Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith

Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee

12/01/2023

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Heledd Fychan Dirprwyo ar ran Delyth Jewell
Substitute for Delyth Jewell
Huw Irranca-Davies
Janet Finch-Saunders
Jenny Rathbone
Joyce Watson
Llyr Gruffydd Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Benjamin Godfrey Y Grid Cenedlaethol
National Grid
David Wong Cymdeithas y Cynhyrchwyr a Masnachwyr Moduron
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
Dr Liana Cipcigan Prifysgol Caerdydd
Cardiff University
Dr Neil Lewis Ynni Sir Gâr
Carmarthenshire Energy
Dr Roisin Willmott Y Sefydliad Cynllunio Trefol Brenhinol
Royal Town Planning Institute
Geoff Ogden Trafnidiaeth Cymru
Transport for Wales
Malcolm Bebbington SP Energy Networks
SP Energy Networks
Olly Craughan DPDgroup
DPDgroup
Paul Bevan Cymdeithas Cerbydau Trydan Cymru
Electric Vehicle Association Cymru

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Andrea Storer Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Andrew Minnis Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:31.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:31.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon, a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions, and declarations of interest

Croeso i bawb i gyfarfod Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith Senedd Cymru. Croeso i Aelodau i'r cyfarfod. Rŷn ni wedi derbyn ymddiheuriadau gan Delyth Jewell, ac yn croesawu Heledd Fychan sydd yma yn dirprwyo ar ei rhan hi.

Ar wahân i addasiadau sy'n ymwneud â chynnal y trafodion ar ffurf hybrid, mae'r holl ofynion eraill o ran y rheolau sefydlog yn parhau. Mae eitemau cyhoeddus y cyfarfod hwn wrth gwrs yn cael eu darlledu yn fyw ar Senedd.tv, ac mi fydd Cofnod y Trafodion yn cael ei gyhoeddi, fel sydd fel arfer yn digwydd. Mae'n gyfarfod dwyieithog, felly mae yna gyfieithu ar y pryd ar gael o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg. Os bydd larwm tân yn canu, yna mae angen i bawb adael yr ystafell drwy'r allanfeydd tân a dilyn y cyfarwyddiadau gan y tywyswyr a'r staff. Gaf i hefyd ofyn i bawb sicrhau bod unrhyw ddyfeisiadau symudol wedi eu distewi? Ac a gaf i ofyn a oes gan unrhyw un unrhyw fuddiannau i'w datgan cyn inni gychwyn? Na, dyna ni. Ocê, diolch yn fawr iawn.

Welcome everyone to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee at the Welsh Parliament, Senedd Cymru. Welcome, Members, to this meeting. We've received apologies from Delyth Jewell, and we welcome Heledd Fychan, who will be substituting on her behalf today.

Aside from the adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in a hybrid format, all other requirements in terms of the Standing Orders remain in place. Public items of this meeting are of course, being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and the Record of Proceedings will be published as is customary. This is a bilingual meeting, so there is simultaneous translation available from Welsh to English. If a fire alarm should sound, then everyone does need to leave the room by the marked fire exits and follow instructions from the ushers and the staff. May I also ask everyone to ensure that any mobile devices are switched to silent mode please? And may I ask if any Members have any declarations of interest to make before we start? I see that there are none. Okay, thank you very much.

2. Gwefru cerbydau trydan - sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
2. Electric vehicle charging - evidence session 1

Mi awn ni ymlaen at yr ail eitem ar yr agenda, felly, ac yn y cyfarfod heddiw rŷn ni yn clywed tystiolaeth gan nifer o randdeiliaid er mwyn llywio'r gwaith rŷn ni fel pwyllgor yn mynd i'w wneud ar strategaeth a chynllun gweithredu Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer gwefru cerbydau trydan. Ar ddiwedd tymor yr hydref, wrth gwrs, fe wnaethon ni gynnal ymgynghoriad wedi'i dargedu er mwyn llywio ychydig ar y gwaith yma. Mi gawsom ni 16 o ymatebion ysgrifenedig, ac mae'r rheini, wrth gwrs, ar gael i'w gweld ar wefan y Senedd.

Rŷn ni'n clywed gan dri phanel o dystion y bore yma, a dŷn ni'n cychwyn efo'r panel sydd gyda ni o'n blaenau ni fan hyn yn yr ystafell ac ar y sgrîn yn ymuno â ni yn rhithiol. Felly, fe wnaf i groesawu Dr Paul Bevan, o Gymdeithas Cerbydau Trydan Cymru; yr Athro Liana Cipcigan, o Ganolfan Ragoriaeth Cerbydau Trydan, Prifysgol Caerdydd; Olly Craughan, sydd gyda ni fan hyn yn yr ystafell, pennaeth cynaliadwyedd y Deyrnas Unedig gyda DPD Group; a David Wong, uwch-reolwr arloesedd a thechnoleg gyda grŵp cerbydau trydan Cymdeithas y Cynhyrchwyr a Masnachwyr Moduron. Croeso i'r pedwar ohonoch chi. Mae gennym ni ryw awr a chwarter i dderbyn tystiolaeth, felly dwi'n siŵr y byddwn ni'n llwyddo i gyfro tipyn o dir yn ystod y cyfnod yna. Mi gychwynwn ni gwestiynau drwy droi at Janet Finch-Saunders. 

So, we'll go on to the second item on the agenda today, and in today's meeting we will be hearing evidence from a number of stakeholders to inform the committee's work on the Welsh Government electric vehicle charging strategy and action plan. At the end of the autumn term, of course, we held a targeted consultation to further inform this work, and we received 16 written responses, and those, of course, can be found on the Senedd's website.

We will be hearing from three panels of witnesses today, and we start with the panel in front of us now in the room and on the screen joining us virtually. So, I'll welcome Dr Paul Bevan from the Electric Vehicle Association Cymru; Professor Liana Cipcigan from the Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence at Cardiff University; Olly Craughan, joining us in the room, UK head of sustainability with DPD Group; and David Wong, senior innovation and technology manager with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders EV group. A very warm welcome to the four of you. We have around an hour and a quarter to hear your evidence, so I'm sure we will cover a great deal of ground in that session. We'll start our questions by turning to Janet Finch-Saunders.

Janet, are you kicking us off with questions? Yes, please.

Oh, sorry, yes—I didn't quite hear that then. Sorry. So, good morning, bore da. Could you give us your views, please, on the current EV charging infrastructure provision in Wales, given that Transport for Wales and the Welsh Government evidence that Wales currently has more charge points for EV than the UK as a whole? Also, I'd like to know how the current quantity and quality of charge points affect—[Inaudible.]—and commercial drivers?

09:35

Okay. The sound cut out there. I think it was 'private and commercial', but we'll start with the first question. Who wants to go first? David, yes—and there's no need, actually, to operate the mikes; they're done remotely. 

Thank you. I'm delighted to be here this morning to give evidence. At the end of last year, there were about 36,000, or nearly 37,000 charge points all over the country, in the UK, about 6,900 of which are actually rapid and ultra-rapid chargers. Now, of the total, 6.4 per cent could be found in Wales, and that comes to about 2,400 chargers all in all in Wales. In data that we analysed for the first three quarters of last year—so, at the end of September—there were 1,026 slow and fast public chargers in Wales, and 223 rapid and ultra-rapid chargers in Wales. That gives a total of 1,249 at the end of September 2022.

As to whether the amount is adequate, it has to be seen, in our opinion, in the form of ratios, because the number of chargers themselves is actually a very blunt figure. Unless you contextualise it by way of looking at the number of plug-in vehicles there are on the road in a particular region—Wales, for example—you wouldn't be able to form an intelligent opinion, which is why we crunched some ratios. The central Government Department for Transport also has its own preferred ratio, which is the number of chargers per 100,000 population. We disagree with that ratio, simply because population per se, human beings, don't need to charge; vehicles do. Furthermore, not everybody in the population owns a car or a van, or drives a vehicle. Therefore, the ratio that we suggest is more intelligible—it's the number of plug-in cars per charger, because plug-in cars do need to charge.

So, looking at the ratios that we have freshly crunched, and using data from the Department for Transport for chargers, and our provisional Motoparc data, which is the number of vehicles on the road, and looking at just Wales, I'm pleased to say that, actually, although there is a deterioration everywhere in the UK in terms of ratio, the deterioration in Wales is actually quite modest. So, back in 2021, there were 15 plug-in cars for every slow and fast charger in Wales. And, at the end of September last year, the ratio had deteriorated slightly to 19:1. So, 19 plug-in cars for every slow and fast charger in Wales. In terms of rapid and ultra-rapid chargers, at the end of 2021, there were 45 battery electric vehicles to every rapid and ultra-rapid charger in Wales, and the ratio has deteriorated slightly to 52:1, which is not a major deterioration compared to the deterioration of these ratios in many other regions in the UK. In case you're interested, to contextualise this versus the national average, the UK average, the UK average for plug-in cars to slow and fast public charger ratio is 34:1; in Wales, it's 19:1, as I mentioned just now. So, Wales is actually doing better than the national average. And, in terms of battery electric vehicles to rapid and ultra-rapid chargers, it's 88:1 nationally; it's 52:1 in Wales. 

Yes, that's pretty good, because we all have constituents who maintain that they're struggling to use electric vehicles in the way they'd like because of a shortage of chargers. But, clearly, even though we're better than the UK average, we still need more, don't we?

Absolutely. Without pre-empting some of the questions that may follow, if I may say that, looking at your action plan, you're targeting about seven to 11 cars per charger by 2025. And, as it is written in the plan, as adoption of these vehicles increases, you're looking at 25:1. So, in the context of your key performance indicators or your target, of course, at the moment Wales is behind those targets, but not very far behind, which is good. However, these things have to be contextualised. These are figures that I've quoted—hard evidence—but these things have to be also contextualised in terms of actual experience of plug-in car drivers on the road, or any motorist, for example. So, I routinely talk to Uber or taxi drivers whenever I'm in one. For example, last evening, travelling from Cardiff Central to the hotel, the Uber driver basically told me that he is not ready to make the transition, because, for him, he couldn't see adequate public chargers for his use or his colleagues' use—that's private hires—in Cardiff. So, while the features are great, perhaps a bit more attention ought to be paid to ensuring that the chargers are in the right places, and the right types of chargers in the right places, even though perhaps the numbers are not too bad.

09:40

Okay. We'll pursue some of that as we go along. And I'll come on to the other guests as well in a minute. I just wanted to ask, as you framed that in the context of it being related to the number of EVs that we have, in terms of how many charge points, well, of course, do we have an equivalent uptake of EVs in Wales. Because if we only have 10 in Wales, then the figures look good, but, actually, it's not, is it?

Part of the reason why the ratios in Wales are actually quite promising is because the number of EVs on the road in Wales is actually quite low. So, I could tell you that our provisional parc figures show that, at the end of September last year, there were about 11,500 battery electric vehicles on the road in Wales. In terms of plug-in hybrids, about 7,800 of these, giving the total of all plug-ins at just under 20,000. And, of course, by the end of last year, we reached a million plug-in registrations in the whole of the UK.

Just to follow-up on that line of questioning, how much of this is skewed on a UK figure by London and the south-east, or other geographic factors? So, for example, in terms of uptake of electric vehicles, is Wales pretty much comparative to the north-east or north-west of England, and the south-east far outstripping the uptake of electric vehicles?

I think you're right. The south-east particularly has skewed the entire national figure, because our figures suggest that, actually, the number on the road in the south-east is 10 times what you have in Wales.

The next obvious question is: the south-east is quite a bit more wealthy than anywhere in Wales, so have you factored-in affordability of the vehicles as well, in terms of distribution of ownership?

That is a very good question, and a very important matter, because we've been always been saying as an industry that, as Government has asked consumers to make this transition by 2030 and then 2035, it has to ensure that it's affordable for the people. It's no point asking people to make this transition when people actually couldn't afford it. So, at the moment, because of the cost of production, 30 per cent to 45 per cent of which is actually embedded in the battery of the vehicle, hence it's expensive—and the cost of the battery has gone up because of the hike in critical raw material prices and other supply chain issues as well—because of that, it is very difficult to tell people that, 'Actually, you can easily make this transition because it won't hurt you in the pocket in the near term.' Yes, EVs have a very much more favourable running cost, but it's actually the upfront cost that is quite prohibitive, which is why we were looking to Government for some support, but, as of June last year, the plug-in car grant was completely ended and at the moment there's no support for private consumers, apart from zero-rated vehicle excise duty, which will end by spring 2025. There's much more support for the fleet and business sector, particularly in the form of very attractive company car tax.

So, our view is that this transition must be for everybody because it's about social equity. No-one, regardless of the segment of users, whether it's private or business or fleet, and no-one from any sort of background or social standing should be disadvantaged in this transition, because everybody must be able to make this transition by 2030 and 2035.

Yes, and take us on to the next line of questioning there. I'm keen to bring other witnesses in. They've been very patient, in fairness. But ,Joyce, yes, go on. Carry on, and then we'll bring the others in.

09:45

I was just going to ask the obvious follow-through from what you've just said and whether you've done any analysis of help that might be available in other countries outside the EU, what that looks like and where they are, because whilst we're comparing areas within the EU with each other, we also need to compare transitions in other countries and the support. If you haven't got it now available, it would be useful for us to know. 

We'd be very pleased to send you the analysis. We certainly have done the analysis. In summary, there are quite a number of major markets in Europe that have continued to support the transition via consumer incentives. Quite a number of these markets are scaling back the incentives gradually, but they have never removed these incentives completely like the UK. So, we are a little bit, if you like, of an outlier in that sense.

Thank you. I'm going to look at the strategic vision and the KPIs, which, basically, is what we've already done. The Welsh EV charging infrastructure vision is, as you say, that the use of electric cars and vans is going to accelerate. Can users at the moment, in your view or anybody else's view, be confident about accessing that charging infrastructure? Because we've done cars per people, but there's a geographic spread as well. 

I'd like to bring some of the other witnesses in on this, if I may. Paul Bevan, first of all.

Diolch. The vision itself is a good one, the confident measure is a good one. Confidence and cost are the barriers that exist to EV uptake, but measuring it is a bit trickier. I would certainly say that drivers cannot be confident today in traversing across Wales. David talked a moment ago about numbers, but it's not a pure numbers game, it's about distribution, particularly distribution of fast en route charging. I think the vision itself is fine, but, really, there need to be some stronger measures underneath. Electric car drivers ask themselves two questions, really: 'Can I charge my vehicle where I'm not using it at a fair cost at home or on the street?' and, 'Can I be sure of safe and reliable access to high-speed charging hubs when I'm on a longer journey across Wales?' You can link this to all kinds of metrics, but, ultimately, they're the two questions that we need to ask ourselves, and I think the answer at the moment to both across Wales is still 'no'.

Yes. Thank you very much. I would like to add a couple of points in relation to some discussion on equity and social justice. I would like to give the example of the Scottish Government. They are providing £30 million to accelerate the shift to zero-emission transport, but this time this support is for communities that are disadvantaged, for example funding interest-free loans for second-hand vehicles. I think this is a very good incentive.

