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UK Power Networks is taking innovative steps to create the country’s first smart charging market for electric vehicle drivers.

The new market will put electric vehicle drivers in control, enabling them to charge when and where they wish, while rewarding people who choose to fill up their vehicle outside the morning and early evening electricity peak times.

Filling up a typical electric vehicle on a fast charger consumes roughly as much electricity as a house would use at the peak time of the day and clusters of electric vehicles can place significant additional demands on the local electricity infrastructure. UK Power Networks is developing innovative ways of managing this additional demand on its network through smart charging and by doing so, keeping energy bills lower than if new infrastructure was built unnecessarily.

For its SmartCar project, UK Power Networks has commissioned independent research on how smart charging (moving charging away from peak times in weekday evenings) can help avoid an increase in peak demand.

Extensive engagement undertaken as part of the project with stakeholders ranging from electricity suppliers, vehicle manufacturers, charge point operators and aggregators found significant support for progressing smart charging trials.

Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, said smart charging is about promoting choice for consumers and offering incentives to change their charging patterns.

He said: “Enabling all customers to share in the savings generated by not having to build as much new electricity infrastructure could cut the cost of operating electric vehicles. We believe smart charging will enable us to support the uptake of electric vehicles across our networks at the lowest possible cost to customers. However, incentives from networks will not by themselves change people’s charging habits – it will need a mix of lower energy costs from retailers plus the reduced network cost incentives.

“There are several ways that we as electricity networks could approach the challenge of electric vehicles, one of which could be by installing failsafe technical network protection technology. We listened to what the industry and stakeholders told us and set out on an alternative path. A smart charging market gives consumers more choice. It’s the more challenging approach, but it’s also the right thing to do by our customers.”

Octopus Energy and its sister company, Octopus Electric Vehicles, is partnering with UK Power Networks on the Powerloop Vehicle to Grid trial supported by Innovate UK.

Greg Jackson, CEO of Octopus Energy, welcomed UK Power Networks’ announcement, saying: “Results from our Agile Octopus tariff show that you can significantly shift energy consumption behaviour by rewarding customers for charging outside peak times.

“By listening to retailers and taking this customer-centric approach to smart charging instead of a ‘command and control’ model, UK Power Networks is demonstrating real innovation and leadership.”

UK Power Networks is beginning trials that will test and develop different approaches to smart charging as part of an innovation project called “Shift.”  This project will assess the technical and commercial requirements to enable the benefits of smart charging to be realised for UK consumers.