Friday 21st April 2017 was a momentous day for the UK power sector.
This was the first working day that the nation’s electricity had been generated without using coal power since the industrial revolution.
Then, on the 7th June, the National Grid Control Room announced that for the first time renewable power sources – wind, solar and biomass – generated over half of all the UK’s energy needs.
Although there is still a long way to go in terms of moving to a power generation network that is friendly to the environment, the balance is shifting – and shifting fast – from sources of power that increase pollution and environmental damage, to those that are renewable and environmentally friendly.
This is all good news, especially for the electric vehicle (EV) sector, and it debunks once and for all the long-perpetuated myth (popular among climate change deniers) that EVs generate higher emissions than cars powered by the good old internal combustion engine.
The argument goes that an electric vehicle produces high levels of emissions during both the manufacturing process and once it’s in use, every time its recharged.
Clearly, this cannot be true in an economy where increasing levels of power are being generated through renewable sources.
It should also be noted that the UK is not alone. Nations around the world are taking similar measures, with many countries being far in advance of the UK when it comes to the development and use of renewable power and the associated sales of EVs.
It’s not always plain sailing, however. An interesting study of German transport and power policies, by Dénes Csala, Lecturer in Energy Storage Systems Dynamics at Lancaster University, highlights that the desire to phase out petrol and diesel powered vehicles by 2030 has to be matched by a realistic approach to the balance of power sources. The study concludes that Germany’s plan to switch off its nuclear power stations will leave a significant gap in the supply network that renewables alone will be unable to fill. The alternative is to use coal or gas-fired power generation, which will undermine the benefits of a vehicle fleet that consists entirely of EVs.
Nonetheless, the point remains that in a world where renewable energy is increasingly becoming the major source for power generation, the argument that EVs are somehow inherently polluting ceases to be valid.
What we now need, in the UK at least, is for the Government to develop a far more robust and longer term approach on the use of renewable sources of energy and the use of EVs. The UK is already a leader in electric and autonomous vehicle technologies and the Government has previously stated that making Britain a world-leading hub for next-generation electric vehicles will be at the heart of its post-Brexit industrial strategy.
We can only hope that following the recent election this approach is maintained and that national support for low carbon power and electric vehicles continues to gathers momentum.