The UK has made significant improvements in reducing emissions from the power sector thanks to increased renewable electricity generation but still lags behind the rest of Europe when it comes to emissions from heat and transportation. A recent poll from the Energy Institute found that energy professionals are sceptical, on the basis of current policies, of the likelihood of the UK meeting its legally binding emissions reduction targets.
Transport is a major area of concern. A 2015 report from the International Energy Agency predicted that the global transport sector accounts for nearly half of the projected rise in energy-related CO2 emissions to 2030.
Government schemes have boosted the sale of electric vehicles
The UK government has committed £246m to fund research and development of flexible energy, which includes the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles. Other schemes such as the Workplace Charging Scheme and Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme offer financial support for the installation of charging points, while grants still exist for those wishing to purchase a new low-emissions vehicle.
These schemes have undoubtedly helped to boost the industry in the UK. The latest figures for electric vehicles in the UK from Next Green Car estimate over 100,000 plug-in car registrations in June 2017 and 12,760 UK charge points. In 2013 the number of registered electric vehicles was just 3,500 so there has been a tremendous jump in the last four years; a 28 fold increase, in fact.
Experts warn of potential hurdles
The rise in uptake of electric vehicles is promising but experts have raised concerns in a number of areas.
In a report for the Guardian, The Green Alliance warned that the current network of ‘dumb’ charging points could result in unplanned voltage drops, causing damage to electronic equipment. “As few as six electric vehicles located near one another, most likely in an affluent neighbourhood, could lead to such “brownouts”. Charging one car requires a similar amount of electricity as a typical home uses in three days, and simultaneous demand at a local level could damage networks without costly reinforcements.”
They have recommended that the government should demand smart chargers, which can distribute power and avoid overcapacity fees and voltage drops.
The Financial Times recently reported that “as much as £170bn could be lost from government revenues between now and 2030 because of declines in fuel duty as electric vehicles become more popular.” It said that a study by centre-right think-tank Policy Exchange highlights a major gap between the government’s commitments to electric vehicles and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) revenue projections. The OBR suggests an increase from £28bn per year to £40bn per year by 2030 while Policy Exchange said that if the UK meets its carbon targets then the revenue would most likely be between £9bn and £23bn lower in 2030.
If the UBS estimate that by 2025 one-third of all cars sold in Europe will be battery-powered proves true, then the UK will need to ensure it has adequate infrastructure and policy in place to avoid these potentially detrimental impacts.