Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy – Taking Charge or Flat Battery

The Government’s taking charge: The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy is welcome news.

There is no doubt that the government has a very important role to play in helping with the more challenging aspects of speeding up the EV charging infrastructure across the UK. You speak to any charge point installer, operator or landowner and they will agree that the delivery of public EV charging points in particular is complicated. It involves multiple stakeholders cutting across land rights and ownership, transport, energy and planning; all making the number of permissions, consents and licences feel endless and the simplest project taking months or even years for the most complex requirements.

In its strategy the Government talks about looking at options for introducing a unified consent process for installing EV charge points, which is music to my ears and those of our clients, I’m sure.

There is no doubt that a streamlined process for obtaining planning consent and highways consent would go a long way in allowing EV charging points to be installed quicker. I mean, can you imagine the possibility of such consents maybe taking 6 weeks or less? Or being agreed in bulk in locations across relevant authorities? A step too far maybe? We can but dream…

But for me, the Government’s strategy appears to overlook another key aspect – the issues that can arise with land rights and ownership. Lessons are there to be learnt from the experience of the telecoms sector. As my colleague and head of our Networks Team, Jamie Gordon, knows, many network operators are already developing their own approaches to the installation and upgrade of the electricity cables and equipment needed to meet the infrastructure demand.

The most proactive are already looking at making the process simple and as lawyer-light as possible, which, even speaking as a lawyer, makes perfect sense and is to be applauded! However, whilst this will get us so far, the reality is (as Jamie tells me regularly) it is not enough.

There are differences as to how network operators work and, whilst they have the advantage of existing statutory rights which provide some assistance, these rights when created did not have EV charge points in mind. This means even here, uncertainty and unnecessary delays remain particularly when getting public EV charging points installed.

A regulatory framework which addresses standardisation of the EV Charging equipment and the consumer rights issues but which overlooks land ownership and rights issues will, in my humble opinion, be flawed. If EV charging operators and land owners were provided standardisation in terms of their rights and their responsibilities to each other, this would help speed uptake and avoid lengthy negotiations through clearer liabilities, risks and values. This would in turn help other stakeholders, such as lenders and insurers to adapt or develop their products for the market.

Here at Geldards, we are certainly looking at this very carefully with our clients and our partners, helping them find practical, commercial and legal solutions to simplify and speed up the EV charging infrastructure issues they are encountering. We will also be watching eagerly and hope that some legislative guidance will come along to get things charging!

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