Ireland to boost electric vehicle infrastructure amidst grid pressures

Out-Law News | 04 Apr 2022 | 2:50 pm | 3 min. read

The Irish government has acknowledged that the anticipated increase in demand for electric vehicles could put pressure on the country’s electricity grid.

The acknowledgment underpins the government’s new electric vehicle charging infrastructure strategy, which plans for 2030 but focuses on infrastructure needs between now and 2025.

Dublin-based Garrett Monaghan of Pinsent Masons, a specialist in the development, acquisition and funding of energy and infrastructure assets, said: “The Irish government is right to tackle electric vehicle charging infrastructure issues ahead of demand. In common with many countries, the challenges involved in the provision of this strategy are considerable.”

Monaghan Garrett

Garrett Monaghan

Partner

Serious global events including the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine ... have had sustained and immediate supply chain and pricing impacts for raw materials such as nickel, aluminium and lithium; all core to electric vehicle production, charging infrastructure and costs

The government said the pace at which electric vehicles are being adopted in Ireland has been accelerating in recent years, with electric vehicles already accounting for one in five new car sales in the country. The government is planning for one million electric vehicles to be on Ireland’s roads by 2030.

According to the government, around 80% of electric vehicle charging currently happens at home, and home charging is anticipated to remain the most common means for charging electric vehicles in Ireland in the future. The new strategy looks predominantly at how public charging infrastructure can be improved.

The strategy envisages high-powered charging stations being available at motorway service stations and new charging infrastructure at “destinations”, such as retail parks and sports facilities. It also includes plans to boost on-street charge points and enable homeowners to rent out their home charge points for use by others.

The government said it expects the current network of around 2,400 publicly accessible charge in Ireland to be able to meet anticipated demand from electric vehicle (EV) owners without access to home charging “for the next few years” but said the network “will need significant expansion from 2025 onwards”.

However, the government said that “there is an essential task of ensuring necessary grid capacity and resilience to support the energy demand for EV charging” to account for an expanded network of public charge points.

“Grid constraint concerns are relevant across most European Markets and tackling this has to be the priority in Ireland also,” said Monaghan. “This change will not occur overnight and there is an increasing understanding that EV drivers may need to adapt. Around 80% of all EV charging occurs at home and it is interesting to note that there is a growing interest in some European markets for app-based private EV charger sharing arrangements where EV users ‘rent the charge point’ to others within their app community. This type of innovation is going to be critical if Ireland and Europe are going to reach their EV charging goals in the short to medium term.”

The strategy highlights the change in demands being placed on the grid and electricity network in Ireland in the past decade and anticipates that, despite the short term reduction in demand which arose as a result of Covid-19, electricity demand will continue to increase over the next number of years as a result of increased use from data centres, heat pumps and EV charging.

Monaghan said: “The strategy identifies how some of the increased demand on the grid from EV charging might be mitigated, citing the ‘nominal’ development that will be needed to grid infrastructure to enable night-time, at home charging. It also highlights the potential of new initiatives such as ‘vehicle-to-grid’ (V2G) energy management systems, where vehicles themselves act as batteries for storing energy that can be fed back into the grid, and micro-generation, where homes and businesses are self-sufficient in relation to their energy consumption on the basis of embedded renewable energy solutions. While these initiatives will help with grid management, there will still be a large increase of demand on the grid.”

Much of the drive behind towards delivering the new EV charging infrastructure strategy will come from a new office of Zero Emission Vehicles Ireland (ZEVI), which the government has said it will establish within the Department of Transport by this summer. ZEVI will lead on delivering the new strategy and will be “responsible for the strategic coordination of EV policy, regulation and taxation, management of EV grants and incentives”.

ZEVI is to set up an EV infrastructure energy group, which will include government and industry representatives, to “consider the wider impacts of the electrification of transport in Ireland”. Its work will include reviewing and considering the energy impacts of increasing EV uptake and monitoring grid constraints in relation to the delivery and location of EV infrastructure, as well as safety requirements around installation and operation of EV charging infrastructure.

The government said ZEVI will “intensively engage with ESBN, EirGrid, CRU, energy suppliers, as well as charge point and forecourt operators to ensure a timely and co-ordinated approach for energy provision and grid management”.

ZEVI is also to convene a new EV infrastructure taskforce. The taskforce will focus “on identifying optimal policy levers, investment imperatives and innovations to support EV infrastructure delivery” and be made up by representatives from industry, the public sector and academia.

Monaghan said: “The EV strategy has been issued in the context of serious global events including the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine. These events can’t be ignored and have had sustained and immediate supply chain and pricing impacts for raw materials such as nickel, aluminium and lithium; all core to electric vehicle production, charging infrastructure and costs.”

As Peter Feehan and Sonal Shah of Pinsent Masons recently highlighted, the UK government has published its own electric vehicle charging infrastructure strategy.

Co-written by Shani Stallard of Pinsent Masons.