In this week's edition we look at the government response to its consultation on FIT accreditation scheme deadline changes, Ofgem's amendment of its approval for the CNG Network Innovation Competition Project and Zap-Map's interoperable charging payments app, and more.

Government publishes response to its consultation on FIT accreditation scheme deadline changes

Following the commencement of the Feed-In Tariffs (FIT) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 on 31 March, the government has now published its response to its consultation on FIT accreditation deadlines. The FIT (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 provides projects which are at risk of missing their accreditation deadlines between 1 March to 30 September 2020 with an extension to complete commissioning and accredit under the FIT scheme. The consultation response confirms that such extensions are available to:

  • Hydro installations with initial accreditation falling after 1 October 2020 – these projects will be entitled to a 12 month extension.
  • All installations with initial accreditation deadlines falling between 1 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 – these projects will have their existing six month extension increased to 12 months.

The response also explains that it is not possible under current primary legislation to provide for a flexible extension and that a 12 month extension is considered a reasonable and proportionate response for hydro installations. Similarly, the response highlights that the 12 month extension for all initial accreditation deadlines falling between 1 March and 30 September 2020 will provide parity for installations across all technologies.

Compressed natural gas HGV vehicle filling station: Ofgem agrees changes for Northern Gas Networks

In a letter addressed to gas distribution network, Northern Gas Networks Limited (NGN), Ofgem has amended its approval for the City CNG Network Innovation Competition Project. The Project, which originally envisaged the creation of the first compressed natural gas commercial vehicle filling station to be located in Leeds, was awarded funding by Ofgem in November 2015.

NGN originally intended to partner with Leeds City Council to complete the Project. However, as a result of being unable to secure the necessary land for a trial site, NGN requested that the Project continue with the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council as its replacement partner, Delays to the delivery timelines were also requested by NGN. Following approval of these changes by Ofgem, the expected completion date for the Project is now scheduled as October 2021.

In approving the changes, Ofgem concluded that the completion of the Project remains in the best interests of existing and future network users. This is due to the 'transferable learning' which is expected to be a by-product of completion of the Project and which indicates that this market may be earmarked for further development. The Project budget of £700,000 remains unchanged.

Smart meter rollout hits milestone

According to the Data Communications Company (the organisation behind the smart metering network in the UK), five million second-generation smart meters have now been installed in UK homes. Unlike first-generation smart meters, second-generation smart meters are fully interoperable and can continue to work even if a consumer switches energy supplier.

Commentators have pointed to the fact that energy consumers have become more conscious about their carbon impact and have increased appetites for green technology as contributing to the attainment of the milestone, which was reached on 7 September. Though installations were paused between March and June due to the Covid-19 lockdown, July saw a 120% rise in installations of second-generation smart meters from the previous month.

Government gives further details on Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator

Following the announcement by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Summer Economic Update of the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund Demonstrator, the government has now provided an overview of how the £50 million programme will work.

The notice, published by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, confirms that:

  • The aim of the Demonstrator is to support social landlords to develop "innovative approaches to retrofitting social housing at scale", in the hope of achieving more energy efficient homes, lower household energy bills, and lower carbon emissions.
  • The Demonstrator will be accepting applications from local authorities (including combined local authorities) or consortia led by local authorities for work on the following:
    • Retained social housing stock.
    • Housing association housing stock.
    • Arm's length management organisation stock within the relevant authority's area.
  • The competition will launch in October 2020, with a deadline for bids in November. Awards will be granted in December.

The statement also makes it clear that the Demonstrator is only an initial investment by the government into low carbon retrofitting projects. Allocations under the much larger Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund – a £3.8 billion scheme – will be determined in the 2020 autumn Spending Review.

Retrofitting energy efficiency measures into existing housing stock at scale is a challenge for both the social and private sector housing markets. Factors such as the age of buildings, the existing technologies in place, the cost and availability solutions and occupiers being in situ all present barriers to retrofitting at scale.

