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8 November 2019

EDF taps Pivot Power to chase storage-plus-V2G in UK

Amid increasing demands for more flexibility within the national grid, large companies are investing in a diverse energy storage infrastructure. This week we saw EDF and – more surprisingly – Liberty Global move to take slices of the country’s EV charging infrastructure.

EDF is no stranger to EV charging. The company has partnered with EV charging firms before and has made efforts to align its brand with the technology. Liberty Global, however, is a multinational telecoms company that owns leading UK cable TV provider Virgin Media.

First up, Liberty Global announced its plan to deploy 1,200 EV chargers using telecoms infrastructure from Virgin. These will be deployed across 10 local authorities in the UK over the next 18 months. The charging points will be powered by some of Virgin’s 40,000 street cabinets and 170,000 km of ducts.

This seems to be the first roll out of EV charging infrastructure by a UK telecoms company. If this entry onto the market proves successful, we can expect to see other major telcos cashing in on the opportunity. For CSPs like Virgin Media, the EV charging market provides a new revenue stream from mostly pre-existing assets and infrastructure – increasing their margins.

“Leveraging street cabinets allows Liberty Global to look beyond traditional uses of telecom infrastructure and make a positive impact on the environment and in communities throughout the UK”, said Jason Simpson, Liberty Global’s Vice President for Energy and Utilities.

Elsewhere, EDF has acquired the UK’s largest battery storage and EV charging network, Pivot Power, which operates EV charging at 45 UK sites. In 2018, the company announced its intentions to connect 2 GW of batteries to the national grid in a £1.6 billion program.

Following the acquisition, EDF’s first two storage projects are set to be commissioned in 2020 at sites Kent and Oxford. One project has the potential to host a battery with an export power of 50 MW, which could support hundreds of rapid chargers in sites such as retail parks, logistics centers, taxi ranks and bus depots. To give an idea of scale, the largest grid storage battery currently on the global market is Tesla’s 100 MW.

This deal followed widespread rumors that EDF was set to acquire another UK EV charging firm, Pod Point. Compared with Pivot Power, Pod Point holds a larger fleet of over 2000 public EV chargers, as well as offering home charging products. However, Pivot Power’s dual business model – battery grid storage and EV charging – undoubtedly makes it a more attractive investment for an energy provider.

Of course, rumors are just that, but given these comparisons, it’s understandable that EDF went for a company that is more focused on the potential of EVs to enhance the national grid. EDF has placed the acquisition of Pivot Power within its wider plan to ‘become a leader in battery storage’ globally. The company aims to install 75,000 charging points globally by 2020 and has committed to investing $10 billion in energy storage by 2035.

Simone Rossi, EDF Energy CEO said that “battery storage and electric vehicles are two key technologies which will help lower carbon emissions, alongside generation from renewables and nuclear.”

This is by no means EDF’s first foray into EV charging in the UK. October 2018 saw EDF team up with Nuvve to install 1,500 Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) EV chargers across the country. The Generation Electric advertising campaign was launched in June this year, looking to raise consumer awareness of EVs.

September saw EDF step up its partnership with Nissan to accelerate the rollout of smart EV charging and V2G technologies in the UK. In 2018, Nissan became the first car manufacturer to secure regulatory approval for V2G capability in Germany – and has other markets in its immediate roadmap.

EDF is hoping to be the leading energy storage firm in Europe, with a target of 10GW of storage by 2035. Another ambition is the company’s EDF Electric Mobility Plan, which aims to see the company become the leading electric mobility firm in the UK, France, Italy and Belgium.

The UK EV industry has recently seen interest in V2G operations. We reported last month how last-mile delivery service Gnewt signed up to Cisco’s E-Flex V2G project, allowing its fleets to charge and lease back to the grid at optimum times.

These development in the UK follow a summer of media worries about the stability of the national grid. One large scale blackout in the UK this summer, which disrupted rush hour transport and left over a million homes without power, received much attention, as did worrying frequency readings. Integrating battery storage into the grid allows for better integration of renewable energy, as well as improving the overall reliability of the network.

Matt Allen, co-founder and CEO of Pivot Power, said Pivot Power’s purpose from the start has always been to accelerate the UK’s transition to a cost-effective, reliable, low-carbon energy system and in parallel fast-track the rapid adoption of clean transport. EDF Renewables shares our vision and of course brings the expertise, resources and platform to make this a reality.”