Transport Scotland looks to more commercial future for EV charging

21/07/2021
Dominic Browne

Transport Scotland and the Scottish Futures Trust have published a new report on expanding its public electric vehicle charging infrastructure, calling for a more commercial landscape with greater private sector input.

The report also calls for the Government to establish 'guidance, tools and additional support to assist the public sector for the potential adoption of new financing and delivery models and sharing of learning across Scotland'.

Identifying a current tipping point in the market, where the scale and pace of investment will need to be accelerated, the joint report outlines key areas for consideration.

One is reform to the existing national scheme, placing it on a more 'commercial footing'.

The Scottish Government has supported the development of a national network of public chargepoints under the ChargePlace Scotland brand, which allowed drivers to charge across the country without having to carry multiple access cards.

On top of this, the Scottish Government gave financial support primarily through capital grants distributed to all 32 of Scotland’s local authorities and other chargepoint hosts.

These hosts retain responsibility for procuring, commissioning, operating and maintaining the chargepoints, managed through the ChargePlace Scotland back-office system.

Local authority chargepoints have offered a period of free charging, although a growing number have now either introduced, or are in the process of introducing, tariffs.

The new report recommends 'a transition toward a commercial delivery model, recognising the need for access to chargepoints across the whole of Scotland, including both rural and urban areas'.

It also calls for private investment, skills and resources to improve electric vehicle charging infrastructure and the use of private capital through partnerships with the public sector.

Other recommendations include:

  • maintaining a consumer focused approach that ensures an integrated and reliable network of chargepoints that provides cost and equity of access to all user groups
  • the need for chargepoint hosts to review current pricing policies and electric vehicle charging tariffs to reduce public subsidy and, more importantly increase commercial viability of new charging investment, whilst maintaining inclusive access;
  • learning lessons from innovative approaches already undertaken – such as the Project PACE partnership with SP Energy Networks and work on the Electric A9 with Scottish and Southern Energy Network;
  • continuing engagement with the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) and industry to influence the regulatory environment to enable efficient investment in electricity networks to meet future public electric vehicle charging needs whilst protecting consumers.

Minister for transport Graeme Dey said: 'We’ve achieved much through the Local Authority Infrastructure Programme and over £45m pounds has been invested to deliver over 1,800 charge points across Scotland through a single network operator. This has created green jobs and net zero opportunities across the country – but more can still be achieved.

'By retaining the best characteristics that Scotland enjoys through ChargePlace Scotland, the opportunities from inviting greater private sector involvement could be tremendous.

'This report provides a route map that supports our vision of phasing out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030.'

Director of infrastructure finance and programmes at the Scottish Futures Trust, Kerry Alexander, said: 'To deliver at scale and pace, we need to adopt innovative and commercially viable funding models to supplement Scottish Government funding. We will be looking to develop models in the coming months, working with Transport Scotland, local authorities and private sector operators, to support future delivery.'

Scottish ministers have set ambitious climate targets, with a statutory requirement to achieve a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and Net Zero by 2045.

The report highlights that significant aspects of electric vehicle charging policy and all electricity network regulation is reserved to the UK Government.

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