• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Examining the legal and regulatory framework for Electric Vehicle infrastructure in Nigeria

Examining the legal and regulatory framework for Electric Vehicle infrastructure in Nigeria

Introduction

Recent survey data shows that Nigeria accounts for over 75% of the registered vehicles in West Africa, with an ever-increasing number of vehicles plying the roads. The overwhelming majority of these vehicles have internal combustion engines which require astounding amounts of Premium Motor Spirits (‘PMS’) and diesel to run daily. The demand consumption figure for PMS and diesel as fuel for vehicular transportation has risen to over 66.9 million litres in recent years with no signs of abating. This trajectory comes at a cost – an escalating environmental toll and growing dependency on fossil fuels which are diametrically opposite to our ambition to meet carbon reduction targets and usher in a new era of clean energy. To realistically achieve the targets expressed in the 2021 Updated NDC (‘Nationally Determined Contributions’) it is imperative to construct sustainable electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure under a robust legal and regulatory framework.

EVs are powered by electric motors using the energy stored in rechargeable batteries installed in the car. To efficiently power EVs, three levels of infrastructure are required – grid and utility to supply the power; charging station which could be privately installed in homes and offices or installed for use by the public in designated areas; and Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (“EVSE”) which refers to the cables and other equipment that connect the EV to the charging station to charge the battery. There are complex requirements for these three levels of infrastructure to work in creating a sustainable environment for mass EV adoption but the possible gains for energy independence and environmental security make a compelling case for adoption of EVs in Nigeria.

This article delves into the challenges militating against full adoption of EV’s in Nigeria at scale, illuminating the path towards a future where electric vehicles take the lead in Nigeria’s transportation sector.

Current State of EV Infrastructure in Nigeria.

Charging equipment for EVs is classified by the rate at which the batteries are charged. Charging times vary based on how depleted the battery is, how much energy it holds, the type of battery, and the type of charging equipment (e.g., charging level, charger power output, and electrical service specifications). The charging time can range from less than 20 minutes to 20 hours or more, depending on these factors. These factors greatly influence the infrastructural requirements for the use of EVs particularly in public transportation.

Nigeria’s network of roads and highways has a total length of about 195,000 km for which there are over 27,000 registered filling stations to ensure sufficient supply of fuel to the millions of cars that ply these roads daily. In comparison, public EV charging infrastructure is essentially non-existent in Nigeria, and future development plans are neither ambitious nor pristine enough.

EVs currently used in Nigeria rely mostly on private charging stations installed in private homes and offices. At the Federal level, the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), commenced a pilot project to deploy solar powered charging electric vehicle stations in three states in Nigeria. In the last 3 years, the NADDC has set up EV charging stations in Usman Dan Fodio University in Sokoto State, University of Lagos in Lagos State and in the University of Nigeria Nsukka in Enugu State.

Globally, a significant infrastructural requirement for EV adoption is the availability of public charging stations with the capacity to support extreme fast charging (‘XFC’). This is due to the need to ensure that drivers are never too far from a charging station and can re-energize their vehicles in comparable times to combustion engine vehicles that rely on PMS or diesel. The reticence to use an EV because of the fear of the batteries running out without a charging point within range is known as range anxiety. Availability and accessibility of public charging points therefore increases EV adoption as more people will be convinced that there will always be a place to charge their cars during trips. Without range anxiety, drivers may even consider opting for higher priced EVs with less range and rely on more frequent charging stops. Charging stations at workplaces and public destinations may also help bolster market acceptance by offering more flexible charging opportunities.

In addition to widespread availability, public charging infrastructure needs to be adaptable to accommodate the technological advances in EV and battery technology. It also requires significant capital investment. For example, the UK government in 2022 budgeted £1.6 billion to build 300,000 charging points across the UK within a 10-year period. These number of charging points will out-number the petrol pumps currently in operation in the UK by a ratio of five to one. This ambitious infrastructure target is partly due to nascent European Union rules that require charging points to be located no more than 60km apart.

