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Private sector investment needed to cope with demand for electric vehicle charging points in Highlands

By Gordon Calder

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COMMERCIAL investment is needed to meet the growing demand for electric vehicle charging points, Highland councillors have been told.

They gave the green light to plans to move towards a partnership-based Highland wide electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure network.

The network will be achieved through a collaborative membership of local Scottish councils partnering with the private sector as the local authority faces a challenging financial outlook.

A report at the latest Climate Change Committee outlined progress to date and the next steps.

Members heard the current EV public network model is placing budget pressure on the council, and a change in the financial model approach is needed. As the EV market develops, the council has an opportunity to generate a long-term revenue to sustain and grow the network.

Highland Council believes its active involvement in the development of EV infrastructure will help to mitigate financial pressure on future budgets.

To speed up the development of new strategies and help identify charge point requirements across Scotland, funding has also been made available for six Pathfinder Projects. They aim to identify the scope of works and preferred model that can attract private sector investment.

Demand for electric vehicle charging points is increasing
Demand for electric vehicle charging points is increasing

In December 2021, Highland Council, in collaboration with Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council, received Scottish Government funding to undertake a Pathfinder Project. HiTRans and Highlands and Islands Enterprise were also invited to become part of the collaboration.

Karl Rosie, the Thurso councillor who chairs the Climate Change Committee, said: "The private sector is very keen to invest in any networks and see that there will be returns if a 15–25-year contract is awarded for the operation and maintenance of these.

"They are happy to take part funding to help de-risk, but some are willing to pay for 100 per cent of the capital investment for the right number, location, and length of contract. Private sector funding will be crucial going forward."

He added: "The desired outcome of the project will be to maximise the ability to access support funding. The solution will address public needs and types of charging structure options as well as the need to have a council private EV charging network/public sector solution with the minimum of funding exposure to the councils."

Highland Council owns and operates over 85 charge points and there are additional projects in progress which will see a further 23 installed by autumn 2023.

The tariff applied for using Highland Council EV charge points does not cover the total amount of costs associated with management and future of the estate while grant funding is coming to an end.

Members deferred considering options for a potential tariff increase for Highland Council EV charge points to the next meeting of the Climate Change Committee.

The Scottish and UK Governments have pledged to phase out the need for new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030.

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