Charging ahead with electric vehicles

Charging ahead with electric vehicles

Portrait of Tim Longstaff
London Office, Western Europe
+44 20 3075-1100
August 8, 2018

Smart ways to take the heat off the power grid

The electrification of transport is happening at pace and will spark a sharp increase in demand for electricity – a development the UK electrical grid is ill prepared for. While a significant increase in investments into the aging grid is unavoidable over time, in the short term, smart grids are a solution.

The UK, like many mature economies, faces an approaching dilemma. After twenty years of energy sector deregulation it has delivered a functional electrical distribution system in which investment costs are falling in spite of the grid's age. At the same time the country sits on the cusp of an electric vehicle revolution which will test this system.

Electric vehicles are fast approaching cost parity, which will spark a steep rise in demand for electricity.
Electric vehicles are fast approaching cost parity, which will spark a steep rise in demand for electricity.

The present system (notwith standing EV tax breaks and incentives) allows incremental vehicle chargers to be added without shouldering any cost for use of system. The cost of upgrading this system is very material in the long term; work by Roland Berger in Germany puts grid reinforcement in the high billions.

A short-term solution is smarter grids, applying many of the innovative products for which the UK is a willing host. The early liberalization of the UK energy market has made it a testing ground for many world-relevant technologies: Storage and DSM, Distributed Generation and Smart Meters, independent-minded retail tariffs and interconnectors have already allowed the distribution of electricity to become smarter.

Our study, "Charging Ahead", explores the interplay between these innovative products, and their likely outcomes. It provides a call to arms for industry and regulators alike to ensure that the present contradictory trajectories of falling network spend and an approaching cliff-face of demand do not lead to a physical and democratic deficit. It seeks to create space for both innovators and incumbent organizations to think about how these changes need to impact their strategies over the coming five years – while there is still an opportunity to profit from the changes, and before they become a victim of events.

The electrification of transport is already impacting many players, and will create wholesale change in many more across varying fields in the decade to come. The UK's successes in reducing the carbon intensity of electricity risk being lost without redoubled focus on Distribution Systems Operation. Read this document to think further about the impacts for your organization, either direct or indirect, of this forthcoming change.

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Charging ahead with electric vehicles


The UK is on the cusp of an electric vehicle revolution – but it's electricity grid is not prepared. Smarter grids are a short-term solution, while in the long term, aging infrastructure needs to be replaced.

Published August 2018. Available in
Further reading
Portrait of Denis Depoux
Senior Partner, Global Managing Director
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Senior Partner
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