Electricity network plan to boost EVs for small businesses

UK Power Networks, the UK’s largest electricity network operator, has launched its White Van Plan research project

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Over two million small businesses from across London, the South East and East of England are being asked to join a landmark project to help enable the UK’s net zero transition.

UK Power Networks, the UK’s largest electricity network operator, has launched its White Van Plan research project. The company is calling for small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to voice their future needs for transport so they are not left behind in getting the electric charging infrastructure they need, whether they use vans, trucks, or passenger vehicles for their business.

The power company wants to understand how best to support SMEs that may be looking to invest in their first electric vehicle or switch their commercial fleet to electric. SMEs who would like to get their voice heard and receive tailored support on electric transport can respond to the project’s launch survey, open until 21 December.

With 58% of new cars registered to companies, and nearly six million SMEs across the UK, they play a huge part in reaching the government’s net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. However unlike some larger firms, SMEs may not have the information, time or resources to make the transition to Electric Vehicles (EV).

White Van Plan aims to make it as easy as possible for them to convert to EV charging by creating a detailed picture of SMEs’ transport use in the region, giving useful information and tailored support. UK Power Networks will also use the information to investigate new smart charging-based solutions, to free up spare network capacity and save money for customers and SMEs alike.

EVs are a key factor in reaching the net zero target, with transport responsible for around a third of total CO2 emissions.[1] London, the South East and East of England are seeing a rapid uptake of EVs, with more than 99,000 registered, and the company forecasts that by 2030 there could be up to 3.6m. There are more than two million SMEs[2] – companies with fewer than 250 employees – in the same area. According to government statistics, SMEs employ over 16 million people and account for half the financial turnover in the private sector.

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “We know that small businesses will play a huge role in achieving net zero, and that each company is different with a unique set of needs and pressures.

“That’s why we’re asking small businesses owners and their representatives to get involved, and tell us what help they need and how they work. That way, we can understand what the switch to electric vehicles might look like for the sector, and develop products to support them.”

David Savage, managing director of small business Savage & Sons Electrical Ltd in Bedfordshire, who has already shared his views for the project, said: “I’ve been thinking about switching to electric transport for years. I firmly believe it’s an important step and it’s only going to become more necessary in the future.

“For small companies to be interested in EVs, it is vital they understand the potential financial benefits and get extra support, especially during the challenges we are facing right now. It’s great to hear about projects like this aimed at helping companies like ours.”

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said: “Small businesses are committed to sustainability, and a gradual, affordable move to electric vehicles will be an important step along this journey.

“It is very welcome that UK Power Networks wishes to gain a detailed understanding of their needs and the support which will be necessary both to help as many as possible transition to electric vehicles in the future where the available technology allows, and to make sure the infrastructure they will need alongside that will be provided.”

[1] Source: BEIS, 2020, available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/875485/2019_UK_greenhouse_gas_emissions_provisional_figures_statistical_release.pdf

[2] https://www.fsb.org.uk/uk-small-business-statistics.html