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Ofgem Delivers £300 Million Down Payment to Rewire Britain

May 25, 2021
£300 million investment for more than 200 low-carbon projects to get Britain ready for more electric transport and heat.

Ofgem, Britain's independent energy regulator, is powering the electric vehicle (EV) revolution with motorway service areas and key trunk road locations across the country set to get the cabling they need to install 1800 new ultra-rapid charge points, tripling the current network.

A further 1750 charge points will be supported in towns and cities. As drivers make the switch from petrol and diesel to electric, Britain's cables, substations, and other infrastructure need a massive upgrade to support this new demand for electricity.

The investment will be delivered in the next two years and is part of a much bigger plan to ensure Britain has the energy infrastructure it needs to support the move to low-carbon transport and heating while maintaining secure supplies. The magnitude of this investment is expected to be in the order of more than £40 billion (US$56.8 billion) through Ofgem's regulation of energy networks.

This will benefit every region in Britain, with 204 net-zero projects worth £300.5 million (US$426.5 million) across England, Scotland, and Wales. These shovel-ready, low-carbon projects start this year, supporting clean transport and heat and opening up local electricity grids to take on more low-carbon generation.

While electric car ownership is on the rise, Ofgem research has found that 36% of households that do not intend to get an EV are put off making the switch over a lack of charging points near their home. An extensive motorway charging network and more charging points in cities and train stations will help address this range anxiety, so Ofgem is accelerating investment to boost charge point installation.

Cities like Glasgow, Kirkwall, Warrington, Llandudno, York, and Truro will benefit from increased network capacity to support more ultra-rapid charge points, increased renewable electricity generation, and the move to more electric heating for homes and businesses. Investment also covers more rural areas with charging points for commuters at train stations in North and Mid Wales and the electrification of the Windermere ferry.

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, said: "This £300 million (US$425.9 million) down payment is just the start of building back a greener energy network, which will see well over £40 billion (US$56.8 billion) of investment in Britain's energy networks in the next seven years.

"The payment will support the rapid take up of EVs, which will be vital if Britain is to hit its climate change targets. Drivers need to be confident that they can charge their car quickly when they need to. We’re paving the way for the installation of 1800 ultra-rapid charge points, tripling the number of these public charge points. Drivers will have more charging options for longer journeys.

“In the year that Glasgow hosts the COP26 climate summit, the energy networks are rising to the challenge and working with us and partners to accelerate projects that can start now, benefiting consumers, boosting the economy, and creating jobs."

Keith Bell, member of the Climate Change Committee, said: "This joint initiative by Ofgem and the electricity distribution network companies is a welcome development, showing flexibility in the regulatory arrangements in the long-term interests of energy users. On the journey to net zero, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to manage without their combustion engine cars. EVs are looking more and more attractive, but we need to make sure they can be charged easily, and that means having the right infrastructure — charge points and network capacity — in the right place at the right time.

“As well as enabling charging of EVs and the electrification of heat, network investment will provide support for supply chains and, where projects require expansion of the workforce, the creation of new jobs. It will be an essential complement to a smarter power system where innovative information technology and attractive energy tariffs for consumers will ensure we make best use of our electricity system infrastructure."

Ofgem, the Energy Networks Association, and each of the distribution network operators (DNOs) launched a call for evidence in February for energy networks to come forward with projects that could help Britain reach net-zero emissions faster and support the economy as the country comes out of the pandemic.

Last year, Ofgem announced its greenest ever price control with billions invested into network companies and the system operator from April this year. The regulator has also indicated that it will allow billions more investment and better use of flexible technologies and innovations for the local electricity networks from 2023.

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