With plans for transport decarbonisation developing rapidly, Northern Powergrid has announced a number of internal initiatives that will help it get ‘hands on’ with electric vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure, building on insights from its Customer-Led Network Revolution programme.
Three key initiatives will be implemented in 2018 to give Northern Powergrid’s 2,500 employees the chance to engage with new EV technology across several of its 28 sites. The DNO will also use the opportunity to observe both how its employees interact with the EVs and the resulting impact on the network to unveil possibilities for how EV owners and the supporting infrastructure might operate in reality.
As part of the initiative, Northern Powergrid is investing in installing new EV charging points at 11 of its sites. The aim is to encourage employees to go electric well ahead of the 2040 ban on new diesel and petrol car sales.
This will be supported by a second initiative to install on-site vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging points that will not only boost the number of EV chargers available, but will also contribute to a trial of best use of V2G in fleet operations. Installation for the first of 16 V2G chargers will begin this month.
Furthermore, Northern Powergrid will begin a process of fleet electrification, starting with its pool cars and is undertaking a survey of EV ownership in the business to ensure the growing EV driver base has the right infrastructure, breaking down barriers to adoption across its own workforce.
“We have to get hands on and lead by example. We are starting small to begin with, bringing on five Nissan Leaf EVs that will be available for our people to use,” explains Jim Cardwell, Head of Policy Development at Northern Powergrid. “Although colleagues frequently have to take our vehicles to places where there is no electricity, there is huge internal appetite to decarbonise as much of our fleet as possible, as soon as is practical.”
Over the past year Northern Powergrid has been engaged in pioneering EV projects designed to help the UK transport system play a positive role in the low carbon future. These include a £9.8m collaborative project, announced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and led by Nissan, that will see 1,000 V2G charging points added to the UK’s network. 2017 also saw Northern Powergrid and Nissan sign an industry-leading Memorandum of Understanding to undertake projects that will look at how EVs, batteries and other technologies can support energy networks. Furthermore, the operator is supporting customers looking to connect EVs to the network with dedicated pages on its website.
In 2014, Northern Powergrid and partners completed a major four-year smart grid demonstration project, the Customer-Led Network Revolution. The project generated important learnings, from trials with real customers on real networks, and was at the forefront of research into how UK system can rise to the challenges presented by a low carbon future. These included charging patterns associated with around 150 EV users.
Jim continues: “These small internal steps forward for us are part of a bigger drive to learn by observing ourselves and build on the strong work done under our Customer-Led Network Revolution programme – recycling the learning into every day operations. Charging infrastructure is moving and improving rapidly. By using ourselves as a testbed, we are better positioned to understand how our customers will engage with these emerging technologies.”