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Powering the heavy duty fleet of tomorrow requires a revamped European grid

Policy 6 December 2023
renewable energy grid
renewable energy grid

Last Tuesday marked a significant development as the European Commission revealed its action plan on grids. The  EU Action Plan for Grids was the missing piece in the Fit For 55 puzzle. The pressing needs for the modernisation of Europe’s grids cannot be overstated. The average age of Europe’s distribution grids is 40 years, and with an anticipated 70% increase in new renewable energy capacity and massive rise of electric transportation, expansion is imperative to manage the increasing loads and flows of electricity.

Acknowledging this critical role, the Commission’s action plan assigns grids a central position in the EU agenda. Outlining an investment need of 584 billion, steered by seven priorities and proposing 14 concrete actions, the plan signifies a positive step in the right direction. Over the past months, Milence actively advocated the imperative requirements of grid upgrades for the market adoption of battery electric heavy duty vehicles and public infrastructure.

The main challenge faced by developers of Heavy-Duty Vehicle (HDV) infrastructure is the difficulty in connecting to power grids. In numerous European countries, getting a sufficiently high power capacity connection can take many years, which is a problem for operators who need a quicker solution. Moreover, there is often a lack of clear information about available grid capacity and how to apply for it. The process is complicated, time-consuming, and, leads too often to the unsatisfactory answer that there is not enough space for the sector’s scaling needs at particular traffic dense locations.

Koen Noyens, Head of Public Affairs at Milence, commented:
“Grids should enable the transition to clean energy in the transport sector. It’s encouraging to finally see the prioritisation of networks at the heart of the European political agenda. This plan is a commendable first step towards ensuring the future resilience of Europe’s electricity system, helping to accelerate the deployment of infrastructure to support the widespread adoption of electric trucks.”

The EU Grids Action Plan addresses three of the Milence priorities:

1. Adequate and timely grid planning
National and regional scenarios for distribution network expansion should adequately account for the increasing demand for BE HDV charging. Market input from fleets, OEMs and charging operators should become a mandatory factor in the planning and capacity expansion undertaken by DSOs and TSOs. Proactively incorporating diverse growth trajectories will enable grid operators and regulators to strategically plan for capacity needs, mitigating potential bottlenecks in public and private charging networks.

2. Doubling down on anticipatory investments
Tariff frameworks should be revised to incentivize both DSOs and TSOs to make timely and adequate investments in sufficient grid connection capacity, particularly at strategic charging locations along the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). In this context regulators should consider performance-based metrics to encourage grid operators to prioritize energy transition and climate contributing (CO2 reduction potential) projects in the investment decision-process and network expansion rollout plans.

3. More predictable connection and processes
To minimise complexity, the application process needs to be streamlined at national level. Centralised one-stop-shops could serve as a single point of contact for all types of applications related to grid access, and provide transparent monitoring of application status.

Transitioning from plan to action is crucial, particularly given the 2030 targets on renewables and emissions in the HDV transport segment. Rapid execution in the next 12 to 18 months is paramount, especially as a new Commission is expected to take up the mantle by the end of next year.

Milence encourages Member States to promptly implement the actions to align the grids with the rising electricity demands in HDV transportation.

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