You have mentioned already some examples worldwide. There is a similar incentive in California for residents who live in disadvantaged communities in the enhanced fleet modernisation programme. These are eligible to receive an additional $3,000 to $5,000, and this is depending on income and the type of electric vehicle. Separately, they are receiving also $2,000 for the installation of an electric vehicle charger. So, I think there should be a different incentive for these low-income communities, because it is well known that they are in an area that could face a high level of emissions. So, in this case, they are disadvantaged also for this transition to electrification.

In terms of the action plan, there is not enough granularity on the actions. There needs to be a split into subactions in order to have confidence that these are achieved. Sometimes, the targets are quite vague. Ten years is not a good target for the charging infrastructure, seeing as we have the ban on new petrol and diesel cars in 2030. So, we need a little bit more ambitious targets for achieving all of these actions.

09:50

Thank you for that. There have been concerns as well that some of the KPI deadlines haven't been met either, so I'd imagine, on the back of what you've just said, Professor Cipcigan, that you'd be concerned, for example, that the establishment of the connections group hasn't happened, the review of building regulations hasn't happened, as was promised, and the establishment of a chargepoint operator group as well. These targets haven't been met. 

Yes, and also recognising the value of equality and social justice in all these documents. Actually, these are not mentioned—not at all. Because we know that there is also an environmental injustice in areas with higher deprivation, because this links with high levels of outdoor air pollution. And also they don't have enough funding in order to install any low-carbon technologies.

Okay. Thank you very much. I'm conscious, Olly Craughan, that we haven't given you an opportunity yet. I'd imagine, just picking up on what Joyce said earlier about distribution, if there's a density of charge points, let's say, along the M4, along the A55, then that, really, doesn't help you.

Not particularly. In DPD, we're decarbonising very quickly. We've grown our fleet. We've got nearly 3,000 electric vehicles across the UK. In Cardiff alone, that's about 71 out of 200 running from the depot, and we continue to decarbonise. Most of our drivers are self-employed. So, we offer home charging, but, as the vehicle gets larger, it's less likely they're going to be off street, and if they live in a city they potentially do not have off-street parking. 

We talk a lot about cars in this conversation and not about vans, and DPD aren't alone. There are many other businesses that run similar models; there are people like Centrica and Openreach that have engineers that don't have charging at a depot. I think the strategy's great, but I'd love to see more about the commercial vehicle element. There's a lot of access issues with charging, height restrictions where chargers are placed, but also they are car parks transferred into charge parks, and those spaces are extremely tight; they're made for cars. The charging plugs for certain vehicles are at different ends of vehicles, which makes it harder, so there's all of that to take into account. And there's the cost. We've seen rapid charging increase rapidly over the last six months. For me, there needs to be some sort of KPI on that—that it is capped to make it affordable for people. Because people off street can afford DC charging at their home rate, while rapid charging is at least double. In fact, the AA released a report recently stating that if you're running an EV and relying on DC rapid charging publicly, it is now the equivalent of diesel. So, that's not attracting people to make the transition over. 

So, for me, it's access. Charging hubs would be great for all vehicles. I think it's not so much the ratio of chargers, it's where they're placed and how much they're utilised, because you could put a charger for every 11 EVs, but if it's somewhere that people aren't going to use it—. I know that's part of the strategy. Partnerships with ourselves; we can share data about people—not their home postcodes, obviously, but heat maps, where they are, where they're going to utilise those chargers, where they deliver. And other companies could do that to help you, obviously, deploy the chargers in the right place, because it's also revenue for you.

The one other point I just want to make—because we talk about cars a lot—is there are 33 million cars in the UK, but, according to Google, the average car journey is only 20 miles. The average EV nowadays has about a 250 to 300 mile range. So, they're not going to be charging as often. A vehicle fleet, typically what's on the market at the moment, has half the range of those cars, and they're doing about 80 miles a day for DPD throughout the UK, so they're going to be using those chargers more often than cars. So, I think we need to take that commercial vehicle charging off the sideline and put it in play along with the cars, because potentially it’s actually more important.

09:55

Thank you. We’re getting a lot of good stuff here from all directions. I know Jenny wants to come in, Joyce wants to come in, and then maybe brief responses to both and then we’ll have to move on to Huw.

I represent a Cardiff constituency and I can’t imagine residents wanting commercial vehicles being charged in a residential street. Good luck on trying to find a place to do it, anyway. So don’t you and others need to change your business model so that you have your charging at your depot, wherever it is people pick up these parcels, and then your self-employed drivers get themselves to the place where they start the work?

Predominantly we offer home charging. We substitute at a cost for that—

We do have chargers at site, but along with most, probably, distribution depots, you will not have enough space, let alone the electricity capacity, to charge a fleet of 200 vehicles. You won’t have the space to leave them, because typically you’d be deploying probably a 7 kW charger to park and charge overnight instead of a rapid charger. And then you’re potentially limiting it all to DPD, because it’s in our secure fence line, and on an industrial estate how many depots do you have? It's the amount of electricity you’ll need. Most of that charging kit will be also standing still for half the day, because the vans will be out delivering. We have done a partnership with First Bus in Glasgow, actually, to utilise their chargers when their buses are not charging, so I think as a Government you could help promote collaboration, which means that we’re not needing to install maybe five times the amount of charging equipment than we need, and also so it’s multi-use—it isn’t just private sector, it’s made to the public as well, because it just doesn’t make sense investing all of that money and the stuff doesn’t get used. Again, let’s face it—it’s the electrical feed that is one of the biggest challenges for this transition.

i

And there’s going to be a big focus on that later on. But yes, thank you for that—fair comment. Joyce.

You raised the AA report and the cost of electric versus diesel, and you said the report said that they’re on a par with each other. That’s at the moment, but has anybody done any forward analysis? Because, again, I understand the fleet versus private car, but for the private individual the subsidies on the use of electricity is about to finish in March. So is that going to push the unaffordability of electric cars even higher versus diesel? That's apparently coming down to £1.50 a litre, but I haven’t seen it yet.

I drive an electric car. I’m not talking about fleets now. Obviously the car costs more, but if you’re charging at home predominantly, according to my app, I’m saving about £150 versus petrol a month. And it’s done 40,000 miles, I’ve never had it serviced; if I had an ICE vehicle I would have probably spent several thousand pounds in servicing costs in 40,000 miles’ driving. So your total cost ownership of an electric vehicle is cheaper still, but again, like the AA say, if you’re fuelling it at a rapid public charger, that’s one of the issues. But that’s where I think you need to cap—Government needs to cap the cost of charging. The unit of power is the same; it doesn’t matter what type of charger it comes out of, you pay the same money. Obviously, the charger costs more money, and people need to make a business case to run their businesses successfully, but there still needs to be control in that.

Thank you very much. The main policy levers for driving this forward rest at a UK level, and the strategy by and large is a market-driven strategy with assistance from Government. So, things like the bans on diesel and petrol cars and vans to push this agenda forward, the major grants and funding, the issues around technical specifications, interoperability, all of those things, smart charging roll-out, major infrastructure investment—it’s UK levers. So, on that basis, if you accept that, and it's certainly something that Welsh Government have made clear in their zero carbon approach, then to what extent do you think that UK strategy reflects some of the different aspects we've been talking about here in Wales? Do they take account of the difference in devolved Governments and devolved administrations? 

10:00

Okay. Let's invite some of our virtual witnesses, if I can describe them as that, first of all here—Professor Cipcigan, maybe. 

I think devolution is working better for Scotland, for example. So, over the last 10 years, Scottish Government grant funding provided over £165 million of interest-free loans to support the purchase of over 6,000 vehicles. Also, they provided £5 million to support the installation of over 16,000 home charge points across Scotland. So, I think there is a good national policy, but also there is a lot of policy mechanism at the Welsh Government or the Scottish Government. So, in this case, this can be implemented locally. 

I would agree with what Liana said there about EV purchasing, but there are many levers that don't require grants, and this is where the Welsh Government really could play a significant role in ensuring that policy does have the right sort of effect in Wales. The biggest disparity I would flag up is the focus on funding motorways. That's what's happening at a UK level, charging infrastructure is being focused around those motorways, whereas, in Wales, of course, we don't have a large motorway infrastructure, and, as a result, we end up with some strange disparities. So, the difference between the M4 corridor and, for example, the A55, is quite dramatic. The M4 has seen every service station's chargers updated over the last two years, as well as a number of rapid charging hubs. The A55's are largely as they were in 2015, and that makes travelling across north Wales quite a stressful experience. 

So, we do see a lot of similarities. The reality is that a charge-point operator will want to see continuity between Wales and England, but there areas where Wales and the Welsh Government need to play their role. That is around location, distribution, ensuring that we have the right sort of accessible and bilingual systems, and making sure that the quality of experience is right for Wales. 

Can I just briefly ask you to go a little bit further on that? Because it seems that what you're saying is that Welsh Government, indeed, has a role—this is not dissimilar to broadband roll-out—where UK has the prime role, but Welsh Government can make it go further, go faster, if it wills the means to do it. But there is also—. The second part of this is making sure that the UK Government reflects more accurately the special requirements in Wales, as you're saying, with the A55 and so on. So, it is both of those aspects that this committee needs to turn its attention to—how Welsh Government could do more, perhaps looking at Scotland, but also how Welsh Government could liaise with the UK Government to say, 'Look, this cannot just be a motorway-only network—we need to think about other ways'. 

Absolutely, although I would say that Wales is not Scotland. We have a very different geography, and one of the concerns that we have and our members have is around the fact that the policy at the moment—or the strategy at the moment, sorry—is effectively a carbon copy of the original Scottish Government's Transport Scotland approach, which was incredibly important at the time in building driver confidence, but has just been overtaken by the greater number of EVs and fleet EVs and vans. Travelling across Wales, the whole of Wales, is about 190 miles, so well within the range of the average electric vehicle. So, that means we might need a slightly different approach here. A single rapid charger installed in Bala by Transport for Wales is a great location to fill yesterday's gap, but what we need to see is Welsh Government leading on increasing the plans for these sorts of areas. Are we going to see six, 12 or even more very quickly, because otherwise we'll have the queues and the issues they're starting to experience in England happening in Wales this summer? 

Ah, right. Interesting. So, two of the key partners in driving this forward, making the difference in Wales, are TfW and our local authorities. So, do any of our witnesses have a view on whether they have sufficient capacity, expertise, powers, tools and resources to deliver this difference, to deliver this vision in Wales?

10:05

I'm happy to come in on that, if that's okay. So, I think it's difficult to tell, because of the lack of published progress against the strategy, but, certainly, local authorities do need clear and robust guidance. There are lots of examples of great practice, multi-use sites with large numbers of destination chargers like has recently been opened in Rhyl by Denbighshire County Council, for example. So, that's a good example of a destination where EV drivers can be confident they can charge whilst they work or visit the town.

But Transport for Wales have, according to the strategy, responsibility for that on recharging, and it's here where probably we need to be a bit more confident that there's enough resource and priority. One indication might be that there might not be the right influence in location beyond the public sector. There's a temptation now to put infrastructure into local authority or Transport for Wales car parks, which might be easy to manage and deploy but might not necessarily be the best solution for drivers, whether they be public or fleet. And we strongly feel that the voice of EV drivers has a key part to play in the planning of infrastructure, as well as the grid and other practical issues. And we'll happily work with any of the local authority stakeholders, or Transport for Wales, to support this. But I think what's critical is it isn't a numbers game. It's not just about putting a charger somewhere in Wales; it's about the right place and the right experience for the driver.

Okay. You touched on grid there. We're going to move on to that in a moment. I just want to give anybody else who wanted to come on this potentially an opportunity. No. If not, okay, we'll move on, then. Janet.

Thank you, Chair. So, yes, we're all aware of the grid constraints in Wales, so how is this going to affect the EV charging infrastructure deployment? How should this be addressed? Because it's long been an issue affecting any new renewable energy initiatives coming forward. And how successful—? Go on, I'll let you answer that one, because my next one's more about private sector involvement.

Okay. So, grid constraints, then. Who wants to come in on this? Professor Cipcigan.

Yes, I think it is important to develop new business models for charge-point operators, for example, to control the charging of electric vehicles, to get revenues for offering ancillary services to the grid—for example, flexibility services. So, in this case, it will benefit the grid, operators and consumers. Also, it is important that there's a partnership with renewable generation, because there are very good incentives. For example, Cenin is planning solar farms and big charging hubs, fast-charging hubs, for example, with electric vehicles. So, if this is combined at the location, along with storage, this will indeed offer services to the grid. So, it is important. Yes, sorry.

Because innovation is not only limited to the technology; there's also innovation in this business model, policy design, behaviour, and, in this case, this will help the grid. Also the grid will need to evolve in order to integrate all these charging points and also integrate the electrification of transport. So, I think, in this case, these grid constraints could be addressed.

Yes. As I mentioned, there is innovation also in this sector, and we need to embrace all of this innovation. And at the same time, I would like to mention here the cost of increasing the capacity of the electricity network in order to support this EV charging infrastructure. Unfortunately, currently, it's shared evenly through all customers, so this is also unlikely to be socially equitable, because the impact of lower income households is delayed because they are late adopters of electric vehicles. So, all our discussion is actually for these adopters of electric vehicles that can afford to buy them, but how we can help also the other communities. So, I'm going back to equity and social justice.

10:10

I'll make four brief points. I think it's really well known by now, drawing from the National Grid's analysis, that, by 2050, nationally—not just in Wales, the whole of the UK—we need twice the size of the grid we have currently, and four times the renewables that we have at the moment. So, there's much work to be done there. 

The second point is, as such, it is quite important for central Government and Ofgem particularly to put in place some frameworks, regulatory frameworks, to enable distribution network operators to actually make the right anticipatory investments ahead of need to ensure that we have the networks that are fit for purpose for a time when the streets will be replete with electric vehicles and maybe even heat pumps. So, that's the second point.

The third point is that, in the meantime, however, we need to find some interim solutions before we get to the point where the local networks are fit for purpose, and that's through grid balancing via smart charging. Of course, if a particular street in the neighbourhood today is replete with electric vehicles and everybody plugs in at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m every day, then, of course, there won't be adequate electrical capacity for everybody. This is where we need to time shift people's charging events. One of the ways to do it is, as Professor Cipcigan mentioned just now, flexibility markets. Again, the Government regulator, not least through the current electricity market reforms that are being proposed, should encourage time-of-use tariffs. Through price signals, you could actually encourage people to delay their charging or stagger their charging within the neighbourhood, perhaps, for example, to midnight, or perhaps, due to some very attractive tariffs, let's say we will start charging at 2 o'clock, whereas neighbours in another street might start charging at 4 o'clock in the morning, just to stagger that. But you won't do that, or you won't persuade people to do that. unless there is a return for them. This is where price signals really matter. As a whole, we call these flexibility markets, and they are really important if we are to ensure that we have adequate electrical capacity to go around.

