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Energising EV Charge Points with Renewables

How much do you know about the energy you charge your EV with? Helen Fox-Walker, Head of Business Innovation at Mer, has the answers to your questions.

Helen Fox-Walker

Understanding how electric vehicle (EV) charge points are supplied is an important part of the conversation around electric mobility.

We spoke to Helen Fox-Walker, Head of Business Innovation at Mer, to find out more about where the energy we supply our public chargers comes from, whether our electricity system is prepared for the demand EV charging is going to place on it in the future, and more.


Where does the energy we supply our public chargers come from, and how does the energy get to our sites/chargers?

As with all electricity – even in our houses when we switch a kettle on – we all get the same mix of electricity generation. That comes from a variety of generation, which goes through the transmission system, which then gets diluted into the distribution system, which then comes out to our sites.

The electricity which is distributed through our charge points is 100% renewable, REGO-backed. We buy our energy contracts through Bryt Energy.   The energy that come from Bryt is supplied by Statkraft.  All the energy is guaranteed as renewable – the amount of energy that we consume is offset against the renewable energy that Statkraft has generated for the UK, this is backed up by REGOs (renewable energy guarantees of origin) certificates. We can guarantee that the proportion of energy that we are using in the UK fuel mix is 100% renewable.

What about at sites where the energy connection is inadequate – how do we get the energy to our chargers?

EV charge points are very power hungry. Every time we look at a site, we do a site feasibility study. The country is split into six Distribution Network Operators (DNO), each of which manage certain areas. They have heat maps, which we can refer to for a rough indication of whether there is a connection available for our chargers. We must do an official Point of Connection application to the DNO for that specific area, who will come back and tell us if there is power in that area. Challenges arise if the POC is too far away to make the site feasible for us because of the cost of the actual dig to get the power.

We do everything we can and look at all the different points of connection in the area; it might not be the one on the road outside, for example, but a little bit further. We do all the calculations to get the power there. As a last resort, if we are energising a portfolio and there are a few sites we cannot get power to, we look at their existing connection to see if we can offer AC charging instead, to at least have some provision in there.

We can look at battery options to boost power capacity but if there is absolutely no power available, we would not be able to put chargers in at this moment in time and will revisit this in the future.

How do we decide our prices for public EV charging?

We take the energy price and the fixed costs, and divide this across the number of sockets on the site and the number of forecasted kilowatt hours that will go through that site. This gives us our cost to unit rate. We take into account operational and other costs, plus the 20% VAT (the VAT on domestic electricity is 5%, whereas it is 20% for public charging), which gives us our driver rate.

Because of the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme (active from October 1st 2022 to April 23rd 2023) and the cap on wholesale energy costs, businesses like us benefited from substantial financial support on the energy rate. We were able to minimise costs and margins and keep our prices as low as possible.

As the energy market has started to stabilise again throughout 2023 we continue to work on our energy strategy to maintain the ability to keep prices as low as possible.

Looking ahead, can our electricity system cope with the rising demand EV charging is placing on it?

There are a lot of steps being taken to ensure it can. On a daily basis, National Grid is monitoring where people are applying for connections, how much capacity they are taking up, and how much energy is going through those wires at any one time. They are planning infrastructure upgrades in accordance with this.

Finally, do you have any predictions for how EV chargers will be energised in the future? Are there any innovations or technologies you are hoping/expecting to see?

I think we will see more battery come into the market. For example, battery can be used a buffer, in a case where we would like to put a big EV charging hub on a site and we cannot get the point of connection at the right size yet. Battery can also help with shifting load and offering a more advantageous electricity price.

We will see EV chargers playing a much bigger part in managing the UKs energy as we make the switch to EV.

Find out more about innovative technologies with EV charging here.

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