Think tank calls for ‘major rethink’ of electric vehicles roll-out

10/01/2019
William Eichler

The roll-out of infrastructure for electric vehicles risks exacerbating the divide between rich and poor, creating ‘a tale of two cities’ in urban centres, a think tank has warned.

A new report from Localis has argued that outdated energy and infrastructure policies must urgently be modernised if the Government is to meet its target for ensuring all new cars sold are zero-emission (or hybrid) by 2040.

Entitled Smart Cities: Fair investment for sustainable growth, the report also urges Whitehall to free up local network operators to invest ahead of demand.

Localis has called for a ‘devolution revolution’ in order to ensure an effective roll-out of electric vehicle infrastructure.

The think tank argues that Ofgem powers should be devolved to city regions and strategic authorities, allowing them to develop their own ‘smart city’ plans and energy policies according to their local needs.

Councils should also be able to form consortiums using their knowledge of their local areas, and be empowered to work with private energy network providers.

Localis is concerned that under current arrangements, families across the UK are at risk of sharing the cost for new energy infrastructure, while not having equal access to the benefits of EVs and other ‘smart’ technologies.

‘Without a change in regulation, behaviour and a wholesale transfer of powers for local energy policies, we risk a tale of two cities in our major urban centres – deepening levels of inequality between the prosperous and more deprived parts of town,’ said Jonathan Werran, chief executive at Localis.

‘A “devolution revolution” in locally-regulated energy markets has the potential to accelerate the nation’s switch to clean growth, turn UK cities into powerhouses for sustainable and inclusive prosperity and improve livelihoods in towns and cities across the UK.’

Cllr Anna Richardson’s, city convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, Glasgow City Council, said: ‘Today’s report sets out many of the challenges and opportunities for Glasgow as we continue on our transition to a “smart city”.

‘New technologies like EVs can play a part in decarbonising our transport system and improving our air quality – but they need to be rolled out fairly across the city, so everyone can benefit, and not exacerbate existing inequalities.

‘The recommendations today can help ensure that government, and local authorities up and down the country, are able to oversee a successful shift to smarter technologies in a way that is fair, affordable and equitable.’

Commenting on the report, Keith Anderson, chief executive at ScottishPower, said: ‘This Localis report makes innovative recommendations to accelerate the roll-out of electric vehicles that should be considered further, including investing ahead of demand and devolving some of Ofgem’s powers to cities.

‘What is clear is that no-one should be excluded from the benefits that the electrification of transport will bring, which is why energy network companies are so well placed to help, serving customers in both urban and rural areas.’

This article first appeared on localgov.co.uk.

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