The fourth and last point I want to make is renewables. Obviously, microgeneration helps—microgrids, microgeneration. If you have solar panels at home with domestic energy storage—home batteries—you could actually store the energy when the sun is shining during the day for use later at night, so, during the evening peak, rather than drawing from the grid, you can draw first and foremost from the electricity that is stored in your battery. So, that helps, of course, but, in the wider context of things, I think we need to see more investment into renewables in the entire country. Now, this is data from BEIS—I didn't make this up—data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. In the 12 months leading to the end of September 2022, only 3.4 GW in new renewable capacity was added in the whole country. That's a 6.9 per cent increase over 12 months. That's not good enough when, currently, we're dealing with the question of energy security and high electricity prices—driven by gas, quite perversely. And also, if you look at the entire picture of the percentage of our electricity that's generated by renewables, actually, for the first three quarters of last year, only 40.2 per cent—40.2—came from renewables, and that's when you take nuclear out, because nuclear is not exactly zero carbon. It's low carbon, but not exactly zero carbon. So, 40.2 per cent renewables. In 2021, it was 39.6 per cent. A very modest increase. We need it to increase much quicker, particularly if we are to hit 2035, when the Government ambition is for a zero-carbon grid.

Okay. I'm conscious that we're up against time, but if you want to come in briefly. 

I just wanted to pick up on the point about where we are today, particularly with Paul Bevan, about what conversations have you had with communities that are off grid about generating micro renewable projects so that they can generate some income for their community and we can get from north Wales to south Wales.

10:15

There have been some great examples of community projects in places like Bethesda, where they generate electricity and that is linked to electric vehicle charging. The reality here is that storage is critical, and storage comes with a cost. I think enabling those sorts of key locations, where renewables can be co-located with storage, which can be co-located with charging, is the key to the future. Now, there are lots of places in Wales where there are substantial renewables already, of course, and these present fantastic opportunities, if they are on major routes, for hubs that can draw that renewable energy directly into electric vehicles, and that, in itself, reduces the load on the grid. I'm aware that Welsh Government are in the process of developing a tool to enable the co-location and the planning between renewables and electric vehicle charging, but that's such an opportunity, really, that it just can't be missed.

Okay, thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr. Janet, I'm coming back to you. You had a further question.

Yes. How well has Wales attracted private—? Let me just put my glasses on, sorry. How successful has Wales been in attracting private sector investment in public charging infrastructure, including details of any limiting factors and how these could be addressed? The Welsh Government says that it has invested £26 million in charging infrastructure since 2019, whether this is enough, and whether it has been spent in the right places. The reason I ask: I've got people locally who've taken on some big projects, like hotels with car parks, and they would really like to turn a car park, say, into an electric charging car park so as to attract more guests to their hotel, but also to then allow that to be used by other members of the public, but I know that they've come to me because they don't see an appetite or support from Welsh Government to support that. So, how do you feel that Welsh Government has been in attracting private investment in EV infrastructure?

Okay. Who wants to respond to that? I think there's potentially a one-word answer, but we might want to probe a little bit further than that. Any takers? David.

I could take a stab at it, although I may not be able to give a very direct answer as to Wales's rate of success in attracting private investments, apart from the hard figures that you see coming up from Zap-Map and Government: 6.4 per cent of all the charges are actually in Wales.

What I could say is that, going forward, I think it's common knowledge that delivery of public charging infrastructure has to be private sector led. It cannot be led by Government using public money forever. What that means is, yes, what Government can do is spend some money to help de-risk private sector investment, not to actually invest directly in running those networks, because it's not the core competencies of local authorities or Government. So, what Government needs to do is spend the money in a more targeted way, whether it's Wales or perhaps even the central Government—spend the money in a way that creates investable propositions for the charging infrastructure sector. What do we mean by investable propositions? So, we set out, actually, in the position paper that we published about a year ago, four ideas on creating investable propositions, including helping the local authorities themselves to oversee the delivery.

The first one is actually through what we call mixed high-low utilisation blocks in long-term tenders. If you leave it in a completely laissez-faire approach to the market alone, no prizes for guessing, the private sector will invest and roll out infrastructure where they could make a great return on investment, because it's a commercial decision. Why roll out charging infrastructure in, for example, rural areas where it will be hardly used? You don't make a return on investment, or a decent ROI, on that. So, if it is left to commercial decisions alone, you will find that there will be notspots all around, because these are commercially unattractive places, which is why, perhaps, Government policy could do with some innovative approaches like mixed high-low utilisation blocks, where a contract for the long term, a long-term contract, will enable the private sector to roll out infrastructure in places that are commercially attractive, but they are also obliged to roll out infrastructure in some commercially unattractive places, and hopefully the returns from the commercially attractive ones will offset losses from the commercially unattractive ones.

But that alone will not suffice. The second measure must come in, and that is where Government perhaps could use money in a more targeted fashion, and that is through modified contracts for differences. You may recall that, in the renewable sector, CFDs, contracts for differences, are the norm, and it's a very useful tool. What we are suggesting is perhaps to modify it for the charging infrastructure sector. In other words, setting some sort of a price guarantee for a limited period of time in places where it's commercially unattractive so that commercial operators will get a guaranteed return for a period of time until the market matures in that particular area. This, used together with mixed high-low utilisation blocks could potentially be game-changing. By the way, mixed high-low utilisation blocks are already used as a feature in contracts in the Netherlands and in the west coast of the States. 

And the third measure is that, perhaps local government should come together and, within a region, there should be an anticipatory demand-led approach to sizing up where the best places are to install chargers. And this is a bit like what Olly was saying just now, for the right chargers to be placed in the right locations to maximise utilisation in the first instance. But, you wouldn't know where to put these chargers. You may be doing a bit of a scatter-gun approach or a bit of an intelligent guess unless you have a portal, a bit like in Amsterdam, where you allow the users who are intending to buy a battery electric vehicle in the next six months to log a request for a charger if there is a dearth of chargers in that particular place. And of course, you've got to be a bit more intelligent. Perhaps a downpayment, a deposit, ought to be included by the person who is logging the request, and that deposit is returnable when the logger actually shows that, within six months, he or she has purchased a battery electric vehicle. And the local authority's part of the bargain is to install a charger in that particular place if, indeed, there is a lack of public chargers there. So, you follow the demand, you follow where people want these chargers, to ensure that they will be utilised.

And the fourth and last measure is to ensure that the local authorities themselves are adequately supported in actually planning and helping to oversee the delivery of these chargers in those local places, because quite a lot of local authorities may not necessarily have the right people, the right personnel, to look after these particular areas. And, of course, I'm pleased that central Government has allocated £50 million out of the local electric vehicle infrastructure—LEVI—fund to local authorities to ensure that they hire skilled people for this particular area. Although the issue here is—my understanding is that the LEVI fund is only for England.

10:20

Okay. Thank you. We've got about 20 minutes left, and I know that there are at least three other areas of discussion that we wish to cover. So, I'll invite Heledd now, then, to take us on to the next area. Heledd. 

Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd, a diolch ichi i gyd fel tystion. Dŷch chi eisoes wedi siarad yn eithaf helaeth ynglŷn â darparu seilwaith. Roeddwn i jest efallai eisiau canolbwyntio fy nghwestiynau i EVA Cymru yn benodol, yn enwedig o edrych ar eich tystiolaeth chi i ni. A fyddech chi, efallai, yn gallu ehangu ar y pwyntiau dŷch chi wedi eu rhoi ynglŷn â bod buddsoddiad awdurdodau lleol yn gallu bod yn ysbeidiol ac yn anwastad? A hefyd, ar y pwynt o ran diffyg ymgysylltu cymunedol eang, a fyddech chi efallai yn gallu rhoi bach mwy o wybodaeth am hynny a meddwl beth allai fod yn newid?

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you very much to all of you as witnesses. You've already spoken in great detail about the provision of infrastructure. I just wanted to focus my questions to EVA Cymru specifically, particularly in looking at your evidence in that regard. Perhaps you could expand on the points that you've made with regard to investment by local authorities sometimes being inconsistent. And also, the lack of community engagement on a wide-ranging basis, could you give us a bit more information about that and what could change in that direction?

Yes, absolutely. I think, from a local authority perspective, it's important to remember that most of the grants that they have access to are central UK Government grants. And, up until recently, the take-up from local authorities was relatively low. What we've seen now, and what we're seeing more of, is local authorities producing electric vehicle strategies, linked to regional energy strategies. And these are driving local government to invest, and it's absolutely the right way, but their investment is primarily focused on this on-street charging problem. So, they're seeking to enable their individual constituents, people who live in the local authorities, to get the most out of their infrastructure. 

Ultimately, there needs to be more cross-local authority planning, and then more importantly, there needs to be some co-ordination from Welsh Government to ensure that those local authorities are investing well. But, they are working closely, I know, with the distribution network operators to ensure that they're making the best use of the grid, too.

In terms of community engagement, we have seen some amazing examples—Carmarthenshire is a good example here—where community providers, so community charge-point installers, have been able to work with local groups to make sure that there is charging put in local communities in the right place, so that we don't get the sorts of problems that were flagged around what might happen on a Cardiff street. Because when we talk about on-street charging, we're not necessarily talking about directly outside of your door, which can be very disruptive at the moment, with people trailing chargers across pavements, et cetera. So, there may be a need for the community to change the way that it parks, or the way that it travels, building in active travel, et cetera, and those are where community groups really can play a role. But again, we talked about some of the KPIs that were sort of less hard, and around groups, and they're the ones that have been missed, and they're the ones that really will drive forward this community engagement strategy, and I think Welsh Government's got a fantastic role to play there, once it starts to move forward.

10:25

Thank you for that. So, ensuring greater consistency and learning from best practice—one of the things you're pushing for, then. Can I just ask, then, obviously there are different geographical challenges of course as well, in terms of terraced housing in the area I represent in the Rhondda Valleys et cetera, so in terms of that community engagement, is the fact that it's ad hoc at the moment perhaps stifling some of the opportunities?

Absolutely. David mentioned a moment ago a sort of example whereby a member of the public can reserve a charger from their local authority. That's absolutely great, and that individual-driven process is fantastic, but ultimately, electric vehicle charging on the doorstep isn't going to work in all parts of Wales. And so, there is that need for community engagement in order to ensure that there is a—it's a parking and charging plan, isn't it? The strategy talks about six different types of charging, and we need all six to work together to ensure that every community has parity of engagement, and social justice has been mentioned a few times, but the most obvious area is that disparity between someone who can charge at home on their driveway, who is probably paying seven times less for their electric vehicle charging than someone who can't, and the nature of the place that they live, and the form of their house shouldn't be a barrier to decarbonising transport.

Thank you, Paul. If I may, there was another element in your evidence as well that you provided, just saying that you believe that the programme is moving too slowly and lacks ambition. Perhaps you could expand on that.

Yes, absolutely. So, this is the strategic road network element of the programme, and it was really interesting to read the Welsh Government's response, and for EV drivers, that underlines the gap between the strategy and the realities of what's needed. When the strategy was launched, it was clear that the indicator of success being one single rapid charge point somewhere near a major trunk road every 25 miles, whether it functioned or not, meant that Wales was pretty much already there when the strategy was launched; just a handful of single extra rapid chargers would put a tick in the box. And I hope we outlined in our response that this just doesn't align with the demand and the growth in demand. To be confident, EV drivers, whether fleet or private or van drivers, need to be sure that there are enough chargers where they stop, that they're working, that they'll be a decent speed, and it'll be a safe environment to charge, and this isn't any different than a petrol or diesel driver, of course.

So, when we say that the programme's moving too slowly and it's unambitious, we're referring both to the lack of provision in some areas of the network at all to date—and I know the Welsh Government have indicated they anticipate that that will be in place early this year—but also the seeming acceptance that a bare-bones level of one or two 50 kW chargers every 20 miles is good enough. So, to illustrate: a north-south journey down the A470 today will pass just two chargers at one location between the A55 and the M4. If Transport for Wales open a further five or six chargers, they will hit the target on paper, but can we really say that that's being on track to meet the vision that electric car and van users can be confident about accessing the infrastructure? It's perhaps time to look at the strategy, and whether en-route demand would be served better by fewer, more highly reliable hubs with faster chargers, like those in Rhug, or recently opened at Celtic Manor, in places like Builth Wells and Llangurig and Dolgellau, for example. Again, one of the issues here is a lack of information and engagement on the plans. So, after the initial target is hit, do we know what the next step is for Welsh Government, or have they viewed it as a mission-accomplished situation? With electric vehicles now making up an increasing proportion of new car sales, the reality is that, even when those sites open, without higher aspirations and working with the private sector, we're destined to increase the gap between demand and availability on the strategic road network in Wales.

10:30

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Huw wants to come in briefly, and then we'll come on to Jenny.

Thank you. I'm nervous about even asking this, but we always deal with the challenge that's immediately ahead of us, so we're focusing on the roll-out of EV points, the right ones in the right place at the right quantum and so on, and all of those things, and that's fully understandable. But, of course, the social justice issue has been raised, and, for many people, they're never going to have an electric vehicle unless we actually move to a situation where we have shared EVs—unless we have a situation where it's not to do with individual ownership by those who can afford it, but we actually move to a pool sharing of cars on an EV basis in the terraces in the Rhondda and in Caerau in my constituency and so on. Now, that is a longer term objective, ultimately, so are we taking that into account at all at the moment in the way that we devise the roll-out of where these points should be, how they should be configured, whether they are in more individualised areas or more pooled, collective community areas. I'm suspecting that that doesn't even feature yet in this roll-out that we're looking at—if I could ask EVA Cymru.

Where a car club, for example, is being started, there will be a charging plan around that. So, from the opposite direction, it is happening. But from my understanding of Welsh Government's perspective, it's not there, it's not a key part of the strategy. Having said that, most people, including most EV drivers, would view a world with fewer cars as a better one, and so, actually, the fundamentals of the EV charging strategy still stand up if you have fewer cars in community locations. You don't necessarily need a charge point outside every door and on every driveway, but what you do need are those locations where people can charge when the car is not in use, and those locations where people can charge when they're on a longer journey across Wales. I'm not sure it's fundamentally different if you have more car sharing; you just need the same sort of locations, I feel.

In the short time left, I want to talk about following on from what Huw was asking, how we properly use the planning policy and the building regs to ensure that we're building not just for 2030, but for 2050. Small-scale, innovative housing projects in rural areas I visited in Pembrokeshire about eight years ago with nine units for rent, an electric-charging point and one shared vehicle, like a car club, is more likely to be a thing of the future, so how are we going to—? Clearly, Government has a role here, but what can you guys, both the private and community sectors, do to accelerate this process, because there are lots of things that could be done now that are not happening? But, also, we need to ensure that we're not just building stuff we've then got to undo, because there's a carbon cost to that. So, quick ideas, particularly—a particular issue for me is how we don't just add to the clutter on the streets where we want to have more people walking and cycling. If we have charging points outside every home, it's just a disaster.

Okay, shall we start with Professor Cipcigan, maybe, on any comments on building regs and planning policy, and how that can help?

I wanted to point out in this discussion that we are not mentioning public transport, because, indeed, based on this discussion, we are not expecting that all cars that are on the road at present will be electric vehicles in 2030 or 2035. So, it is the role of car-sharing schemes, but also the role of public transport, which was not mentioned at all. So, this was something that I wanted to add to this discussion, particularly on the communities that are in terraced houses or in places where it is much more difficult to install charging infrastructure.

