Blog: Going Dutch to deliver COP26 EV ambitions

Andrew Scott, Director of Connections at SSEN, shares new research into the lessons that the UK can learn from the Dutch EV chargepoint roll out. 

The UK Prime Minister pledged action on cars as one of four key priority areas for COP26, calling on other states to adopt similar measures to the UK in ending the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2030. With transport accounting for 27% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, action to electrify our journeys is fundamental to our net zero ambitions.  

As part of SSE plc, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution is proud to be a Principal Partner of COP26 and is strongly supportive of action that enables the transition to electric vehicles (EVs). We are investing in our network to accommodate increased demand and in innovative projects and solutions that will support the households, businesses, and communities we serve to switch to EVs. We welcomed the UK Government’s announcement in the Net Zero Strategy of a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate for manufacturers and have taken steps through the EV100 initiative to decarbonise our fleet by 2030.  

However, we believe further action is needed to address the chicken and egg dilemma that is the lack of charge point provision and concerns of range anxiety acting as a barrier to EV uptake. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report in July 2021 forecast that the number of public charge points will need to increase from around 25,000 to at least 280 to 480,000 by 2030 to deliver on the UK’s ambitions.   


Learning from the Netherlands  

In the spirit of the global climate change negotiations, we should look around the world for best practice. The Netherlands has seen installation of nearly 78,000 public chargers compared to the UK’s 44,000, even though the UK population is four times larger. This has built confidence among Dutch drivers to make the switch to EVs, knowing that chargers are available, so nearly a quarter of Dutch drivers now have an EV or plug-in hybrid, compared to just 15% in the UK.  

That’s why we have worked with Guidehouse on a report into lessons from the Dutch EV charging infrastructure, available here. The results show that there are several approaches that we can learn from:  

  1. Collaborating between national and local government and wider industry. Collaboration between government, network operators, municipalities and charge point operators reduces the overall lead time of new charge points and the total costs, for example by reducing the number of site visits needed.  
  2. Rapidly increasing public charge point provision through area-wide tendering. Devolving responsibility to local or city authorities has allowed coherent EV strategies to be developed, such as using area-wide tenders to ensure wide coverage of charge points. 
  3. Ensuring charge points are interoperable to make the transition accessible and easy to understand. A data-driven approach has reduced costs and supported interoperability, meaning cars can be charged at any location and making EV use easier for everyone. 

We believe the UK Government should seek to support area-wide tendering and provide the support local authorities need to undertake these. A successful area-wide tender process for a network of public EV charge points in the Netherlands in January 2020 led to 20,000 public charge points being contracted across an area covering 3.2 million people. 


Ensuring a fair EV transition 

Public provision of EV charge points will be key in enabling a fair and accessible EV transition for the 25% of UK motorists that do not have access to off street parking. That’s why SSEN Distribution strongly supports the principle of Universal Service Provision for EV charge points. This means that all households should have access to sufficient EV charge point provision to give them confidence to make the switch.  

Area-wide tendering helps address the gap, and accelerate the roll out, of public charge point provision. Local Authorities can identify and pool together high demand and profitable sites with locations of strategic importance that without intervention the market will not deliver. These locations will be strategically grouped together in tranches that when delivered will support local and national priorities being met, at a pace this challenge demands. Charge Point Operators and other market participants will be invited to bid for the right to own, operate and manage the full grouping within a tranche, and be required to deliver within a set timeframe.  


Turning ambition into action  

Today is Transport Day at COP26 and we need to work together to turn ambition into action and decarbonise our journeys at the pace the climate change challenge demands. That means working with local authorities and communities, nationally and across industries, and critically internationally. We can learn from the successful interventions in other countries to ensure we have the public chargepoint provision that the UK households need, to provide confidence to make the EV switch. The Dutch model of areawide tendering should be applied in the UK to accelerate the EV transition and a net zero future.