E-mobility kicks into top gear: Where will everybody charge their electric car? | In Principle

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E-mobility kicks into top gear: Where will everybody charge their electric car?

Poland’s state-funded My Electricity programme, which provides subsidies for home photovoltaic installations, contributed to the installation of over 220,000 home PV installations in two years. The installation of new PV capacity in Poland has accelerated rapidly, reaching 4.1 GW in March 2021 (up from 557 MW at the end of 2018). A similar increase may soon apply to electric car charging installations, as according to announcements by the Ministry of Climate and Environment, from July 2021 owners of individual chargers will also be able to obtain funding from the programme.

Easy to install chargers at multi-family buildings

Regulatory changes will also make it easier to install charging points. Pursuant to an amendment to the Electromobility and Alternative Fuels Act currently under discussion, in multi-family residential buildings with more than three residential units, chargers would be installed at the request and expense of the owner of an apartment, holding title to the parking space where the charger is to be installed. The application would be addressed to the property manager, whose consent would be a mandatory condition for installation of a charger.

The second condition is the preparation of an expert opinion confirming that the electrical installation in the building is capable of providing electricity of sufficient power to guarantee safe installation and operation of a charging point. The cost of the expert opinion, as well as installation of the charger, would be covered by the owner of the unit.

Newly constructed residential buildings with more than 10 parking spaces would have to be equipped with the necessary conduits for electrical wiring so that, if necessary, a charger could be installed in the future at each parking space.

New regulations for commercial areas

For non-residential buildings, the proposed requirements are slightly different. Those with more than 10 parking spaces would have to be equipped with at least one charging point by default. In turn, the necessary conduits for electric cables enabling the connection of charging points in the future would have to be routed in such a way that it would be possible to install one charging point for every five parking spaces.

Not only new buildings

The requirements for cable conduits and chargers in non-residential buildings would also apply to renovated and redeveloped buildings. However, this would only apply to major renovations where the cost of the work carried out on the building envelope or technical systems represents more than 25% of the value of the building (not including the land value), and the cost of installing charging points and conduit infrastructure does not exceed 7% of the total cost of the refurbishment or renovation. The act would also require investors to obtain consent of the province landmarks inspector if the project relates to a building that is a landmark.

Unbundling of charging infrastructure

The amendment currently under discussion would also introduce a clear ban on possession and operation of public charging stations by distribution system operators. As an exception, they would only be allowed to own or operate a charging station temporarily after construction of a publicly accessible charging station and only when, despite an open, transparent and non-discriminatory tender, the station could not be sold to another entity.

New codes for operators

Charging station operators entered in the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Register would receive an individual EIPA code as a condition for participation in the register. The register collects and releases information on the location of publicly available charging stations and the payment terms. The cost of maintaining an EIPA code will be PLN 50 per month for each charging station.

Problems with connection infrastructure

However, all of the instruments described above may not bring the expected results, due to the huge investment needs in distribution networks. For years, they have been one of the main problems in the development of renewable energy sources as well.

It is also worth emphasising that network capabilities will be affected by the behaviour of the users themselves. Efficient (but not the fastest) charging of an electric car requires a power supply of 11–22 kW per car. Meanwhile, the standard connection capacity in most apartments in multi-family dwellings in Poland is 4 kW (only recently has a capacity of 8–10 kW become standard). This means that at best the required power will double—theoretically.

This is where the behaviour of users enters the picture. It is assumed that cars will be charged at night, i.e. when the household’s energy demand is the lowest. Then, the power required would increase only slightly, by a few kilowatts (taking into account the 15 kW charger capacity and the existing 10 kW connection capacity). If, on the other hand, charging is carried out mainly during the day, then the power would have to increase by 15 kW, i.e. more than double.

The situation in older buildings would be much more difficult, where the capacity would have to be increased several times over. This creates challenges not only in the context of reconstruction of distribution networks (which is already consuming huge resources—for example, one Polish company spent PLN 2 billion for this purpose in 2020 alone), but also in terms of reconstruction of the electrical installations in buildings. Often built several decades ago, they are not adapted to such a rapid increase in power consumption. Modernisation in this area may involve replacement of the transformer supplying power to residential buildings and, subsequently, replacement of the lines supplying it with electricity.

The solution to this problem will be further growth of auto-generation in residential and commercial buildings, combined with the storage of surplus generated energy, which will then be used for car charging, relieving the pressure on the existing connection infrastructure. If investment is oriented in this direction, it would significantly reduce the scale of investments needed for unfettered growth of electromobility. However, it should be taken into account that large expansion of electromobility may occur faster than the construction of sufficient power storage capacity. Then, the persons who first decide to buy an electric vehicle will benefit from the possibility of connecting a charger.

It is also necessary to develop educational solutions fostering appropriate human behaviours, allowing for an increase in consumption from networks in off-peak hours, and introducing smart-city solutions allowing for control of flows in the network.

Article written in cooperation with the portal oenergetyce.pl

Igor Hanas, adwokat, Rafał Pytko, Energy practice, Wardyński & Partners