10:35

An important point. Places like Cardiff and Newport have already decarbonised a lot of their bus fleet, so others will need to follow, as DPD has shown. But, beyond that, what are the planning policies we need to think of to ensure that we just don't add to the clutter and so the car doesn't dominate the street where people need to play? Who's thinking about this? Why aren't businesses using the advantages they get by being ahead of the game? Why aren't hotels installing EVs so they can get better-off customers coming to their hostelry? 

I think a lot of people still think with emotion instead of data. Even in this conversation, we've talked about chargers all over the streets. Not everyone needs to charge every single day, so you don't need a charger for every vehicle. But it's also investment. What does the hotel—? It could be investing in a charging hub that doesn't get used, and then they're not making revenue, or the utilisation is low, so they bump up the price per kilowatt. I think there needs to be more data sharing where people could charge, and for Government to help businesses expand their charging and open it up to others. Obviously, for certain businesses, for DPD, for example, some of our chargers are within the secure fence of our depot. There's no way we could open those up to public, but maybe to other like-minded businesses, like we do with First Bus. There are more and more, as building regs have changed, chargers being put in car parks. Obviously, some offices don't operate 24 hours a day; they could be on an open network to the public. And I think there's that promotion, maybe in the regs, that there is a clause that they have to be open between a certain time to people, because there are houses, obviously, a walk away from those offices that could be utilising at night time. 

Okay. What about the landscape architects? What are they doing to contribute to improving the visual appearance of our streets by integrating lighting with charging?

I'm sure we don't, but surely it's a conversation that needs to be had with people like you to ensure that this isn't acceptable, not least from the point of view of people who are visually impaired or with pushchairs, and the like. 

From what I understand, there are a lot of issues with putting chargers on the streets. Someone mentioned cabling on the pavement earlier—that's, obviously, totally illegal. I know companies are working on a gully system where you could do that, but then you're not guaranteed to park in front of your house if you're on a terraced street. So, there are a lot of issues around that. But, again, I think it goes back to the data. What is the mileage of that person? If it's 20 miles a day, like I said earlier, they're not going to charge every single day. And it links back to a question earlier—the awareness piece, not just about charging, but how you operate an electric vehicle. Believe it or not, several years ago, when we started on this journey, we had to tell people, 'You can put it through a car wash. You can do this, you can do that', because people were still not aware, and that, 'You do not need to charge it every single day.' There are all these points. 

One point I just wanted to highlight from your evidence, which is the faster you charge an EV and the more often, the faster you wear down its batteries. There's a carbon emissions issue here as well as a cost, and I just wondered how much that is factored into discussions any of you have had around how we need to plan, how we need to de-risk, because we don't want vehicles and batteries wearing out sooner than they need to.

DPD, with diesel and petrol, we sell on for a second life of the vehicle, because there will be numerous—. In a way, hopefully, with the EV fleet that we have now, we will be able to sell those on to businesses—small and medium businesses—which typically wouldn't be able to afford or get hold of a brand-new EV van, to then access them, and the degradation—. There are a lot of studies—. I’m sure David would probably be able to give some more detail on that, but the chemistry of batteries is changing, the software, the degradation won’t be as bad as it has been in the past. But those vehicles will still be able to be used; they just won’t do the 150 miles that they did when they were brand-new. They will still be able to be utilised in certain areas. There’ll be a lower mileage. Or those batteries are used second-hand for maybe home storage, which David mentioned earlier, and so there’s a second life. It’s not as catastrophic as many think.

10:40

To David, maybe, there’s this whole issue around planning policy and, clearly, we’re coming back all the time to this wider cultural change that is happening within society, which needs to happen, and needs to be encouraged and facilitated. Now, planning clearly has a key role to play in that respect. The feeling is that it just ain’t happening at the moment.

Yes, absolutely. I’d also like to address one specific aspect of that, and I think you mentioned architects.

Perhaps not so much architects, but innovation in general, because what we’ve seen is at least two operators, primarily in England, but also in Scotland, have actually introduced an innovation of retractable chargers, so it won’t be an eyesore and it won’t clutter the pavement, because these chargers could actually go back into the ground until they need to be used and they can be pulled up, so they won’t obstruct pushchairs, for example. So, it’s about innovation in addition to perhaps architecture. But more could be done in terms of planning, for example. I think someone mentioned just now that charging in a residential area doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have a charger right in front of your home, because that’s obviously impractical. No-one is expecting a charger in front of every single terraced house in the UK. We could talk about lots of different innovations, including, for example, charging hubs within just a couple of minutes’ walk from your home, as long as it’s still in a residential area. People talk about 10 minutes’ walk; there’s a different level of comfort when it comes to 10 minutes’ walk for people. Some people will say 10 minutes is too far away; maybe a couple of minutes would do, but that’s another question.

And the other thing I’d like to mention is that, certainly when it comes to planning—and maybe this is slightly tangential, but it’s something that you have in your action plan—it’s about quality of service, the Welsh quality standards. Perhaps they should mirror or reflect national standards—in this sense, I’m referring to the consumer experience of charging regulations that the central Government is supposed to have brought in some time ago. It’s been a few years in the making, and hopefully it should be laid in Parliament sometime in the next few months. We are waiting with bated breath for this, because it will ensure minimum standards of reliability. We crunched some data—not our data, but we crunched some data from Zap Map and Fast Charge—and it shows that, at the end of October last year, for the 14 largest private charging operators, at any one time, on average, 91.5 per cent reliability was seen, which means about one in 10 of these public chargers did not work. Could you ever envisage a world whereby one in 10 cars don’t work? Why should consumers put up with one in 10 public chargers that are broken? There’s nothing more frustrating than to rock up to a public charger and find out that it’s broken. So, reliability, pricing transparency—we want everything to be displayed in pence per kilowatt hour, for easy pricing comparison. Now, it’s okay to have membership, it’s okay to have discounts, it’s okay to have penalties for overstaying, but, nonetheless, the comparison should be on the basic pence per kilowatt hour.

And then you need information, because the user needs to know, for example, where these chargers are, the power rating of these chargers and, crucially, on a dynamic basis, whether these chargers are taken. Again, it’s really frustrating if you rock up to a charger only to find that, well, there’s a queue there, as we’ve recently seen during the Christmas period. Also, really, in terms of ease of payment, who wants to be still carrying multiple RFID membership cards in their purses or in their wallets? We need a system whereby, at a minimum, it’s a contactless payment, and roaming if possible. Particularly for fleets, roaming would come in really handy, not to mention some of the accessibility regulations as part of planning for people with restricted mobility, as well as safety and security—lighting is an example there.

I know you asked a question just now, which has escaped my mind. It was just after you asked about—

10:45

Yes. The other thing I just wanted to briefly mention is that not all charging needs to be done in residential areas. One of the things that people do gloss over is that the important thing when we think about charging is that you charge when the vehicle is idle, you charge when you stop, with the exception of some of these long-distance journeys when you stop to charge because you need a desperate charge, like on the motorways, for example. These are en route use cases, en route charging. But, otherwise, you charge when the car is idling, whether that means overnight, which is the best time to do it, or when you're at a leisure centre, a shopping centre, recreation places for three hours. That's the best place to graze, to get a top up. You do that with your phones; wherever there is a plug, you just top up, and that's what we should do with cars—look for places where you can charge. And that means we actually should also look at destination chargers as a possibility—whether it's hotels, supermarkets, leisure centres—or workplace charging. I know we don't have time to get into it, but what I wanted to say is that, therefore, policy and planning should also look into encouraging deployment in workplaces, as well as in various destinations. 

On that note, I'm afraid we have run out of time. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you very much to our witnesses for your attendance this morning. We've had a lot of very useful information there. It may be, actually, that we might write and ask for a few additional pointers as well, if that's acceptable to you; I'm sure it will be. So, diolch yn fawr iawn, thank you very much for your attendance. We'll now pause the meeting and we'll reconvene in 10 minutes' time so that we can start again at 10:55. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:47 a 10:57.

The meeting adjourned between 10:47 and 10:57.

10:55
3. Gwefru cerbydau trydan - sesiwn dystiolaeth 2
3. Electric vehicle charging - evidence session 2

Croeso nôl i'r Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Seilwaith. Rŷn ni'n symud at yr eitem nesaf ar ein hagenda, sef i dderbyn tystiolaeth bellach ar wefru cerbydau trydan. Mae'r Cynghorydd Andrew Morgan, sy'n arweinydd Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru ac, wrth gwrs, arweinydd Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Rhondda Cynon Taf, yn ymddiheuro. Mae e wedi gorfod dychwelyd i'w gyngor oherwydd amgylchiadau'r tywydd, ac felly fydd e ddim gyda ni'r bore yma, ond ŷn ni'n derbyn ei ymddiheuriad e, wrth gwrs. Ond, yn ymuno â ni fan hyn yn yr ystafell mae Geoff Ogden, sy'n brif swyddog cynllunio trafnidiaeth a datblygu gyda Trafnidiaeth Cymru, a Roisin Willmott, cyfarwyddwr Cymru a Gogledd Iwerddon a Planning Aid England, y Sefydliad Cynllunio Trefol Brenhinol. Croeso i chi. Gwnawn ni symud yn syth i gwestiynau.

Welcome back to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee. We're moving on to the next item on the agenda, which is to hear further evidence on electric vehicle charging. Councillor Andrew Morgan, who is leader of the Welsh Local Government Association and leader, of course, of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, has sent his apologies. He's had to return to his council area because of the weather conditions. We have, of course, accepted his apologies this morning. But joining us in the room this morning we have Geoff Ogden, who is chief transport planning and development officer with Transport for Wales, and Roisin Willmott, who's director of Wales and Northern Ireland and Planning Aid England at the Royal Town Planning Institute. A very warm welcome to you. We'll go straight to questions.

We'll move straight in to questions, if that's okay, and I'll kick off, if I may. The Welsh EV charging strategy vision is that car and van users should be confident about accessing the charging infrastructure that they need, when they need it, by 2025. I'm interested to know what confident looks like, but also how, maybe, we would best be able to measure that success. Maybe, Geoff, if you want to kick off.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning, everybody. Bore da. If I refer to the evidence that was provided by the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales for the committee, I think a number of critical success factors are outlined in terms of confidence, and they range from ability to access charging points; that those charging points are resilient and working; that they, from an accessibility point of view as well, are accessible in that sense as well; that we are able to provide information to users about where these things are and that they are working correctly; that people know the forward plans that are coming in terms of the chargers; and a number of other features as well. I think, if we view those as qualitative pieces, then I think there is a need to create some KPIs that will indicate those. At the moment, in terms of the monitoring and evaluation framework for the Wales transport strategy, there are a couple of KPIs in there that cover electric vehicles. But I think we'd be really interested to see what comes out of this committee in terms of what the views are as to how those things measure up. Because the two that are in there at the moment, I think, are provision of EV charge points in terms of overall numbers, and then actually the take-up of electric vehicles as a whole. So, they are fairly high level, I would say. We do need to develop some further KPIs, I think, in terms of the inputs to that, and achieving those objectives. But I would say that those critical success factors, to me, feel like the right sort of things to be building those performance indicators around.

11:00

Are we able to say in any way that confidence is improving in terms of accessing infrastructure? Because to reach a point where people feel that by 2025—. You know, it's two years away.

I think there are indications that there is some confidence increasing. If we look at things like Zap-Map, then some of the feedback that comes through there is relatively good. I don't know what other evidence you've heard from others this morning, and whether they've said anything in that sense that would be different to that, but I would also say that I think there's a lot more that we can do in terms of creating that confidence with good news stories, with visibility of how these things are being deployed. I think it was in the Scottish Power evidence that they talked about even just getting out some information about how using some of the Ofgem funding to support the investment in infrastructure will help to create that forward visibility that actually, 'I can rely on having an electric vehicle at some point in the future and using it'. 

Good morning, both. We're interested to know whether the delivery of the Welsh EV charging strategy vision is on target. We've heard evidence that EV Cymru has commented that charging provision is clearly inadequate for both quantity and patterns of use, and that the recent growth is from a very low base.

I think there is a big challenge, and it's a big challenge in that there are a number of moving parts in terms of the way the electric vehicle industry is evolving, and the role that the public sector will play in that in terms of provision of charge points and the other things that take place. Between the Welsh Government and ourselves, we have been looking at this over the last few months, whilst we've been doing early work in terms of roll-out, to actually establish what the role of the public sector should be going forwards, and we're currently reviewing that with the Welsh Government at the moment. I'm not quite sure when the next of these sessions will be, but there might be the ability to say more about what the content of that looks like.

Essentially, there is a need to focus on some key areas—so, things like en-route chargers; things like destination chargers; actually the private sector very much taking the lead in the roll-out and the public sector providing the infill. That's a challenge to actually work out where that infill will take place. There's the development of tools that we believe will help with that engagement. There's been a lot of engagement taking place with the distribution network operators and the charge point operators. In fact, there have been sessions back in November with the charge point operators—one-to-one sessions—to understand actually how those different things play out, so that we can understand what role the public sector should have in it. So, a focus on things like the en-routes, as I say, the destination, and then a big piece around actually the quality side of what's been delivered, particularly in other areas, like on-street charging.

There is a challenge, absolutely; 2025 is on the doorstep and 2030 is not that far away. We need to, as we were saying in the first piece, develop that confidence and give that confidence to the market, to customers and users to do that.

We heard earlier that there needs to be a better partnership between the private and public sector, and you've mentioned that already. How is that progressing?

I think, in terms of the KPIs, if we refer back to that, there were four others suggested with the charge-point operators public-private forum of some sort, with the distribution network operators in terms of the wider network and the synergies there. I think, in terms of the evidence that's been provided, it's about setting those up. I think those do need to be set up pretty soon. What I would say is that there has been a huge amount of engagement on a one-to-one basis informally, but I think actually bringing that to bear and looking at some of the challenges to get the insights of how these things are being rolled out from a private sector point of view and really understand how we fit into that. That is taking place, but I think it can only be supported by having those formal forums in place. 

11:05

Yes. And—Chair, if I can—you mentioned destination use, but of course if you purely do that—. I live in Pembrokeshire, a high-destination area that would probably be served well, but there would be other areas that are local destinations with local populations that are small, they won't be served so well. So, could you give some reassurance, because we're talking about confidence here, to those areas, that they won't be left behind?

I think things like the rural pathway that's in development, and I think there are some plans to publish that in the very near future, I think that will cover things like that. Seeing the EV charging network as part of the wider transport network, too. So, actually, we're doing a lot of work in Transport for Wales about railway stations. I know that doesn't necessarily deal with everything you've said in terms of challenges there, but actually we do need to look at these things as part of the overall transport system. And there has been work as well around the funding from UK Government for on-street chargers, and actually I think the Welsh Government had offered for some local authorities, where actually there was a balance of match funding to be made and that match funding didn't quite work in certain areas, to actually step in and redress some of that balance to help out. So, I think the confidence I can give is that it's an issue that is known about and it is part of that wider transport agenda that we need to deal with.

I don't know, to be honest. I can go away and check that.

Okay. Yes, that's fine. Thank you. Janet, did you want to come in on this area of questioning?

Yes. I don't know whether you've touched on this, but why has the infrastructure deployment been faster in Scotland and England than Wales?

