Electric cars are a common sight on roads these days, with charging points popping up all over the country. But the dramatic increase in their popularity could see peak electricity demand jump by more than the capacity of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station by 2030, National Grid says.
Around 90,000 electric cars and vans are on the road today, but the figure could reach 9 million by 2030.
Electricity demand has fallen overall in recent years, as a result of improved energy efficiency standards and measures, such as installing more efficient boilers. However, the impact of charging all those car batteries could reverse this trend.
National Grid, which runs the UK’s national transmission networks for electricity and gas, says peak demand could be as much as 8GW higher in 2030.
“It’s a big moment when demand starts to go up again,” says Roisin Quinn, head of strategy at National Grid.
What could be done?
It is possible to “charge smartly” – avoiding peak power demand times, such as between 5pm and 6pm when people return from work. Encouraging electric car owners to charge when demand is lower could reduce the extra peak output to 3.5GW, roughly the same as the yield of the new Hinkley Point C reactors being built in Somerset.
Where else will the increased electricity come from?
National Grid’s report predicts solar power will have the biggest share of generation capacity by 2050, with Quinn adding that a large share of power from renewable sources had “already become a reality”.
It is likely that new nuclear power stations will also be built.
Take-up of electric or electrically-assisted vehicles has been widely encouraged. Volvo recently said all new cars it produces from 2019 will be electric or hybrid, and France has pledged to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040.