Vital role for retail in scaling up electric charging infrastructure

Posted By:
Eversheds Sutherland

13th Jan 2022

Corrina Cassidy, Associate, Eversheds Sutherland

A key part of the move towards net zero and greater sustainability will be the electrification of the road network. Electric vehicles (“EV’s”) will play an important role in driving this change across the UK and Ireland – if you pardon the pun. The increase in the adoption of electric vehicles, however, provides both a challenge and an opportunity for real estate owners.

The need to charge EV’s provides an incentive for EV drivers to visit and spend time at locations where fast and rapid charging points are available, which for retailers could help to support out-of-town shopping centres and retail parks. With occupiers and investors increasingly focused on ESG and achieving net zero, having significant EV charging infrastructure also helps landlords to ‘future-proof’ assets.

Therefore, it isn’t surprising that we are seeing a focus by both landowners and tenants actively looking at developing sections of their estates as electric vehicle charging points (“EVCP’s”) for use by staff and customers. We expect this trend to continue with an imminent rise in EVCP’s at retail parks, shopping centres, and drive-thru restaurants.

This growing demand for EV’s requires much greater quantum and variety of charging points. Across all kinds of real estate, from residential and retail to logistics and commercial offices, there is a shortage of EVCP’s and a growing need for investment. As the shift to EV’s continues to gather momentum, real estate asset owners need to consider now whether or not their assets have sufficient EV charging infrastructure to meet current and future occupier demand.

There are a number of hurdles to overcome prior to the installation of EVCPs, not least engagement with your landlord, EVCP providers, and Northern Ireland Electricity (“NIE”). Once a grid connection has been procured with NIE, a new substation (and associated cabling easements) may also be required to power the charging infrastructure. You will then need to consider the location of the substation – for example, if it’s to be located elsewhere on the landlord’s property, a separate lease may need to be entered into for the substation site. There are also considerations including planning permission which one must consider, as well as a requirement to undertake a survey of the area to confirm it is suitable.

With transport in Northern Ireland making up around a fifth of our total emissions, greater investment in EVCPs across the country will be vital in meeting our net zero obligations and targets. The Executive’s recently published Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland sets out the path to grapple with the climate emergency in this part of the world. The Department for Infrastructure’s EV Infrastructure Task-Force held its inaugural meeting last month also, which will explore how we “deliver a fit for purpose, modern EV charging network, in the context of decarbonising our transport systems”.

There is much for tenants and landlords to consider including service charges, grid connections, and rent arrangements. However, it’s clear that the direction of travel is swiftly towards scaling up NI’s EV infrastructure. It is crucial that landlords and tenants play their part and ensure they are ready for these changes.