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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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EV charging in the UK gets harder

13 September 2021

I have commented a number of times about the need for the electricity sector to act quickly in order to meet the demand that a transition to electric vehicles will create.

Recent forced blackouts in small parts of the country have proven that New Zealand does not always have a lot of generation capacity in reserve so the time to act is now, not in a few years' time when demand begins to completely outstrip capacity.

Of course every nation will face similar problems in this respect so it is interesting to see how the UK has decided to deal with the issue of EVs and their effect on the electricity grid.

Basically, it amounts to electricity rationing.

The UK government has decided that domestic EV chargers will be remotedly disabled for up to 9 hours a week, at times of peak demand.

Although in theory, this is little different to the controlled water heating systems we've all lived with for decades, the effects could be quite different.

Finding you have no hot water because power demand has forced authorities to turn off your water heater is nowhere near as inconvenient as finding that you can't recharge your sufficiently EV to handle the 1-hour commute to your job in the city.

It's also worth remembering that controlled hot water heating had something of a carrot attached to it -- the power (per unit) was cheaper than unswitched electricity. That benefit does not seem to be included in the new UK diktat.

These changes in the UK will also allow for rolling "random delays" in the activation of domestic chargers at times of peak load, so as to dull the spikes created by everyone plugging in at once.

Whilst those in the UK with EVs are outraged at this demand, the Swiss are laughing because in that country, all new homes have a seperate, remotely switched circuit for high-consumption appliances so the energy sector can better manage load at peak times.

I would bet with almost 100% certainty that this kind of thing is exactly what we'll be seeing in New Zealand within the next decade or so. We've neglected the addition of reliable renewable energy generation (ie: hydro or tidal) for so long that it looks unlikely we'll be able to ramp-up quick enough to meet the demand from EVs. That leaves rationing as the only viable way to manage load.

So, don't sell that old Jap import just yet, even if you've got your sights on a snazzy new EV. It might pay to keep the dino-guzzler in the garage for those days when our limited electricity generation capacity might otherwise force a few carless days on you.

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