Millions of consumers could be stung with higher electricity bills to fund a massive power network overhaul before petrol cars are banned in 2030, Britain's former top energy regulator has warned.
Dermot Nolan, who stepped down as head of Ofgem earlier this year, said that a £2.4bn Government funding package "isn’t going to cut it” as the grid is retooled to cope with surging demand from millions of drivers charging up their vehicles.
He said that bill-paying households are likely to be forced to fill the gap.
It came as Vauxhall’s boss suggested that subsidies could be needed to persuade consumers to switch to more expensive electric cars, and former Chancellor Nigel Lawson dismissed the Government's proposals as an economic disaster.
Ministers have announced a £12bn raft of measures to make the UK a leader in green energy, from developing mini nuclear reactors to using hydrogen gas for heating homes.
The scheme includes a ban on petrol and diesel cars in 2030, followed by hybrids five years later, forcing the country to embrace more environmentally friendly electric alternatives. But Mr Nolan said the £2.4bn set aside for this part of the scheme is nowhere near enough.
He said: “To be blunt, there's going to be a lot more than £2bn involved over the next 10 years - a lot, lot more."
Car bosses are also worried that consumers may resist pressure to switch to electric vehicles that are more expensive to buy than traditional cars.
Stephen Norman, Vauxhall managing director, called for “clear long-term fiscal incentives to provide customers certainty in their purchasing decisions and ensuring that low emission vehicles are affordable for all”.
Vauxhall’s Corsa E electric car costs £26,400, some £10,000 more than its cheapest petrol model.
The Prime Minister announced £12bn of funding for the wider greene energy scheme, but only £2.4bn of this is directed towards the automotive industry.
Ministers are providing £1.3bn to accelerate building a charging infrastructure, £582m for subsidies to make electric vehicles cheaper and almost £500m on developing and scaling up production batteries for vehicles.
The spending pledge led former Chancellor and noted climate change sceptic Lord Lawson to accuse Boris Johnson of being “economically illiterate.”
He said: “If the Government were trying to damage the economy they couldn’t be doing it better.
“A programme to erect statues of Boris in every town and village in the land would also ‘create jobs’ but that doesn’t make it a sensible thing to do.”
Millions of charging points will be needed by 2030 as Britons ditch petrol, and this will require huge upgrades to the power network as a whole so it can handle changing patterns of energy use.
This overhaul of the country’s energy infrastructure will result in bill increases that will force Brits to pay for electric car infrastructure while still using their petrol vehicles, Mr Nolan said.
The former watchdog, who now works at consultant Fingleton, said: “The question for Ofgem is how much are consumers prepared to pay? That is going to drive bill changes over time.
“Gradually over time the network part of the bill is likely to grow because we're just going to be building a bigger network."
The former Ofgem boss said it would be fairer for the Government to increase how much taxpayers contribute to energy infrastructure upgrade costs in order to offset a rise in energy bills.
Energy networks are likely to lobby the energy regulator for more funding in coming years. SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies said on Wednesday that the upgrades will require billions of pounds of private investment into the UK’s electricity and gas networks.
Mark Sait, chief executive of SaveMoneyCutCarbon, warned of a “perfect storm for the National Grid and the networks”.
He said: “There's a real infrastructure issue.
"Fundamentally if you're going to push more down the pipe, you need a bigger pipe.”
Graeme Cooper, transport decarbonisation director at National Grid, said the UK could cope with the change if people use smart charging products.
He said: “We are confident that a faster transition is possible and the transmission network is suitably robust to cope with the likely uptake in electric vehicles.
“If everyone in the UK switched to electric vehicles overnight and used smart charging, we think peak demand would only increase by around 10pc, which is still below historic peak demand.”