to support this aim by providing an agile price control framework which gives the certainty and flexibility required to meet evolving policy and customer needs.

“Our purpose is to power communities to thrive today and create a net zero tomorrow. Aligned with that, our plan has been co-created with the customers and communities we serve. It will improve reliability, support the most vulnerable, cut carbon, get EVs on the roads and enable cleaner heating in homes as well as create hundreds of well-paid and secure green jobs in our regions.

“Our proposals are ambitious, including a sector-leading commitment to a 1.5°C science-based target pathway; balanced, delivering the investment required to enable the energy transition; and affordable, with no planned increase to network charges on customer bills, something we recognise is important in the wider context of overall energy costs.”

Electricity North West chief executive, Peter Emery, said: “I want to be very clear. Everything that we deliver in this plan is inextricably linked to the challenge of reaching Net Zero. The climate emergency is the greatest challenge of our age and networks are uniquely positioned to enable the transition as we move away from fossil fuels to low carbon electricity to power our homes, businesses, transport and heating.

“We know the change to Net Zero will take leadership. We are not a passenger on this journey, we are a driving force. Our customers are behind our ambitious plan and I’m excited about delivering it. We are stepping forward as energy experts with a critical role to play, helping all those living and working in the North West on the journey.”

Director of strategy and customer service at UKPN, Sul Alli, said: “Our plan very clearly builds on our vision to be a respected and trusted corporate citizen, acting in the best interests of our customers and the communities we serve. These new initiatives demonstrate how social purpose is at the heart of all we do, and align with our ambition to be the most socially and environmentally- responsible network operator.”

Image: Shutterstock

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