Smart EV charging options in UK

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Should smart metering underpin smart electric vehicle (EV) charging in the UK? A new study from trade organisation Energy UK investigates.

Smart metering is set to be the ‘building block’ for the delivery of new smart energy offerings and the government has indicated its preference for its use in delivering smart charging of EVs, which currently is mostly carried out by charge point operators.

However, a new report from Energy UK and backed by four industry organisations, the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), BEAMA, Renewable Energy Association (REA) and techUK, signals clear opposition to such a mandate.

The investigation from Engage Consulting, which sought input from across the energy, automotive and charge point operator industries, states that smart charging delivery by the operators is not seen as changing in the short term.

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Moreover, there are viable options for delivering smart charging outside of the smart metering network, such as using the EV as the control hub. Alternatively, the smart metering network could form part of a hybrid system providing a layer of supervisory control to the day-to-day control via non-smart meter systems.

For example, innovation by car manufacturers has provided customers with the ability to manage their charging requirements either via a mobile device app or through the vehicle’s dashboard interface.

In addition, industry trials such as My Electric Avenue and Electric Nation have shown that demand control is possible and effective using charge point operators to facilitate control of demand at the EV charge point.

Smart metering reservations

The report says the main reservations expressed for the smart metering role pertained to it not having the capability to respond fast enough to enable participation in flexibility markets such as fast frequency response and – an incorrect perception – lacking sufficient data granularity.

Some felt the use of the smart metering system would stifle innovation due to the complexity, slow pace and cost of the governance arrangements. Cybersecurity was also highlighted in concerns such as the enforcement of the smart meter security requirements at the device level. For example, all EV charge point devices are required to undergo product assurance, adding significant costs to the market.

“Smart charging for EVs is an essential solution and we must get this right to meet our net zero ambitions and decarbonise the transport sector,” says Emma Pinchbeck, Chief Executive of Energy UK.

“It’s clear from our research that there are a range of smart charging at home options that are secure, that unlock innovation and that deliver for customers. Industries in the EV market need government to listen to their concerns and recommendations, and to clearly lay out their smart charging system requirements so we can build and deliver it.”

The report points to additional work to be done to achieve an acceptable and low risk solution design. Standards, charge point operator switching, interactions among players to avoid conflicting priorities and customer protections among other issues need attention.

In an immediate response, Angus Flett, CEO of the Data Communications Company, which has built and maintains the smart metering infrastructure, said he disagreed with the thrust of the report.

“The DCC network is a credible, pre-built and highly secure option for rapidly enabling smart EV charging at home and at work, where the vast majority of charging will take place.”

Benefits would be high standards of cybersecurity, interoperability and secure load control to balance the grid.

“Far from being some kind of rival to energy companies and charge point providers, the DCC network is a common enabling platform for competition, innovation and consumer choice and is capable of supporting private EV charging.”