I think Scotland adopted a model, as I understand it, where they created a free-to-use charge-point network and rolled that out very quickly. But I think there is now a challenge, which I think the Scottish Futures Trust has done a report on, that actually there are challenges in terms of that, in that if it's free to use, the private sector now stepping in. Everybody is learning about this, so I'm not criticising Scotland, because there is risk in taking these steps, but learning along the way, too, and I think Scotland—. That's one of the reasons they've gone quickly on it, but if that's not addressed now, that could slow them down in terms of next steps because of the private sector coming in, whereas our approach has been very much to do the early stages of public investment in as safe a way as possible, but also to look at how we then maximise the opportunities with the private sector. So, I go back to that point made a few minutes ago: I think the thing around the fora with the private sector is very important.

In terms of England, I think it's more of a mixed picture. I haven't got the data in front of me, but the south-east of England would be well served, and I guess it depends in terms of the investment that's going in and the ability to buy EVs, et cetera, et cetera, but in other places, less progress than us in Wales. So, I think in that case it's mixed.

11:10

Yes, and I think the distribution point was made in an earlier session, that it can skew the overall picture, really. Janet?

Yes, and, you know, a lot of the rolling out of this infrastructure is dependent on the local authorities, and even organisations such as Transport for Wales. How confident are you that they have the powers, the tools, and indeed the resources to be able to do this?

So, I think—. It's a good question and I made a note on this; I'm just trying to find it.

I'm not so sure there's an issue in terms of powers, and actually, if you look across the piece in terms of the resources and the skills, they're probably there too, but it does rely on everybody working collaboratively and making sure that the right organisations are doing the right things. So, we would be very reliant on the charge-point operators to do design, planning, et cetera, and then obviously, maintenance and operation. We continue to look at that with the charge-point operators in terms of their capacity to do those things alongside what we're aiming to do. And, again, I go back to the thing earlier about having those formalised fora in place will help that, I think. So, I don't see it as a huge issue, albeit there is a challenge there to be addressed. But if everybody can come together on it, I think it can be managed.

But what about your role in terms of bringing people together and driving this? Excuse the pun. Because clearly, we've seen it happen in other public sector realms. Natural Resources Wales: they've been thrown a large number of additional responsibilities and duties, and big questions about their capacity to deliver on those. My fear is that Transport for Wales becomes—and I've used this term previously—a sort of 'Natural Resources Wales on wheels'. So, is that something that you're mindful of or conscious of, or concerned about?

Absolutely mindful of and that's why I go back to the engagement we're having with Welsh Government at the moment in terms of what the plan does look like going forward, in terms of how much resource we will require in the public sector, how much will be required in the private sector to do that. At Transport for Wales, a few months ago, we introduced a new operating model, and as part of that, the team associated with EV came into my part of the business, and I'm looking at the strategic planning around the metros, working with the local authorities on their regional transport plans, et cetera, et cetera. So, it feels like it's in the right place to have that success, but I'm not dismissing the challenge at all.

It may be the right place, but obviously, there's a long list there, isn't there?

But a joined-up list as well that does need to be thought about together.

Yes. Okay. Sure. Okay, thank you for that. Of course, we've already seen that a number of KPI deadlines haven't been met: I've got establishing the connections group, a building regulations review, development of the national procurement standard, establishment of the charge-point operator group. It doesn't auger well, does it, really? And, as well, people have been saying that some of those targets were rather unambitious. So, does that cause a bit of concern for you?

So, I think, looking at the KPIs, they're good to start off with, okay? They are the right things that need to happen now, but going back to that piece about the future, I think we do need to work with the Welsh Government to establish a forward set and a plan.

I refer back to the piece about doing things in the early stages, learning the lessons now. We've got to remember that when the public sector's getting involved in these things, it's because, actually, there are challenges in terms of it getting delivered by others. So, I won't necessarily say we're picking up the most difficult things, but every one of these places where we're doing this has a challenge.

I think learning the lessons, so having this service desk put in place, bringing that to bear, helping local authorities, helping the DNOs, helping the charge-point operators and others to understand, and us understanding more about what's needed, is absolutely critical to it. I think alongside that delivery, establishing that strategy is really critical to me. So, making sure we're doing the right things and then we're doing them as efficiently as possible is important. So, yes, we're taking that time now, and, as I say, engaging with Welsh Government, and I would hope that that effort that we've put in now will mean we reap the rewards in the longer term in terms of making things slicker over a longer period.

But, also, I guess what I want to say on that is because this is a dynamic environment that this is being delivered in, we need to be agile on that too. This is not a waterfall approach of establishing, 'Right, that's where we're going and that's it for ever more.' We need to keep our mind on that and recognise when things are changing and shift and adapt to suit.

11:15

Yes, that's an important point. Okay, thank you. Right, we want to focus on grid infrastructure, which comes up regularly in these discussions, so, Janet, do you want to start on that?

Thank you, Chairman. So, we all know, when we speak about renewable energy or anything, that there are some quite serious grid capacity concerns in Wales. How do you think this is going to constrain EV charging infrastructure deployment and how you believe the Welsh Government, TfW and local authorities are collaborating with DNOs and charge-point operators to address this? Also, why does the grid continues to be a concern, given, for example, SP Energy Networks's written evidence on the scale of investments being made, and does the apparent failure to establish the connection group impacts on grid planning? Speaking earlier in the earlier session, there was a lot of momentum placed on the fact that we could do things differently with more local community grid infrastructures—microgrids. How do you feel about those kinds of initiatives, going forward?

So, there are two things there, aren't there, there's the grid as it is and then the potential of greater innovation, really, so maybe addressing both of those.

I think the grid as it is, it's an excellent challenge, and I did have a chance to have a quick look at some of the other written evidence that was put in. This is part of a much bigger picture of requirements on the grid. We work very closely with the Welsh Government energy service. I think the planning that's taking place around—I've forgotten what they're called now—local energy plans and regional energy planning are critical to this. From our point of view, that does mean giving visibility of what the requirements are across the transport network, so that's the part that we can play, a big part that we can play in that. But there is a challenge there. I go back to the comment about the connections group. Again, I think there's a real opportunity for us to formalise that and get that in place, so, actually, you've got all the right people around the table, rather than it necessarily being on a one-to-one basis, and taking that approach.

Sorry, I've—it was potential for community. I think, again, there, probably that is something where more emphasis can really help that and finding some opportunities to do that, those quick wins, and bringing that confidence to bear in terms of the lessons learned and good news stories is something I've taken out of the evidence I've seen, and, I think, will work with the team on looking at that sort of thing.

Because we or whoever could articulate a vision in terms of where anticipated investment is required in terms of the grid, but that doesn't make it happen, does it? And who pays for that and all of that? Much of this is not devolved, as well, so there are a myriad barriers that we've experienced over recent years and will no doubt continue to grapple with. So, is there not a point to be made that, actually, focusing more intentionally on community interventions, microgrids and doing it ourselves, if you like—whether there should be a greater emphasis on that, rather than just saying, 'This is what we want, now let's sit back and hope over the next few years it happens'?

Yes, I think there is. I'd agree with that, yes.

Yes, okay. Is there anything in terms of planning that could help facilitate some of that?

Just to make the point, really, that it is important that we have all the different strategies speaking together, and so, in terms of grid, the energy strategy is really important and how that fits in with EV charging and investment, and, of course, all the various planning—the hierarchy of planning and development plans. We've got 'Future Wales', which looks at grid as well, so that's really important; regional development plans to come forward; and then, local development plans, of course, to go in at the final level. So, it's really important that they take account of all of those different aspects. 'Planning Policy Wales' does reflect electrical vehicle charging, but, again, it is very much—. It's in there to allow people to bring that forward for the actual charging infrastructure, but, in terms of energy, it is very important that we look at where are the best places for this.

But there's another side to this, in that we have to look at energy saving as well. So, it isn't just a case of converting everyone to electric vehicles; we need to think about what else we should be doing—so, the investment in public transport, the investment in active travel and encouragement of that, so we reduce the use of private cars, reducing the use of electric charging, and using it where we need to. 

11:20

You're right; there's always that danger that we just keep on demanding more and more and more. Huw.

It's on that and a related point; I want to ask you both this question. It seems that this is a technology where primarily it's going to be driven by early adopters, more affluent people, people who are willing to take a calculated financial risk to invest in this. And we've heard this morning already the stark differential in the costs of charging a vehicle at home on a trickle charge, or whatever, overnight, compared to some of the super-fast charging that you do and infrastructure—the real social justice issues. Meanwhile, Roisin, we have this longer term objective of not replacing like for like, so every house has two or three or four electric cars, instead of two or three diesel or petrol cars outside. We need to make streets more liveable in terms of planning and so on and so forth, and move towards not just public transport, but carpooling, car sharing, reflecting different needs for it. Where does this figure, if at all, in what we can do with planning and what we can do from a TfW strategic? Because this is to do with joined-up thinking. I know we're focusing on how we drive towards these targets of infrastructure roll-out, but otherwise we end up with the classic stranded assets in the wrong place doing the wrong job in five or 10 years' time.

That is a really big question, actually. In terms of national planning policy—so, 'Planning Policy Wales'—the transport hierarchy is there. It's well said. So, it's about how we embed that into local development plans and getting that taken forward, and then getting those that put forward development, whether that be public sector or private developers, to really take that forward. And that is an issue that perhaps isn't there fully yet, so we need to keep working on that. I'm in discussions at the moment with the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales as well. We're looking at this big question of how do we take that leap from the good national policy that's there and taking that forward to implementation.

I think the regional transport plans and the CJCs will be an important part of that, linking up the planning and the transport agendas. I completely agree with you about the shift in ownership models potentially—car clubs, car subscriptions, all that sort of stuff that could change how things work, and car share, as you said. I think we have got to bring all those things to bear in terms of how these things are played out going forward, which is why, I think, as you've all recognised, it's extremely complex, and getting the role right, especially the public sector investment in that.

Chair, I wonder if I could just follow up on the one unanswered part of my question—and my apologies, because I began with it and then went off into this wider future scoping thing—the issue of social justice and how, as we look to roll this out, if we accept what we've heard this morning, which is it's going to more expensive for people in the terraced houses, in the top end of one of my valleys, to go to a communal pool-charging area and fill it up at possibly four, five or more times the cost of charging, than to do it—. Because they can't run a cable off their own pavement. So, we're actually building in inequity. Sorry, this is something I'll put to the Minister, don't worry, as well. But can the planning system—? Can what you are doing and the way that you're devising this roll-out assist in that, or is that just beyond, because—? 

It is beyond the planning system, but the planning system framework's there, but what we need to do is look at what the alternatives are. Why do we need people, wherever they are in Wales—? Perhaps in very rural areas, it's a slightly different issue, but why do we need them to have a private, individual car that they need to pay that to charge? If there was better—. Top-of-the-valley cycling might not be an option for everyone, although there are electric bicycles, but are there public transport options or the shared options as well? So, we need to be looking at that and investing in that, and maybe the public sector needs to provide some leadership in that side. 

11:25

I would just build on that, and say it is part of the transport system, okay. So, if we break it up into chunks, it becomes very difficult to achieve it in one, but actually what we do want to try and achieve, and what Transport for Wales is working really hard on, is reducing the need for car use, more active travel, more public transport et cetera. So, that's why it needs to be looked at in the round, but it is an extremely difficult question, yes. 

We've strayed into planning quite a bit there. I don't know, Jenny, if you want to pick up on some of those points. 

Yes, okay. Yes. Also, I wanted to pick up on the stranded assets point. There's a carbon cost to doing something that we then rip up. What role does the national infrastructure commission play in assisting you to plan for the future—that's their job—when, as Huw's been talking about, things are going to have to change, because we've got a climate emergency? So, both of you, I wonder if you could—. Mr Ogden, I wonder if you can pick up on what was a bit of an anxiety for me, which is that local authorities are picking the low-hanging fruit, because they're under the cosh financially, but some of the more strategically important issues are therefore not being addressed. 

Well, low-hanging fruit in terms of doing things that are easy to do now, rather than thinking a bit more to the—[Inaudible.] 

I'm not sure I have an answer for you on that one, to be honest.  

Fine. That's okay. But you've not been—. TfW's not been having conversations with the national infrastructure commission.

We are having—. I think we're having a meeting later this month with David Clubb and a couple of others, I think, to talk about things in general, so I'll make sure that this is on the list, but we haven't specifically talked about this with them yet. 

Okay. Because if we're going to have the planning infrastructure for 2050, we need to do it now; we can't be undoing it all again and doing it. So, Roisin, how does your organisation get round this problem? Do you have contact with them? Or are you doing this sort of blue-sky work yourselves? 

We are in discussion at the moment with the infrastructure commission for Wales, actually, about—. It's centred obviously not on EV charging specifically, but about the 15-minute neighbourhood walkable, accessible locations, and we've been doing some work on this as well. So, it's a very good concept in relation to the topic we're discussing today, because you reduce the need for private car usage as much—not take it away completely, but it's trying to find those ways of making places much more liveable for people and not car dominated, which really isn't good for people, from a pollution perspective and also your community cohesion, for all sorts of different reasons, which I know that this committee has discussed in the past. So, we are doing that blue-sky thinking.

One of the things that we do as an institute is an awards scheme, which sounds a little bit superficial, but actually what that does is draw out from people across the built environment industry where good practice is, so that we can then share that with others. And I think that the whole principle of sharing good practice and how things are working, where people take those first steps or perhaps embed some blue-sky thinking into everyday developments et cetera, is really important, about sharing good practice, about how things work on those liveable neighbourhoods and maybe to come through about how electric vehicle charging points can be integrated or transport infrastructure taken forward. 

Okay. So, one of the things mentioned by David Wong, in the previous evidence session, was that in England and Scotland there are some charging points that just go back underneath the street pavement when they're not in use, so that they're not interfering with the buggy or the partially sighted person who would otherwise trip over them. So, what work has been done on, if you like, redesigning the street infrastructure to complement the 15-minute city?

11:30

I wasn't aware of those different types of charging infrastructure, so you shared some good practice there—thank you. There is a problem at the moment with on-street—as I'm sure you're aware—electricity, telephone boxes et cetera, where all of that goes. Planning has no control over that, because it's permitted development, so I think we need to be careful with electric vehicle charging points that we keep under review permitted development for that infrastructure, not to try and be bureaucratic and difficult, but to keep it under review to enable, when technology changes, that there can be some—we can encourage better technology to be brought forward, not just placing it anywhere that's convenient for that particular—you know, in the middle of that pavement, because that's where the wire's come up, but then actually that causes problems for your buggies, or cycle routes. That could be a real problem for cyclists, with charging points.

Totally. So, that takes me back to Mr Ogden's evidence, where you talk about the best practice standards that have been recommended by Government, but they're not enforceable in most cases. Clearly, it feels like there's an urgency around putting in some basic standards to avoid having to redo things that are done wrong. 

I'd agree with that. I think the best practice national guidance that's coming out, clearly, where public funding is going in, there will be an ability to control those sorts of things, but where public funding isn't required, I think having the standard would help on that. I'd agree with the question about permitted development rights too, that, actually there's a lot of call on street space for lots of different things, and 15- or 20-minute neighbourhoods do mean that actually you can move about the place easily, and it's a good place from a placemaking point of view. So, yes, that needs to be taken into account, so I agree with what Roisin said on that too.

