Smart EV charging: government warned making smart meter DCC the only option is no way to be a global leader

Relying on the smart meter framework and the its ‘data hub’, the DCC to manage vehicle ‘smart charging’ would be the wrong choice, and would stifle innovation and restrict the UK’s ability to be a leading global player, argues a report from EnergyUK.

‘The Future of Electric Vehicle Smart Charging’  based on industry interviews, argues that the government should instead have a hybrid approach, which may use the smart meter infrastructure but also allows for other options that are likely to be in common use in other countries – provided cyber security and consumer protection standards can be maintaintained.

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles and BEIS say that “Smart energy products and services represent a major opportunity for UK businesses and government wishes to support the UK becoming a global leader in developing and implementing these technologies.”

The EnergyUK report follows a 2019 consultation from the Department for Transport on EV charging which proposed it be controlled using smart meters. But electricity system operators  do not currently have direct access to control customer loads via the smart meter system. Instead they procure flexibility services in the open market, from aggregators and others. In contrast, the new report notes that at-home charging currently uses proprietary systems developed by the charge point operators which allow users or the system to schedule charging for times when the power price or network demand is low.

EnergyUK highlights innovation that does not require smart charging to use the smart metering infrastructure. New cars have extensive IT and innovation by car manufacturers has meant EV owners are increasingly using the functionality offered to them via the dashboard interface or app to actively manage charging times. One possible future could see control of EV charging shifting from the energy industry to the automotive industry. Meanwhile, the government is sponsoring the British Standards Institution (BSI) to develop standards to support the uptake smart domestic appliances (including smart EV charge points) and facilitate the provision of domestic demand side response.

Against this backdrop EnergyUK says, “mandating the Smart DCC as the enduring solution for smart charging is not the way to go.”

It says “We need to avoid GB-centric solutions when the market for EVs and chargepoints is a global one; we must ensure that any solution avoids single points of failure; we should seek solutions that work for both the domestic and non-domestic sector; we must prioritise approaches that increase rather than restrict functionality; and we need to allow companies that are pushing the limits of technology to continue to do so, so that smart charging remains synonymous with innovation, customer-focus and an excellent user experience.”

Supporting the report’s conclusions, Ian Calvert, chief exective of the ADE, raised concerns including  including the lack of any in-market device that allows proportional load control via the DCC, industry concerns around speed of response and granularity of data, and the potential for DCC governance arrangements to stifle innovation.

He said that “More broadly, an approach focused on a specific technical solution runs counter to BEIS’ broader work on smart standards.”

Jeremy Yapp, head of flexible energy systems at BEAMA, said “Smart metering is and continues to be a necessary upgrade to Britain’s energy infrastructure, and all domestic smart EV charging systems should be able to coexist with its architecture. And market growth depends on the interoperability of smart charging products with other services and devices in the smart energy ecosystem, especially for heating. But BEAMA’s position remains steadfastly that Government should not mandate specific solutions but should empower manufacturers, service providers and consumers to engage with these challenges.”

Dr Nina Skorupska, chief executive or the  REA, said “we need to make sure that the standards and processes we develop for smart charging keep those pioneering companies installing and operating this technology competitive, and that we are setting them up for success abroad,” and added that government should “provide opportunities for those companies that wish to integrate with the smart metering system to do so, without being so prescriptive as reduce our competitiveness and slow adoption”.

Angus Flett, chief executive of the Data Communications Company, said: “We disagree with the thrust of the report on EV smart charging published by Energy UK.

“The DCC network is a credible, pre-built and highly secure option for rapidly enabling smart EV charging at home and at work, where the vast majority of charging will take place.

“The benefits of the DCC supporting EV charging would be high standards of cybersecurity, interoperability avoiding consumers being trapped in poor deals, and secure load control to balance the grid when millions of electric vehicles are drawing down or offering back the power consumption of an average home. This solution is endorsed by key industry groups and meets NCSC requirements.

“Far from being some kind of rival to energy companies and chargepoint providers, the DCC network is a common enabling platform for competition, innovation and consumer choice which already exists, and is capable of supporting private EV charging. The network is a public asset, which can and should be used to deliver maximum public benefit – supporting home and workplace EV charging would be a strong example of this.”


Download the full report here

Further reading

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INTERVIEW: Sebastiaan van Dort, head of energy at BSI, says standards can underpin a more flexible and inclusive energy sector

Over £1 million in UKRI funding awarded to nine energy data innovation projects

Energy efficiency investor to install rapid charging points for BP, take availability revenues

Motor Fuel Group plans 2800 fast chargers across GB by 2035

Shell backs up fast-charging with forecourt battery that will also become part of a virtual power plant