It is evident that the available infrastructure in Nigeria is desperately insufficient and will require concerted efforts through the deployment of incentives, revamping of the regulatory framework, financing, training, and capacity building, to upgrade.

Applicable Legal and Regulatory framework

There is no regulation in Nigeria that is specific to EV infrastructure. However, the general laws applicable to the power industry contemplate and make provisions that can serve as the regulatory basis for building EV infrastructure.

Under the Electricity Act 2023, power may be generated for use through any of four options. There is Grid-connected power where the electricity generated is evacuated on the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) grid. The second option is known as embedded energy where electricity is directly evacuated through a distribution system which is connected to a transmission network operated by a System Operations Licensee. Another option is captive generation of off-grid electricity that is entirely consumed by the generator itself who has an installed capacity exceeding 1 MW, with no upper limit. The last option is Off-grid (including mini-grids) which are small-scale projects of up to 1 MW electricity generation for distribution to a single or a limited number of customers.

EV Charging stations can therefore either be Grid connected or off-Grid stand-alone facilities, but they usually combine elements of power generation, distribution and transmission which are all activities regulated and licensed under the Electricity Act by the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). Power generation companies connect to the transmission grid subject to the Grid Code. The Code contains the day-to-day management operating procedures and principles governing the development, maintenance, and operation of an effective, well-coordinated and economic transmission system for the electricity sector. The Grid code is significant for the operation of public charging stations.

With respect to quality and standards for constructing and installing EV charging infrastructure, the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) is the agency under the Electricity Act charged with the responsibility to ensure that all major electrical material and equipment used in Nigeria are of the right quality and standards. Other NERC regulations and standard may also apply to the generation, distribution, and transmission elements of supplying power to EV charging points as well as applicable tariffs to purchase of power from the charging points.

While the regulators may apply international best practice standards to ensure that EV infrastructure built in Nigeria are fit for purpose, a specific regulation for EV infrastructure is still imperative as some challenges to EV adoption and building sustainable EV infrastructure can only be addressed by specific regulation.

A great example of EV specific regulation is the recently adopted regulation in the UK which are meant to help improve charger availability, speed, and reliability. The new rules are part of the European Union’s “Fit for 55” package that aims to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030. They focus on reducing the distance between chargers and increasing average charging speeds.

Challenges to be addressed by EV specific regulation.

As noted above, the three levels of EV infrastructure have complex issues that can make or mar the adoption rate of EVs in Nigeria. At the utility level, corridor planning effort must be cognizant of grid issues such as anticipated changes in generation mix and aging substations, distribution and transmission lines as these factors impact the quality of power that will be supplied to the EV charging station. Much like the integration of renewables and localized stationary energy storage, planning efforts must also inculcate an understanding of how fast charging EV supply equipment impact the overall functioning of the grid and if there are any issues which could emerge due to high use of fast charging infrastructure.

In areas with significant adoption rates in Europe, the use of fast charging technology has shown that grid harmonics and voltage stability can both be impacted even at levels near 50 kW and the recommended minimum output for public charging stations is 400kW. In addition to these voltage and harmonic issues, location and power feed to fast charging station are also important considerations. At the base level, many fast charging station needs are location specific but there are a few commonalities that will arise. These include the need to have an adequate distribution feeder and the inclusion of an appropriate transformer. Additional grid stability issues associated with high EV adoption includes enhanced aging of transformers related to the shortened life of insulation.

Coordination of a fast-charging network of charging stations will also need to balance the needs of location specific charging stations with implementation across a broad geographic area, as their power surge has enough magnitude to propagate through the distribution and transmission network. All these factors are significant in setting up the permitting and registration regime for charging infrastructure.