Okay. There are also some consumer rights issues, in that Mr Wong mentioned that one in 10 charging points don't work, and, if it was one in 10 vehicles not working, everybody would be up in arms. Why people should be paying with money for something they don't then get, because it's not functioning properly—. So, is that something that Transport for Wales has a role in, in advising on, making these recommendations, and others that may not be in them, mandatory. 

So, we would have—. So, we don't have any statutory powers in our own right. So, we would have—. We can encourage, et cetera, but I think there's probably—. I don't know what the ability of Welsh Government is to set those sorts of standards in law, but there's a good question there. But it does come back to the thing a lot earlier about the confidence levels—if the infrastructure isn't working, then we're on a hiding to nothing, and it's only going to get worse in terms of people not adopting it. So, it is an issue that we need to deal with, and I guess the other role that we would play is, where we are putting in chargers with partners, and on our estate, we need to be making sure that they are working and functioning appropriately. 

So, what particular regulations might be required to wake up the private sector, whose main job it is to provide places where people charge vehicles? At the moment, it's done in a petrol station, but what are the regulations that are needed to ensure that everybody is thinking about how we get around in the future?

Could I come back to you on that one? I find that difficult to answer right now.

Because the planning system can drive a lot of this, can't it? It really can create that necessity to incorporate much of the infrastructure into everyday developments. 

It can—it can require it. It's in national policy that it should be in housing developments, but is that something we want? Do we want to have the focus on having EV charging in every house, or available to every house? So, I think we need to be balanced about would it be better to have good cycling storage or good footway access rather than emphasising the EV charging. So, I think we need to be careful on what planning requires in that sense to think about. 

11:35

Because some of the evidence we had earlier suggested that we don't need that, because average car journeys are 20 minutes, they said, and you don't need to be charging every car in every household every night. 

So, let's go back to these destination charging places. For example, the doctor's surgery, the shop, work, train stations—those sorts of places—which is where this metal box is going to get stationary. You can't charge while you're going along, not from a charging point. What regulation might help assist in getting anybody who wants to put in a new large shop? 

I think the market might be stronger here, in that people might choose a supermarket where they can charge their vehicle at the same time. So, in a way, I think the market can lead on this. There are already some supermarkets that are providing it, and other providers. Perhaps that will be the—. You know, they're doing the trials, or I think they're beyond the trials now. So, I see in supermarkets more charging stations coming in. 

Yes, okay. I know Janet wants to come in on private investment in a moment, but, before we get there, I just wanted to cover one other area, really, and it's about delivering infrastructure on the strategic road network, which has obviously been a focus of your work and you talk about the target for charge-point delivery on the strategic road network, which is going to be delivered two years ahead of target. But, of course, EVA Cymru and others have suggested to us that the programme is generally moving too slowly and is rather unambitious. So, my question, really, is whether we're actually focusing on the right infrastructure being developed in the right locations in terms of the SRN, given that EVA Cymru, for example, sees a need now to move from single rapid chargers more in favour of reliable and managed hubs delivered in collaboration with charge-point operators. They, for example, said earlier that a charge point in Bala is great to fill yesterday's gap, but maybe it isn't looking forward enough in terms of this dynamic attitude and being nimble and able to refocus, really. So, I don't know how you'd respond to that. 

I think that's part of the discussion we're having with Welsh Government about the extent to which the public sector gets involved in addressing those challenges, and the extent to which the private sector does it, and we support. So, the investment that's been made in the strategic road network by the public sector, whilst I think it's 18 sites, it's 35 charge points, so it's relatively significant, I guess, in that context. And where it's being done is by finding the right sites from the grid point of view, finding the right sites from an economy point of view as well, so, actually, each of them, I think, is within a mile of the strategic road network, but in towns, where, actually, there's an opportunity there in that if you've stopped to charge your car up, you can go and engage in the local area and spend money in shops, et cetera.

So, that's been the approach to try and deal with it so far, but I think in terms of—. And that's, obviously, every 25 miles, I think. If we're going to shift the dynamic on that and put more expectation on needing more chargers more frequently, or more chargers in hubs, then that's something we're working with Welsh Government on now to establish what role the public sector would have in that.  

Okay. Thank you. Right, sorry, Janet, we'll come to you now then. There we are. 

Yes, I'm unmuted. How successful has Wales been in attracting both private sector
investment and also the UK Government funding for local authorities, including details of any limiting factors? 

So, we don't have a representative from local authorities, obviously, but maybe, Geoff, you'd have a general overview on that. 

So, I think it's fair to say from what I understand that some local authorities have had difficulty attracting private sector investment, for all the reasons that we talked about earlier in terms of EV take-up generally in different communities and social groups, et cetera. So, there has been engagement from Welsh Government in terms of offering to support that, as I mentioned earlier. We were able to look at, with Ofgem, the green recovery fund—I've forgotten the name of it; the green recovery fund—in terms of helping to create some linkages between some opportunities for investment and that to draw down, which has been good. I think there's the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles funding, which as been drawn in, which refers back to my first point, and then there's obviously the public sector funding coming in from the Welsh Government. From a private sector point of view, I would just go back to that's where we see the lead taking place, and the role that the public sector plays is engaging that and making it happen. So, in the evidence provided, it talked about the number of charge points that have happened over the last year or so. On the one hand, some may say that that's not as high as it might've been. On the other hand, as I said earlier, setting the ground rules now for how we're going to go forward and engaging with the market, going forward, is pretty important to maximise the benefit of private sector investment rather than public sector.

11:40

How do we avoid a situation where the private sector comes in and cherry-picks the more lucrative options, because it was in evidence earlier that we heard that there are models of bundling together, or mixing together, the higher and the lower return proposals? You bundle them together so that the private sector don't just end up taking all the cream and then the public sector ends up having to pick up the pieces, as we've seen in other areas of service delivery, really. Is that something that you're conscious of or mindful of in terms of needing to guard against?

I think we're conscious of it and, again, it's something we need to look at with Welsh Government, because things like price capping actually needs to be thought about very carefully, because it could actually put off a bigger picture in terms of investment. So, we're aware of it; I don't have the answer sitting right here, right now, but that's the sort of challenge we've got to be careful of, and that's why I think we've got to have—. Whilst we've got to have a plan, we've got to be agile on these things and recognise when change is happening and certain things happening. I guess, whilst Transport for Wales and Welsh Government are working very closely together on this, this is probably one more that Welsh Government would need to take a policy view on, which we would be supporting in terms of advice et cetera, rather than Transport for Wales setting anything like that.

There's a lot of talking to Welsh Government that needs to happen. Now, I'm a bit concerned, because we have a strategy and we have an action plan, but still there are a lot of areas that you say you still need to discuss. Surely we should be ahead a little bit of where we are now.

So, there's an action plan that takes us through to 2025. The strategy, then, is clear. The deliverability, how you go about delivering that, is what we're working with Welsh Government on, and we have got a team that is working very closely together on this to make it a reality.

My question, Chair, was primarily to do with local authority, but can I abuse the opportunity just for a moment?

Can I just ask you—? We've got various deadlines set in stone—2025, 2030, 2035. Then we've got the phasing out of any sale, at a UK level, of hybrid and petrol and diesel vehicles and so on, so things are going to change quite rapidly. What does it look like, from a TfW and a planning perspective, for the communities that we represent? Let's talk about a classic post-industrial, semi-urban linear Valleys community. What does it look like for somebody like that who's got an electric car, living on a terraced street? I'm trying to get the reality of this.

Oh, thank you. I'd suggest that we'd need to have provided more local services so that the car stays parked there for longer, or maybe they're sharing their car much more. And that is happening much more because you don't use it as much, you don't need it as much. Maybe the rail and bus facilities are better. But technology will have changed, I'm assuming, quite a lot by then.

11:45

Well, firstly, my point is that, hopefully, they'll be needing to charge it less, because they're not using it as much. But the technology—. As we've seen already, I'm not up to date with the current technology, but the technology will change—

From a planning perspective, where are they charging their car? From what I'm hearing from you, they're walking probably two to five minutes away to a communal area where they're charging their car, which is a big cultural shift, I have to say, from parking outside your house where you want it under the street lamp right outside—safe, looked after and so on. That's a big cultural change. Geoff, what does it look like?

It's really difficult to look into the future, isn't it? Part of this is about scenarios that could play out, but, on things like different ownership models, I don't know what the views of the panel would be around things like autonomous vehicles and that sort of thing, but I would—. Those things need to happen. Off-street parking, I think, has lots of benefits in lots of places, because of using, as we've heard, placemaking, using the street scene differently. But I would always go back, as well, to the transport hierarchy, and actually what we're trying to achieve through that in terms of active travel, public transport, et cetera, so people are thinking about these things differently; they're not necessarily thinking about the private car in the same way as they are now. And that's why I think—. We're doing a lot of work on behaviour change in Transport for Wales; we need to bring this agenda along into that too, to support that sort of mode shift and change in approach.

Okay. We've got about 10 minutes left, so just a couple more questions, if we may. I was just going to ask you to outline a little bit of Transport for Wales's work on communication and stakeholder management generally, but particularly the development and purpose of the planned EV charging service desk.

There is some planning taking place of the service desk. We haven't, as far as I'm aware, yet been given the go on that, and, in terms of the evidence that was provided, I think there was some anticipation of what sort of areas we would be covering. I think, at the very least, that is about sharing best practice between organisations and local authorities, et cetera—it's a service desk for them. We are also considering whether it is a service desk for the public to use as well, and, if that was to happen, then we need to make sure that's fitting in with our other customer service arrangements so that it's one joined-up piece.

In terms of the overall communication so far, I think it's fair to say that actually there's quite a bit of improvement that could take place in terms of engagement with communities, and more generally in terms of the plans, going back to the confidence thing. I guess it will be interesting to hear what other evidence you get more widely, but I think there is generally a challenge on how to consult effectively around things like EV chargers right across the UK, as I understand. We need to be clear on why we're engaging, what the purpose of it is, what we are hoping to get out of that. But I think, if we go back to the SRN network, actually engaging with communities to talk about, 'Well, there could be two chargers coming into this car park here; there are going to be more opportunities for trade in the town', et cetera, et cetera, that's a good story to get people engaged with. There is a benefit in doing more in that, absolutely.

I'm glad you recognise that, because some of the evidence we've had suggests that, in public communications, when you look at it in the round, there's very little reference to EV charging from Transport for Wales. Given that it is a focus of your work, maybe more could be done in—

Sorry, just out of interest, did they talk about that wider UK consultation as well—that it's a challenge that everybody is having—or not?

I think it touches on the wider cultural change that needs to happen, but maybe Transport for Wales should be shouting a bit louder, really, in terms of what you're doing and what the opportunities are, and what provision is being put out there so that people can have that confidence—coming back to confidence, again, where we started—that the infrastructure is moving in the right direction and that they won't be stranded if they invest in an electric vehicle, kind of thing. 

Okay. Joyce, do you want to just conclude?

Just to round up, and again linking to confidence, but also to economic opportunities, benefits and investing. If we're asking people to invest, we will need the skills to be there. And we've heard evidence that those are missing at the moment. So, I don't know what sort of conversations you've had around that, but if you're going to bring all those economic investment benefits and innovation to Wales, it won't happen without the skills to do it, to underpin it. So, are those conversations happening?

11:50

I think they're happening to a degree, but again I'd say that there's an opportunity to increase that. And again, alongside everything else that we're doing, I would look at the opportunity for skills in Wales around this, look to understand what the opportunities in the supply chain are and how we engage more with SMEs into it—how can we do that? So, there's more to do, I would say, but yes, I absolutely see that as an opportunity. 

And what about in planning, because equally, they will need different skills and mindsets, even, to move forward?

Yes. I think on the planning side, the specifics of the EV charging infrastructure, the knowledge of that isn't needed. Maybe the different options of how it sits in the townscape and in the streetscape, et cetera, will be needed. I think planners are mindful of that already. A lot of this kind of infrastructure is out of their hands. As I've said, some of it already has PD rights, so they have no powers over that, or it's taken up through a highways discussion. So, there is a discussion; it's not just about local authority planning decisions, it's about highway decisions as well and bringing the highways officers in. And I suppose 'Manual for Streets' hasn't been mentioned, but that's an important vehicle for us to look at and whether that is the right place for setting the standards of the type of infrastructure we have along roads and streets and how that's incorporated in as well. 

There is a big resourcing issue in planning, which I take the opportunity to raise every time, but that's a different issue, and it's across local government, if not the public sector as a whole. 

Yes. It's different, but very relevant, of course. Jenny, did you want to pick up on something?

Yes. How is it being reflected in the next generation of local development plans, as it's such a major driver of economic activity? Tourism—it could be used as a pump-primer for why people need to stop in my community, spend money in my hostelries where people can be eating food while they're charging. The tourism industry, are they awake to all of this? They seem to be demanding that the Government does something about it; why aren't they doing something about it themselves?

Yes. I don't know about the tourism industry, but it is a really big issue. If you think about that rural side of things, which is where there is a lot of tourism activity, if you have people who come with their electric cars, and there are going to be a lot of people who have that investment, they want to be able to come to rural areas for their holidays and to invest and spend money. So, there is a thought that tourism providers, particularly hoteliers but also pubs or restaurants—

It's outside of planning's remit, perhaps, but yes, very much part of the economic discussions, economic fora that should be taking place. The first electric charging point that I ever saw, which was a long time before we were discussing this, possibly even before Welsh devolution, was in Llanelwedd, behind a cafe there. It used to be a Little Chef, it's something else now. So, there was an electric charging point there, which I remember thinking was from the space age. [Laughter.] But, those are ideas that need to be taken forward by rural tourism, but other services as well. So, yes, very much part of that. 

Well, I think we've come a long way since then, but clearly, there's a long way to go still. We've come to the end of our hour, so can I thank you both very much indeed for your evidence this morning? You'll be sent a draft of the transcript just to check for accuracy, and we may ask for other bits and bobs from you, if that's okay, in terms of areas that we may not have managed to cover in the hour that we had. So, with that, diolch yn fawr iawn.

We will now pause the meeting for 10 minutes, and we will reconvene ready to start at 12:05 so that we can hear from our final panel this morning. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you. 

11:55

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:55 a 12:07.

The meeting adjourned between 11:55 and 12:07.

12:05
4. Gwefru cerbydau trydan - sesiwn dystiolaeth 3
4. Electric vehicle charging - evidence session 3

Iawn, croeso nôl ichi i gyd i Bwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Seilwaith Senedd Cymru. Rŷn ni'n parhau'r gwaith ar drydydd sesiwn dystiolaeth nawr ar wefru cerbydau trydan. Yn ymuno â ni ar gyfer y sesiwn nesaf yma mae Malcolm Bebbington, sy'n bennaeth strategaeth system y dyfodol gyda SP Energy Networks, Benjamin Godfrey, sy'n gyfarwyddwr gweithredwr system ddosbarthu gyda'r Grid Cenedlaethol, ac yn ymuno â ni fan hyn yn yr ystafell bwyllgor mae Dr Neil Lewis, sy'n rheolwr Ynni Sir Gâr ac hefyd yn cynrychioli TrydaNi, Charge Place Wales Ltd, a chlwb ceir y sector ynni cymunedol. Croeso i'r tri ohonoch chi. Fel rôn i'n esbonio, mae gennym ni awr, felly awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau, ac mi wnaf i wahodd Huw i gychwyn.

