The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) issued some recommendations to help utility firms support an increase in electric vehicles in their service territories.The whitepaper, Utilities and Electric Vehicles: The Case for Managed Charging helps energy providers address challenges associated with sustaining grid stability due to increases in EV adoption and charging in service areas.
According to SEPA, EVs present a lucrative business model for utility firms and have become one of the largest flexible load on US grid systems.
Although the sector has huge potential to provide energy providers with profits, utilities face challenges in meeting peak demand due to charging of EVs.
According to SEPA, approximately one terawatt-hour of annual consumption will be used to power over 580,000 EVs sold in the US as of February alone. Both the number of EVs and energy demand is expected to grow.
The Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects EV electricity consumption to increase to approximately 33TWh annually by 2025 and to 551TWh by 2040.
The introduction and implementation of demand response initiatives such as very high energy tariffs during peak demands to drive consumer heavy EV charging to off-peak periods have to date not been hugely successful.
The majority of EV owners have shifted to charging their vehicles as soon as announced demand response periods end, resulting in an increase in demand again due to high numbers of EVs connected to the grid network.
At the same time, random changes in peak demand and transformer loads due to EV charging is also costing more to energy providers.
According to a study conducted by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, an estimated 17 % (12,000) of the utility’s transformers may need to be replaced due to EV-related overloads, at an average estimated cost of $7,400 per transformer.
SEPA recommends utilities to adopt managed EV charging as a solution to be able to shift very high charging of EVs to times when renewable energy generation is high or when energy demand is low.
Managed charging includes the use of technologies to by a utility firm or third party to remotely control vehicle charging by turning it up, down or off in line with real-time status of grid network.
Managed charging enables a utility to send charging instructions to EVs and EV chargers.
According to a survey conducted to understand utilities’ interest on managed EV charging, 3% of utilities offering EV services in the US have implemented the service.
69% are in the research stages and are planning to implement managed EV charging, 20% showed no interest and 8% did not respond.
Factors affecting adoption of managed EV charging
According to SEPA, the adoption of managed EV charging is influenced by factors including:
- In-state incentives and policies, including rebates, tax credits, and access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes
- Demographics of the service territory
- State requirements for zero emission vehicles
- Transportation fuel costs
- Availability of charging infrastructure
- EV readiness planning for local jurisdictions
Some of the energy providers implementing managed EV charging include the San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and PEPCO.
For instance, under managed EV charging service, San Diego Gas & Electric has equipped EV owners in its service territories with an application they use to view hourly changes to EV charging tariffs.
The application enables the utility to communicate with EV drivers the status of its grid network throughout a day.
According to findings of PEPCO, the key to wide adoption of managed EV charging if finding an inexpensive and reliable way to send communication signals to EVs and EV chargers on when to and when not to charge. [US EV owners want increase in public EV charging stations, survey].
However, stakeholders in the EV sector are showing growing interests towards managed EV charging. For instance, one-third of all manufacturers of EV supply equipment have a managed charger offering and 50% of all EV manufacturers had been directly or indirectly involved in managed EV charging pilots.
For managed EV charging services to increase, SEPA recommends utility firms to actively participate in:
- EV charging infrastructure development
- Play a role in increasing incentives for EV owners participating in the service
- Increase consumer awareness of the managed EV charging service
- Make use of managed EV charging service to align high EV demand with renewable energy generation.
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