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The Power To Move

Tony Abel 1 sm

Through a mixture of persuasion and legislation, our world is gradually getting greener, and that’s a very good thing, writes Tony Abel. 

Building regulations for new homes – the minimum standards that all builders must adhere to – have become progressively stricter over recent years, but equally, consumer demand (largely as a result of soaring energy bills) has driven the move to more energy-efficient homes.  And an Abel Home is far greener than those minimum building regulation standards stipulate, in fact, every one of ours has an EPC ‘A’ rating.

Likewise, the car you drive is immeasurably more efficient than vehicles of just 20 years ago.  Emissions legislation and tax measures have helped to bring about this change, but it has been investment from car makers themselves which has made the biggest difference.

Despite this improvement, there is a general consensus that our dependency on the internal combustion engine has to be broken. The cost of an electric car is a barrier to many, but with increased demand/production that cost will surely fall.  Most car manufacturers have put considerable effort into developing hybrid, and then fully electric, cars, but for most people – especially in a rural county like Norfolk – the lack of a proper infrastructure for recharging such vehicles has been cause for concern.

Recognising this, the government this week announced proposals to force all new homes to be fitted with electric car charging points, and there are plans to install streetlights with power sockets as well.

Like many announcements from politicians, on the surface this sounds like a good idea, and it is – but there are many barriers to be overcome before it can become reality.  Those barriers are physical ones, so government attempts to pass the green buck to house builders needs to be seen in that context.

House builders are often criticised for delivering new homes without the necessary infrastructure to support them, when often achieving that is outside our control.  Forcing us to install car charging points in every new home is pretty pointless unless the National Grid has the capacity to run them – and at the moment it doesn’t apparently, without further investment.  In fact, UK Power Networks, which runs the National Grid, doesn’t even have a set of criteria for what the total power output per dwelling should be on multi-home developments.

In the real world, families, especially in rural areas, need more than one car, so that means we should be installing multiple charging points.  But if there is not enough electricity in the system?

Almost all of the new homes we build have a garage, so siting a car charging point is a simple matter.  But what about in cities, where the bulk of new homes are apartments?  Secure provision will have to be made - but sourcing suitable locations may be challenging.

As so often happens, the industry is ahead of the government.  In the latest phase of our development at Swaffham, we are already installing an increased power supply to every garage, in readiness for the growth in electric cars.

Whilst we welcome the principle, and house builders can be part of the solution, we cannot be expected to provide the entire solution.  Government itself must invest in the necessary infrastructure if its aspiration of phasing out petrol and diesel powered vehicles in 2040 is to become reality.