For charging stations, a key concern is that the addition of multiple charging stations will increase the overall power demand and that the hardware will create grid instabilities especially where fast charging stations are installed with the capacity to alter the steady state voltage stability of the grid. Also, the model for commercialising public charging stations is predicated on demand charges which makes it difficult to realize sufficient revenue from electricity sales (per kWh charging). The impact of demand charges for fast charging is highly dependent on station utilization. When utilization is low, the energy provided is low, and the demand charge per kWh delivered is high. For EV supply equipment with low utilization providing high power charging, demand charges can account for a significant portion of the cost of operating the station and can make these stations unprofitable.

At the level of the EV supply equipment, the biggest issue is that of interoperability and the need for adaptability to advancements in available technology. The model adopted in the EU is to favour of standardised EV supply equipment to ensure all types and categories of EVs can receive reliable charging from public charging stations.

Variations in EV supply equipment and obsolescence can have significant effects on the power quality and delivery impacts. To legislate for this, EV supply equipment standards must include the ability to effectively manage non-abrupt initiation and discontinuation of the charging protocol. Additionally, implementing smoothed ramping up and down and coordination between different charge equipment at the same fast charging station may be needed to minimize non-ideal grid behaviour.

One area that crosses all three levels of infrastructure is the combined need for physical and cyber security. Fast charging demands a high rate of energy transfer which necessitates private and secure communication between the EV and the supply equipment. The same type of communication is also expected between the grid and the charging station. These layers of communication create cyber security and asset theft risks. The risk is that breaches in security could impact not just individual vehicles or charging stations but could cascade to impact broad swaths of transportation infrastructure or the grid itself.

Regulatory Interventions and solutions

Taking a leave from the EU regulations for EV infrastructure, the areas requiring regulatory intervention for EV adoption in Nigeria at scale would focus on charger availability, speed, and reliability. The regulations will also set standards for EVs, chargers and batteries to ensure interoperability of charging infrastructure (including communications) and second-hand market for vehicles.

To attract foreign investment, it is crucial to have monetary and fiscal policies which stabilise the economy and provide investors with assurance on prospects beyond the short term. We therefore need adequate incentives and tax waivers to encourage imports in the short term and foster local production and assembly in the long term.

The costing element should also be addressed by regulation to ensure adequate returns on investment in EV infrastructure. Utilities often use demand charges, which are based on peak power usage, as a tool to accommodate the delivery of electricity to customers during high demand periods. As such, demand charges are typically used for large electricity users that have high variability to provide compensation for the additional hardware and capacity that is needed to provide periodic high rates of power to the customer. This can require the installation or upgrading of distribution lines, transformers, and other equipment, and increased operation and maintenance costs.

The ambitious targets set for emissions reductions in the transportation sector can only be achieved if the government implements a mandatory phased transition from combustion engine vehicles to EVs. The regulations could therefore mandate conversion of the bus fleets serving the main areas, especially linked to vehicles’ obsolescence, to start the change towards e-buses where transport conditions are better. This is in line with the National Automotive Policy recently adopted by the National Executive Council.

Other policy solutions that may be explored include innovative initiatives like the requirement to provide charging stations in all group housing arrangements and estates as well as all new residential and commercial buildings. Electric network reinforcement planning should account for EV charging stations and promotion of off-grid power solutions in connection with EV would serve the purpose of tackling the added loads that EVs would bring to the electric grid and lead to improved reliability of power.

Also, special electricity tariffs for EV charging should be considered after discussions with power distribution companies and the Regulator; the tariff could either be subsidized or cost reflective, thereby helping in bringing down the high aggregate technical, commercial and collection losses and thereby improve their financial sustainability.

Conclusion

EV adoption rate in Nigeria is stunted due to myriad complex issues affecting the availability and reliability of EV charging infrastructure. The introduction of Legal and regulatory interventions can go a long way in incentivising investments in the required infrastructure and the concomitant adoption of EVs as a substitute for combustion engine vehicles. EV infrastructure and adoption of EVs I Nigeria will contribute to energy security and reduction of emissions in the transport sector.