Welcome back, everyone, to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee at the Welsh Parliament, Senedd Cymru. We're continuing with our work, and, indeed, our third evidence session on electric vehicle charging. Joining us for this next session, we have Malcolm Bebbington, who is head of future systems strategy with SP Energy Networks, Benjamin Godfrey, who is director of distribution system operator with National Grid, and joining us here in the committee room, we have Dr Neil Lewis, who's manager of Carmarthenshire Energy, and also represents TrydaNi, Charge Place Wales Ltd, and the community energy sector's car club. A very warm welcome to the three of you. As I explained, we have an hour and we'll go straight to questions, and I invite Huw to start.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Could I begin by asking our colleague from SP Energy Networks whether you consider the delivery of the Welsh EV charging strategy's 2025 vision is achievable and on target?

Okay, yes, sure. So, I think we would say that the vision is rightly ambitious, but the timescales are challenging. It's perhaps hard to state whether delivery is on target, as there's quite limited public information on some of the interim targets and progress, but as the distribution network operator for north and mid Wales, our role, of course, is delivering the network capacity that EV chargers need. And we have investment plans for the next five years, ED2, which have been developed closely in conjunction with Welsh Government. Those investment plans will facilitate the forecast volumes of EV chargers that are set out in the strategy, and we have ambitious delivery plans in order to be able to meet that.

So, we're planning to invest in installing between 6,000 and 10,000 new services into our Welsh customers' homes; that's where service cables don't have sufficient capacity at the moment to facilitate domestic charging. We're also intervening at over 600 sub-stations across mid and north Wales, and that's going to be combined with smart solutions as well as procuring over 100 MW of flexibility, and that will facilitate between 100,000 and 250,000 EVs in mid and north Wales. And the reason for the range in there is so that our investment plans can flex up and down depending on the requirements. In addition to that, the investment there will also enable hundreds of high-quality jobs in Wales in our local communities.

12:10

I wonder if I could put the same question to our National Grid witness as well. 

Certainly. We also would echo that the plan is very ambitious, but it's also quite a pragmatic plan. We feel that there are a lot of sensible steps in there in order to deliver net zero, and we're starting to see, particularly with electric vehicles, there being a real groundswell between customer uptake and participation in electrifying transport through this particular mechanism. We definitely feel that the EV strategy set out will best enable that and allow a particular regional pathway to enable that really important part of decarbonisation.

In terms of progress on that, we certainly think that progress is being made, and we think that it's probably in step with the current uptake that we're seeing of electric vehicles in Wales. I think we have to recognise that there is a lot of regionality between the growth and uptake of electric vehicles, so it's certainly something that we're closely monitoring. Our investment plans, particularly over the next decade, are very much in line with delivering capacity, both on the primary networks to service motorway service areas and other large hubs, but also the secondary network in ensuring that we've got sufficient capacity there ahead of need for those domestic customers so that we can really drive confidence in allowing customers to connect, that they have charging provision, and really be confident that the grid is going to be there to support their decarbonisation plans.

Thanks for that, and I know that colleagues are going to come back, Chair, on the issue of grid issues generally. But let me go a little bit further with this, and perhaps open it up to our other two witnesses by asking them for their views on both the strategy for 2025, but also on the EV charging action plan, whether that's an effective document, the KPIs that are within it, the speed of progress on the action points—anything that should be in there that isn't in there as well. Neil, I don't know if you want to begin.

Thanks, Huw. It was a very worthy document when it was launched, but it's already out of date, I'd say, because the way we used to think about rapids in those days was a 50 kW single charger, but those days are gone now, as I'm sure you're aware. We're talking about super-rapid hubs now of 875 kW as a minimum, because anyone who's turned up in the Metrople at Llandrindod with a low battery and found that BP haven't bothered to switch it on realises that a single 50 kW charger isn't fit for purpose.

I think when we quote data of the EVs in Wales, there's a lack of EVs in Wales because of the lack of infrastructure. So, any talk of the infrastructure following the number of EVs in Wales is probably the wrong way of looking at it, I'd say. But my feeling is that we're trying to do it all ourselves, and bringing in Transport for Wales and training Transport for Wales from a standing start, but the commercial sector is already way ahead of us, so what we need to do as grid operators, may I respectfully suggest, is provide the opportunity for ultra-rapid hubs in mid and west Wales and north Wales, obviously, rural Wales. If they do that in half a dozen locations, they'll have achieved their objectives as far as EV users in Wales are concerned.

Okay. I think I've gone far enough on that, because I think colleagues, Chair, will take this forward. Thank you.

You spoke about half a dozen opportunities, if you like, and they would meet their objective, but is that objective stretching enough?

No, but it would make a big difference. You may know that I've been driving electric cars for about 12 years around Wales, and I cannot believe that we're still having this conversation about the difficulty of getting from south Wales to north Wales. I used to joke in my presentations that the gap between the A55 and the M4 is called Wales, and there is very little infrastructure between the M4 and the A55, and it really is squeaky bum stuff when you try and drive in Wales in a standard electric vehicle these days. I don't understand why we haven't already unblocked that. It's a source of some frustration and a bit of embarrassment, really, why we haven't got a couple of hubs in Newtown, Aberystwyth—Tesla have got a hub in Aberystwyth now that other users can use, but it wouldn't take much just to put a few hubs in, just to start us off.

What about some joined-up working to deliver this, because it can't all be down to local authorities or any one sector? So, in terms of that joined-up thinking, is that happening?

12:15

I think there's a huge role for the Welsh Government and the local authorities on the social equity front, because, obviously, 40 per cent of people don't have off-road parking, apparently. I picked up that figure a long time ago; I might be making it up, I've said it so often. For the people in high-density housing—flats and terraced housing—there's a need to allow them to access charging, but, more importantly, for them to access charging at an affordable rate. My wife and I are charging at 7.5p a unit overnight with our electric vehicles, and yet, someone who hasn't got off-road parking is maybe paying 75p, or even more, so 10 times as much. I'm imploring the local authorities now to access more sophisticated rates of payment for electricity. Because the suppliers are desperate to get rid of electricity through the night, so they'll sell it for 7.5p, 5p, and we've got to make that accessible to the people without off-road parking. That's a job of work for the Welsh Government and for local authorities. 

When it comes to the local authorities, when we started up TrydaNi, we hadn't had a penny of public money; the community energy sector funded it, and we did a crowdfunder as well. And so we said, 'Right, we've got money, we've got this, that and the other, let's go.' We've had thousands of hours of meetings with local authorities, and they're all very enthusiastic, they're all lovely people, but they never make a decision. I suggest that one of the roles for the Welsh Government would be to incentivise and penalise—have a regime of targets for local authorities. I won't name names; I can mention half a dozen local authorities where you get to the stage where you go, 'Right, now we can have a rapid in this car park', and then the car park manager comes in and says, 'You're not having my parking space' and that's the end of it. There are one or two very aggressive car parking managers who are desperately trying not to get rid of any car parking spaces, so nothing's happened.

Jenny wants to come in, but I'll just allow you, Huw, first of all, because you're responding to something that was said directly.

Tell us how that would work, how we deal with that social justice issue. Because if we leave this to the private sector in terms of the roll-out, in terms of liaising where these are, and so on, but typically the price and the affordability, I can't see it happening. 

I don't think it's that difficult. I think it's just joined-up thinking, as was mentioned. The Connected Kerb charging—. I parked by the St David's hotel and there's a couple of Connected Kerb chargers there. They're very much trying to access that. I'm a newly elected county councillor in Carmarthenshire, and I'm saying to them—. They say, 'Electricity's expensive, will we save money by going electric?' Well, if you access time-of-use tariffs, and charge your fleet overnight, and then sell that electricity back to the grid at breakfast time, the authority will make money, you know what I mean, not just save money. So, it's just more imagination. And I get the feeling—

You think those should be somehow reflected in more updated KPIs or something. 

Absolutely. I think what the document says—. It was very well meaning, and I'm not being patronising; it really was of its time. But by the time we deliver, as local authorities, or as Welsh Government, the commercial operators have run rings around us. When we started TrydaNi, one of the large commercial operators came in and said, 'Right, if you find the sites for rapid hubs, we'll pay you a finder's fee, and also we'll pay you 5 per cent of profit for 20 years, and we'll pay the local authority 15 per cent.' So, it was a really good deal. And so we went away and said, 'Look, we've got great news, you haven't got to invest any money.' This commercial operator's got billions of pounds, not millions of pounds—billions. It's a Luxembourg infrastructure group, and they obviously want to take a very patient capital, very long-term view. So, it was a no-brainer for the local authority. It was free infrastructure and it would have solved their headache without using any public money whatsoever, but no-one was incentivised to make a decision. It's safer not to make decisions.

As you've had all these conversations with local authorities, how come they aren't seeing it as a regeneration opportunity? Tourism is one of our main industries, and if you want to get people to come into Wales with their expensive electric vehicles, they're going to have to have charging points.

We've met some really good people. We've been working with Anglesey, Gwynedd. As experienced electric vehicle drivers, and proponents of electric vehicles, we've had to train a lot of people from a standing start, as I mentioned, with Transport for Wales as well. They get to a stage where they get it, they access funds from Welsh Government, they're ready to go, and they're very good at it by that stage, but they won't go beyond—. The imagination won't stretch to the next stage of working quicker. It seems that local authorities declare a climate change emergency and then carry on with business as usual. It seems the declaration of the climate emergency is the peak of their ambitions, and nothing changes, and that's a real worry, isn't it, from a scientific point of view. 

12:20

We'll pick up on some of these themes later on. We move on now to focus again on the grid. Janet, do you want to raise a few issues? 

Thank you, Chair. What is the reason that stakeholders continue to describe the grid as a significant constraint on EV charging infrastructure deployment, despite the apparently extensive work outlined in SP Energy Networks’ evidence?

Perhaps I could start with that one. There will, of course, always be areas about the grid that are constrained, but we have been doing significant investments, looking at the way to create additional capacity, and working closely with the Welsh Government and Transport Scotland as part of our green recovery investment programme. If we talk about the green recovery programme, that's going to deliver 21 MW of EV chargers—that's across 25 trunk roads—and they're due to be commissioned this year. That's a really significant investment programme. If we look back, and we think about what we've done to create additional capacity over the last five years, it's been about 130 MW against a peak demand of 750 MW in mid and north Wales. We've deployed innovation, so we've established a DC link between the mainland and Anglesey—that's increased capacity by about 25 per cent in that area—and we've also done a lot to develop our tools. With EV forecasting, for example, we're able to accurately predict where our customers are going to want to charge their EVs at a domestic level.

If we look forward now, so if we think about the next five years—ED2—we're going to double the level of investment to create capacity in Wales, and our plans have been developed in conjunction with the Welsh Government. Our forecasters—I think I mentioned before—are very much aligned with what's set out in the strategy and what's set out in the action plan. In terms of the way in which we're going to go about that, the first is to absolutely maximise the use of the existing network, so getting every drop of capacity out of the existing wires. To do that we're going to significantly increase visibility of the network: we're installing thousands of substation monitors, as well as procuring over 100 MW of flexibility across 241 sites in mid and north Wales. We're going to add new capacity to the networks, so we're installing between 6,000 and 10,000 new services into customers' homes, over 200 km of circuits, as well as intervening and installing new and upgraded substations across 600 sites.

Also, renewable generation is a big part of this, so that EV chargers can be powered by zero-carbon energy, and to facilitate that over the next five years, we're going to be doubling the level of generation that would be connected in Wales. And, also, we've put a team of engineers in place, which we refer to as 'strategic optimisers', and the aim of this team of engineers is purely to work closely with the Welsh Government, to work closely with local authorities and the local communities, on things like local area energy plans and helping to get the right infrastructure in place to facilitate the charging infrastructure. So, there's an awful lot that's been done, and is being done, in this area.  

Thank you. Can I just ask, Chair—? That's sounds great. Doubling the capacity sounds really marvellous. However, there's so much renewable energy coming on board here in Wales. I live facing Llandudno bay, and all the infrastructure that's coming there. We've got floating wind turbines coming off Pembrokeshire, and other schemes all rolling along. Is it going to be enough? 

Perhaps I can come in on this one. I think one of the key challenges, but also opportunities, that we've got as a distribution network is to make sure that we can link the right amount of generation, so that we can bring on new demand, particularly making sure that they are both renewable demands and renewable generations. I think that this is one of the important things that we can take from the renewable generation growth that we’ve seen over the past few years and transfer across, particularly to electric vehicles. In south Wales we were able to connect—and consistently across a number of years, through when we had a big boom in renewables—over 300 MW-worth of connected capacity every year, and bring in new capacity to be able to serve that. That’s something that we can replicate for electric vehicles. We just need to find a consistent way of working with the industry and making sure that our capacity is delivering in lockstep with industry. I think that’s really where we’ve struggled to find a good rhythm so far. The delivery of a lot of the EV infrastructure is predicated on the market going first and indicating where it needs to be, but that market isn’t quite there, and you get into this chicken-and-egg situation. I think there are some technical steps that we could take, and particularly going into the next price control we’ve got a greater ability to be able to lead on some of that investment without customers having to contribute as much, particularly where there is a lack of infrastructure. So, we’re really keen to work with local authorities and at a regional level to identify those areas where us installing new infrastructure there is zero or low regret, and start making those technical steps to provide a capacity out to the network.

12:25

Again, it’s back to my point that saying there isn’t the demand is unrealistic, because there’s going to be a huge demand coming forward. Thirty per cent of new car sales in December were electric, and the danger is, as I’ve said before, that all the diesels that are leaving London are going to end up in rural Wales, and we still won’t have the demand because we’ll all be driving 15-year-old diesel cars. We’ve got to be a bit more ambitious than that.

Another point is the fleets. If anyone is putting petrol or diesel in their fleet vehicle they’re wasting public money. Carmarthenshire council are very proud of their 10 electric cars that are about 10 years old, and they’ve got 800 vehicles on the road. I think we should be motivating local authorities to access Office for Zero Emission Vehicles funding. Back to the social equity question, 75 per cent of street infrastructure is funded by OZEV, but it requires the local authority to apply for that money. So if the local authorities aren’t applying for that money, it’ll stay in Oxford and London. With the fleets we need to set targets of 50 per cent electrified fleets for light vehicles by 2025, and maybe 100 per cent by 2028. Be ambitious; see the horizon that you’re trying to get to. Because the science demands it. This idea of Paris-aligned 2050 is nonsense, isn’t it?

Do you as witnesses agree with evidence suggesting grid limitations deter private capital investment in charge points, and that this then leads to patchy provision?

I think certainly the lack of capacity in particular areas is not enabling the growth in those particular areas to come forward. But I do think that it is really about the economic decision. Where there are pockets of capacity that are abundant, it makes it a lot easier for the market to go in there and provide charging provision at a much lower cost. Those are the opportunities that the market is seeking to tackle first. Where we’ve got areas of the network where perhaps either network infrastructure doesn’t exist, or it’s a lower capacity, they’re less attractive.

