The roll-out of electric vehicles across the UK is gathering pace. The deficiencies in the charging infrastructure, and the challenge it brings to net zero commitments, are issues which both the UK and Scottish Government are now tackling. In March 2022, both governments published fresh strategies aimed at rapidly developing robust and scalable charging networks covering the entire country (full copies of the reports are available here and here).
Between now and 2030, it’s estimated that the EV charging network could require up to £1billion of investment in Scotland alone, creating opportunities for a range of private capital and service providers. We previously considered the opportunities for the commercial property sector in relation to the roll-out of Electrical Vehicle Charge Points (“EVCPs”) (available here and here). In this article, we turn to the specific opportunities created for the rural sector.
Plugging the Gap
There are two main ways in which the rural sector can help achieve the target 2.3 million EVCPs the country is predicted to need by 2030. This is through the provision of:
- fast, long-distance chargers, which can rapidly provide charge for hundreds of miles, and which are installed on land beside strategic road networks;
- slower, “top-up” chargers more suitably placed at out-of-town rural attractions and shopping centres.
Before developing charge points on your land, or enabling a commercial provider to do so, there are a number of important considerations to take into account. These include:
- Planning Regulation: While planning permission is not currently required to develop EVCPs, there are certain conditions which must be complied with. For example, charge points cannot exceed certain heights and must be a specific distance from public roads. Additional planning considerations, such as obtaining building warrants, may apply if the charge points are to form part of a building or if their power supply is to be provided from a building.
- Grid Connection: There needs to be a suitable and cost-effective grid connection to power the charge points. To determine whether your land is suitable will usually involve instructing a surveyor. Achieving grid-connection may involve securing rights over a third party's land.
- Capital Expenditure: For most landowners, the capital costs for installing EVCPs will represent a significant investment. The cost can range from a few thousand pounds to tens of thousands of pounds depending on both the type of charge point and the number installed. Landowners should consider whether subsidies are available to help fund the capital outlay.
- Access and Title Conditions: As with any development, the installation of charge points may involve cooperation from neighbouring landowners and may require securing access over their land. The title deeds for the land and surrounding areas should be carefully checked for any title conditions which could prevent installation.
- For landowners leasing land to EVCP operators, there are further commercial considerations to think about. Examples include:
- Whether the rent should be fixed or linked to the amount of electricity sold;
- Given the evolving nature of the technology, operators will need to carry out regular repair, maintenance and improvement works to the equipment on site. Landowners should consider the level of freedom they will allow operators to do so and the circumstances where consent will be required;
- There may be a commercial benefit to taking over the charging infrastructure at the end of the lease, with the potential to let it out to a new operator on different terms. If the current operator wishes to remove the infrastructure, landowners should consider whether an option to purchase should be built into the lease.
With some careful thought and consideration, rural landowners could play an important role in the delivery of a strong and reliable public charging network.