Frank Mitchell: PfG: Electric revolution may be stoppped in its tracks

A new Renault Zoe electric car at a charging point at the Ore Valley Business Centre
A new Renault Zoe electric car at a charging point at the Ore Valley Business Centre
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The electric revolution has begun in Scotland and the announcements made in today’s Programme for Government by Nicola Sturgeon prove it beyond doubt.

The First Minister pledged millions for electric chargers in people’s homes, businesses and in council premises; the raising of the low-carbon transport fund to £20m; the creation of 20 “electric towns” by 2025; all with the aim of reducing emissions and making our environment cleaner and greener.

SP Energy Networks is the electricity network operator for Scotland’s central belt and we want to deliver that better future, quicker. But the Government’s announcements, as positive as they are for the sector, are not enough. There is a rather large stumbling block directly ahead, and unless it’s tackled head on, the electric revolution will be stopped in its tracks.

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Network operators, like SPEN, are regulated by Ofgem. And Ofgem will not allow investment in infrastructure before the consumer demand exists. In today’s terms, it would be like running cars with little or no petrol stations.

But it is vital that energy network companies are able to invest in the required smart-enabled infrastructure, ahead of consumer demand, so that people can be confident that they will be able to charge their cars when they need to.

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The current regulatory framework was not designed to cope with such a radical change in transport policy – and if there’s no change to that then no matter how many warm words come from governments about cutting emissions, it won’t happen.

So we will be delighted to work with the Scottish Government in delivering its plans for a greener Scotland and to meet the challenges of the electric revolution – and we hope they can work with us in making that regulation change happen, for the benefit of us all.

Frank Mitchell is the CEO of SP Energy Networks