What we have seen, going back to the solar and wind example, is that where there is sufficient economic advantage of infrastructure being delivered in those particular areas, then industry, network operators and people seeking connections can make sure that infrastructure is there and can roll that out. We’ve got the delivery capability, but I think it’s as much an economic decision. At the moment, that’s being led by the market, and we’re starting to see that lagging. So, they’re taking opportunities where there is more capacity that is more available and choosing those first to roll out. And really, if we want to have consistent coverage, particularly in areas where there is sparse infrastructure or perhaps lower volumes of market activity, then perhaps some other catalyst needs to step in to make sure that there is adequate provision.  

12:30

Yes, purely—. You had an interesting choice of words there, that the grid capacity may not be enabling people to step into a particular area. The converse of that is it's constraining. So, can I just try and unwrap that a little bit? Is it constraining investment in the infrastructure that we're talking about because the grid infrastructure is not there—as opposed to not enabling, it's constraining? 

I think what we can see now, particularly with the consumption of electricity across our region, and the area particularly in south Wales, we can see a year-on-year reduction over the past two decades based around energy efficiency and just general reduction of consumption. So, there is capacity in the network, but it's just not necessarily in those areas where new use cases such as electric vehicle charging are seeking to open up and use that capacity. What we are seeing is that as it's a market-led approach then the most economically advantageous areas where they can get these projects off the ground are being taken first, and I think that there is a certain expectation that, as that lower hanging fruit gets developed first, then it will be expanded out. 

What we're trying to do, and one of our main duties, is run an efficient and economic network. There is huge appetite for us to ensure that we've got the right amount of infrastructure, but we need to make sure that we're doing that in the right period of time, just ahead of need. We could go out and gold plate the network and provide excess capacity everywhere—that really wouldn't be an efficient way of running the network, and it wouldn't be something that would be supported by our regulator. 

What sort of joined-up working is there? I represent rural mid and west Wales, and time and time again we are informed that it's the inadequacy of the national grid that's preventing any expansion into renewable energy, for example, and other forms of energy. So, I don't want to get into a chicken-and-egg situation here, which is clearly what's happening at the moment. So, what sort of joined-up thinking is there between you as providers and also the policymakers, particularly Westminster policymakers, because the big projects aren't devolved here in Wales? I'd be very interested to know that. 

Certainly. So, I think this is one area where we have really made huge strides in progress over the past couple of years. So, there are two big changes that have been being progressed over the past couple of years, and will be embedded for April of next year: one is our next price control; this is a five-year period. We have just, as of last month, landed on the—[Inaudible.]—determination from the regulator. That is seeking to enable a lot more capacity across our network, so an additional 30 per cent to 100 per cent more investment in new capacity than what we were doing before. That has been the end of a negotiation process between us and the regulator and all network companies have also been involved in the process. And I think that recognises the improved recognition of additional needs for capacity across all of our regions, both for demand and generation. So, that investment will be being turned on from April onwards.

The second point is about ensuring that the grid is enabling connections, and this is one area where the regulator is taking some quite big steps, particularly in reducing the charges that are apportioned through to customers. So, demand customers, particularly electric vehicle charging operators, they will receive much lower charges for connections than they would have done prior to April. That's a big step that the regulator has made, in recognition of that the way that the charging boundary was working wasn't really enabling electric vehicles and other forms of decarbonisation.

12:35

Okay. Malcolm, your evidence talks about how critical the next price control period is going to be as well in terms of network investment, but also whether there's sufficient collaboration and communication on EV infrastructure plans. Do you want to just expand a little bit on that as well?

Yes. So, I'll talk a little bit about how our plan was put together. So, our network planning process considers the growth of EV. So, the first stage of this, in developing our plans, is the development of our distribution future energy scenarios. So, this forecasts EV growth out to 2050, and these forecasts are of course informed by legislative targets, credible net-zero-compliant forecasts, such as from the committee on climate change, and stakeholder input, also, of course, from Welsh Government. To assist in more localised planning, we've developed—and I think I touched on them before—leading EV-specific forecasting tools. One of them was an innovation project called EV-Up, and this uses spatial, demographic, socioeconomic data to forecast the likelihood and then timing of EV adoption, and that's across all of the properties that we serve. And this has helped us in our plans for the next five years, to ensure that we're targeting the network investment where it's needed. In terms of matching energy supply to demand, we're supporting, as I mentioned before, the connection of more renewable generation in Wales, so EV chargers can be powered with zero carbon energy. If we think about our Welsh network, it's already a net exporter of electricity at high demand, due to the level of generation that's installed, and that's set to increase quite significantly.

Okay. Thank you for that. What I'm trying to get at, really, is what more can the energy planning and regulation process do to help and facilitate this future growth and visualisation of what's needed, really, in futureproofing, encouraging anticipatory investment. Because, of course, we're not only looking at EV; it was mentioned to us earlier that homes will have heat pumps—there's a whole array of demands that are coming. We can see it coming and, unless the infrastructure is there, then it ain't going to happen, is it? Ben.

Yes. This is a really, really pertinent point, particularly as we've just gone through the recent price control determination. We submitted quite an ambitious business plan, seeking £6.7 billion to invest in the network, recognising that our customers were asking for more capacity to connect electric vehicles and heat pumps. However, there is a range of different scenarios on uptake, and, at the moment, there's quite a lot of uncertainty about when the capacity will be required and in which locations. We went through quite a rigorous process to engage with customers and provide that supporting evidence to feed into our business plan. But, ultimately, the regulator felt that there wasn't quite sufficient evidence to seek that level of investment, and has brought that level of investment down. They've left it open-ended. There are uncertainty mechanisms that we can use to increase the amount of investment as those developments come on stream and we start seeing the number of EVs and heat pumps within our networks increase. We're really keen to continue to work with local authorities, particularly in developing local area energy plans, so that not only we can provide a consistent understanding about where the forecasts for those technologies are, but also ensuring that we've got tactical and time-bound actions that we're undertaking to really spur on the delivery. And I think that is our key ask, really, that we continue that ongoing dialogue, to make sure that not only we've got aligned investment forecasts, but that we're actually supportive, understanding who needs to deliver what actions, what the roles and responsibilities are.

And that brings us back again to the collaboration aspect that we touched on earlier. So, are you concerned that the target and key performance indicators in the EV action plan aren't being met? For example, target dates to establish a connections group and a charge-point operator group, they've been missed, so are we not justified, as Members, in being concerned that what was said is going to be done is not happening? I know that may be a question to the Minister, but clearly you would be some of the people sat around that table.

12:40

So, certainly, we're very supportive of having those discussions. We have them across different regions as well, and we've supported different types of industry in having those discussions, to bring forward that evidence and that co-ordinated plan. So, I think we'd be very happy to support that.

Yes. And just to add to that, we would be absolutely supportive of—[Inaudible.]—the group if it's created. We do already work closely with Welsh Government through various other forums. I talked about our future energy scenarios before that. That's of course not just EVs; that's heat pumps, that's generation, that includes all of our demand and generation forecasts, so that is already embedded within our plan. And, as Ben touched on before, there are opportunities, using the regulatory mechanisms over the next five years, for the plan to be able to flex up and down, using uncertainty mechanisms, to meet whatever scenario occurs. But if we do need to access those uncertainty mechanisms then the support of Welsh Government could be very helpful. Support from Welsh Government, as we were developing our plans and securing the necessary investment for the next five years, has been absolutely instrumental in developing our plans and getting them approved by the regulator.

Okay. Thank you. And finally from me, just on this section, the Welsh Government's action plan commits to working with the electricity industry to review arrangements for electrical supply to buildings. I'm just wondering whether you see a benefit to that kind of review and whether you're aware of whether that's under way or not.

So, perhaps to come in there, to my knowledge, I'm not sure whether that's started. I think we would see a review as being beneficial. We would very much welcome that work and be happy to support it.

Yes. Okay. Well, especially if you're investing a lot of money into substations, I think that would be useful, wouldn't it, really?

Okay. Thank you very much. I want to look at how we're spreading the good message and the advantages of having electric vehicles rather than simply just replicating existing models. So, Malcolm, you, in your paper, talk about using forecasting as to where demand is going to be. Is there nothing that's being done, unless it's with public money, to, if you like, buck the trend, regenerate? You got money from Ofgem to put charging points in on the A5 network, including at the Rhug estate. Isn't that something that the private sector could have done for itself?

So, that was green recovery funding, and we believe that's been a very successful project that is about to be commissioned, as I think I touched on before, to provide charging points in those key strategic locations where they don't exist at the moment. So, I think you could perhaps consider it to be kick starting the requirement in those places where there weren't the bulk charging points.

But you had a successful business that's perfectly capable of enhancing its business model, whereas other communities might need a bit more of a helping hand.

Yes. So, that was getting the charging infrastructure in place where it needs it. That's the larger charging points. In addition to that—I think we mentioned our forecasting before—we've put into place or we've invested a lot in developing forecasting tools to understand which of our customers are likely to get EVs first and ensuring that services, for example, are capable of facilitating domestic chargers.

12:45

Another thing, just to add, the green recovery was a very interesting case in how networks can take decisions in consultation with some of the parties that wish to connect to a network and advance reinforcement ahead of any particular trigger. So, it's very much strategic investment doing things ahead of need. We have got some nods to strategic investment, however, much of our investment is tied to very concrete plans where either customers are already there waiting or paying their own contribution of money towards taking investment forward. That is the way that it's always worked. It does deliver growth across the networks, but it requires some contribution from connecting customers to tilt the balance and show that there is a required need in there. 

I think one of the areas that we'd really like to see advance over the next few years is not necessarily needing the burden of evidence to be connecting customers waiting behind constraints or waiting with additional money to feed into the connections, but the evidence being supplied by networks in conjunction with local authorities to demonstrate that there is a need there, albeit it's not a need that is contingent upon one particular market-led supplier coming in there and providing that additional third-party finance. I think that would very much stimulate some of the growth.

Okay. So, what would your strategy be for putting charging points on the A470, which is obviously the spine that connects north and south Wales?

I think, in a lot of those circumstances where we know that there is going to be a requirement for charging provision, then as long as we can get agreement with the stakeholders in those particular areas that they are happy to support those and that they are required, then the network should be allowed to go and get on and ensure that the network is fit to be able to accommodate that. The issue that we have is that for every £1 of investment that we make, then that has to be recouped by everybody's bills, and electricity bills are slightly regressive as well. We just have to be very careful about when we're making the commitment to expand that infrastructure out, that it is going to be needed and it's not going to be a stranded asset.

Okay. So, as far as you're concerned, then, it's the role of Government to fill in that major hole in the EV network charging points.

Certainly we have our part to play in delivering the infrastructure and identifying where the best and most economic solutions are, but we can only do so in lockstep with getting allowances from the regulator. So, the regulator there needs to be supported, I would say, certainly by regional Government, in agreeing that these are justified and that they are a correct way of spending bill payers' money.

Okay. But, what about—? Given that we're talking about the area of Wales that's not connected to the grid, or very poorly connected to the grid, what would be the strategy for combining community renewable generation and electricity storage? What role could you play in making that happen?

Again, particularly where a customer is wishing to connect to a network, we have a statutory duty to be able to provide them a valid connection offer, associated with cost and timescales. We have traditionally used conventional infrastructure—overhead lines, underground cables and transformers—to go and provide that capacity, but we're not so constricted now; we're able to use other alternative connections, either with the flexibility that Malcolm suggested or seeking that from energy storage as well. So, I definitely think we have a much greater plethora of options on the table, but it's still very much contingent upon that first-end customer coming along and kick-starting those discussions. Where we're talking about strategic investment, then we need to build that case with stakeholders, and I think this is where local area energy plans can really play a huge part in that. If we can designate particular areas for really accelerating renewables or storage or any other decarbonisation through electricity, if we can designate particular areas in conjunction with stakeholders and local authorities, then that gives us the business case to start making that investment and opening up that capacity.

12:50

Okay, so, there's nothing in your business plan to use underused assets, say, in the middle of the night, to top up particular sites and then get it used, obviously, when people are actually moving around.

So, the flexibility that Malcom alluded to earlier on, we are certainly providing financial signals through to customers and assets, indeed maybe storage, to make sure that they are doing the right thing that is co-ordinated with the network. So, pulling in when there are times of excess energy and exporting when there's excess demand. We're certainly providing those economic signals through to those customers. We're not able to invest in storage ourselves. It's an activity that sits outside of our licence duties, but we're certainly making those partnerships with third-party investment to be able to enable that to happen.

Okay. But there's nothing you could point to, even through Western Power Distribution, which you now own?

Our distribution area of the business is forbidden from owning storage. It's outside of our legal—

So, in terms of the economic signals that we're sending out, we've procured over 900 MW worth of flexibility. Some of that is from storage, some of that is from EVs flexing and using overnight tariffs, and we certainly see that as a big part. It's not just all about conventional infrastructure—it's certainly a lot of flexibility that we'd be seeking.

Okay, yes, Neil, this whole thing about renewable energy generation, storage, plugging your EV into it, particularly for rural areas, is something I'd imagine you've been grappling with for years.

Yes. I think the two things are slightly separate, you'd be surprised, because renewable energy is going to go forward and is at scale now—there's offshore wind and what have you. The charging infrastructure is slightly different, and whilst the grid is crucially important—I think places need strengthening, obviously—from our experience, we've found locations where the commercial operators wanted to strengthen the grid—so, putting in a new substation to put in rapid chargers—and it was the landowner that was always the blockage, and the landowner was invariably the local authority—not always, but like a carpark in the middle of a market town in mid Wales—and we just couldn't get past that landowner, because it requires negotiation, it requires legal documents, and they just weren't engaging, really.

I'm struggling to understand why, because you could do a local community renewable energy scheme and then you'd make some money for your community. What's not to like in all that?

I don't know if you've been to our Cross Hands hub in Carmarthenshire. It was paid for by the Welsh Government.

That's a really nice example. It's got a solar canopy, batteries and four 50 kW chargers and one 150 kW charger, and it's very well located next to a coffee shop and what have you. But, even then, the solar canopy's a nice to have—it's not really supplying all that electricity. So, I think the renewable energy market has to go on, and the grid guys will have to be dealing with that side of things. But the charging infrastructure isn't directly linked to that, I don't think.

So, you've never had dealings with Powys then, which, obviously, is a massive land mass.

Oh, right. So, they've not jumped on this as a serious opportunity for attracting business.

No. People won't talk to me again if I spill the beans, but it follows a certain pattern. They engage very enthusiastically, whichever county we might be speaking of, and then it peters out. Maybe it takes six months, maybe it takes hundreds of voluntary hours from the community energy sector, but nothing ever comes of it. You can look back when you attend an event like this and think, 'So, what have we achieved over the last three or fours years?' We're putting lots of chargers on community buildings at the moment—7 kW, 22 kW.

Do you do much work with community councils? Because a lot of them have quite a lot of dosh, and they might think of that as an effective way of investing for the benefit of their community. 

You'd think so, but I've done lots of presentations, through Renew Wales and things, to community councils and community buildings and what have you, and you don't make a lot of money from car charge points. If you're charging people, if there's a contactless card payment system, it costs money to maintain, and it's quite temperamental technology. So, once they hear that having a charge point on the building won't necessarily make them rich, they lose a bit of interest, really.