Breakthrough for electric vehicle interoperability as Zap-Map launches new charging payments app

Zap-Map, the UK's leading electric vehicle (EV) mapping service, has launched a new payments app – Zap-Pay – which will allow EV drivers to pay for charging across different networks using a single payments platform.

The app, which has already signed-up Engenie as its first charging network participant, aims to provide "unrivalled coverage" across the UK. ESB EV Solutions, LiFe and Hubsta are among other charging network providers that are set to be introduced to the platform in autumn this year, and drivers using Zap-Pay will be able to pay for charging with any participating network using a pay-as-you-go tariff.

Interoperability (beingthe ability of different networks to operate in conjunction with one another) has been a long-standing issue in the EV infrastructure sector. Due to the fragmented nature of the market, EV drivers currently have to use different apps and cards depending on the network they use, leading to concerns that a lack of user friendliness could deter consumers from making the switch to EVs. Zap-Pay was created in response to a recent Zap-Map survey which found that 68% of EV drivers had an issue with "charger anxiety", that is a concern that they might not be able to access the right charge point when needed.

Zap-Map is not the only company that has been working to resolve EV interoperability issues. In May 2020, Octopus Energy launched its own EV payments service – the Electric Juice Network – to offer EV drivers a single way to pay for charging across multiple networks. Engenie has also signed-up to this service, alongside lamppost charging company

Bristol Energy customers sold to Yu Energy and Together Energy

Both the domestic and corporate customers of Bristol Energy, the energy supplier established and run by Bristol City Council, have been sold.

Yü Energy has acquired the corporate customers of Bristol Energy for £13.4 million, comprising £1 million of receivables and the remainder as cash on completion. Covering a reported 4,000 meter points, including existing contracts with Bristol City Council, the sale bumps up Yü Energy's total meter points to just under 14,000 – an increase of 40%.

Bristol Energy's residential customer base has been sold for £14 million to Together Energy, an energy supplier based in Clydebank. As result of the sale, Together Energy acquired 155,000 residential meter points plus the Bristol Energy brand and systems.

Report suggests 'little evidence' of government confronting the scale of net-zero

The Institute for Government has published a report which warns that stronger leadership and co-ordination from the prime minister is needed for the UK to reach its net-zero emissions targets. Just over a year after legislation was passed requiring the government to meet net-zero by 2050, the UK has, according to the report, not yet confronted the gravity of the task. Failures such as a lack of co-ordinated policies, constant changes of direction, a failure to gain public consent for measures and insufficient delivery capability have all made the net-zero target increasingly difficult to achieve.

The report makes a number of recommendations for government including:

  • Removing the responsibility for net zero from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the creation of a new net zero unit in the Cabinet Office.
  • Ensuring that the Treasury makes net zero a priority during spending reviews and produces a tax strategy to support net-zero.
  • Supporting the creation of a dedicated parliamentary net zero committee to hold the government to account on its progress in reducing emissions.

The future of travel: energy developments this week

On World EV Day (on 9 September), the government announced the following measures to encourage the further development of the electric vehicles (EV) market:

Highways England invests £9 million in a 'try before you buy' scheme

In a bid to improve air quality and tackle carbon emissions from road transport, Highways England, the government-owned company which operates and maintains England's motorways and major A roads, is providing £9.3 million to local authorities to allow businesses to trial EVs for free for two months before they commit to purchasing EVs. The scheme is being funded by Highways England's Designated Funds programme, which has pledged an overall investment of £936 million between 2020 and 2025.

£12 million of funding for electric vehicle technologies

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles, which works across government to support the early market for ultra-low emission vehicles, will provide £12 million of funding for research and development in EV technologies. £10 million will be used for the creation of a Zero Emission Vehicle Innovation Competition, which will invite applicants to bid for a grant to help fund development work for six-month rapid delivery projects. The remaining £2 million will be available to SMEs to support research into areas such as battery technology.