The UK faces a £200 billion bill to rewire the country if the government follows through on plans to electrify the country’s homes and transport systems.
That’s because the installation of electric car chargers and heat pumps will push up demand for power beyond the capacity of the existing wiring.
The findings are set out in a new report from the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is published today.
According to author Mike Travers, this will mean that most streets in the UK will need to be dug up (with diesel-driven machinery):
“At present, new home car chargers and heat pumps are using up all the spare capacity. But we will soon reach the point where the network will not be able to handle the extra demand. So in towns and cities, the underground cables which carry the power will be inadequate. That means that we are going to have to dig up almost every urban street and many rural ones too. The whole distribution grid is going to need to be replaced.”
And the cables that carry power into the homes will need to be dug up too.
According to Travers:
“The power cables taking electricity into your home probably run underneath your front drive. So if you want a car charger and a heat pump you are going to have to pay to dig it up. If you have an expensive monoblock drive, that will not be cheap. Distribution boards, main fuses, and smart meters in homes are going to have to be upgraded too.”
Travers has estimated the cost of all this work at around £200 billion, even before considering the cost caused by the disruption. “Many homeowners will be paying thousands”, he says.
Plans to decarbonize the economy will probably require homeowners to install:
• heat pumps
• electric vehicle charging points
• electric showers
• other electric devices.
The extra demand for electricity will overwhelm most domestic fuses, thus requiring homeowners to install new ones, as well as circuit-breakers and new distribution boards.
Most will also have to rewire between their main fuse and the distribution network.
In urban areas, where most electrical cabling is underground, this will involve paying for a trench to be dug between the home and the feeder circuits in the street.
In addition, increased demand along a street will mean that the distribution network will need to be upgraded too. This will involve installing larger cables and replacing distribution transformers with larger ones.
Most urban streets will need to be dug up. In rural areas, where electricity is normally carried on overhead cables, it may be possible to just replace the wires, but it is more likely that cabling will have to be buried instead.
The cost to the country of rewiring alone will probably exceed £200 billion, or over £7,000 per household. This figure excludes the cost of new equipment, such as EV chargers, heat pumps, and electric showers.
Mike Travers, CEng, MIMechE, FIET is an electrical engineer, whose career spanned periods in the Royal Engineers, in the hydroelectric sector, and industry.
His paper is entitled The Hidden Cost of Net Zero: Rewiring the UK and can be downloaded here (pdf)