The charging cord for the Tesla Model S electric car
There is a hidden barrier to electric vehicles (EV) adoption – our electric grid. EVs could significantly increase peak demand and thus impact grid reliability. AMI and demand response technologies are often promoted as the solution for this uptick in peak demand. But we also need to look at other, grid-based solutions to enable broader adoption of EVs. Here are a few reasons why:
- AMI and demand response offer a limited solution. For these technologies to reduce peak load, consumers must change their behavior. But that won’t happen without a reasonable price incentive that compensates consumers for their inconvenience. By contrast, grid-based technologies such as volt/VAR optimization and energy storage, shave peak demand without any consumer involvement.
- An optimized grid makes renewable energy available for EV charging. Grid-based technologies can address the intermittency of wind and solar so EV owners can charge with green electricity, thereby reducing our dependency on fossil fuels such as oil and coal (in coal-fired plants).
- An optimized grid provides the needed reliability. Electricity, the fuel source for EVs, must be at least as reliable as today’s gasoline. Consumers will be even less tolerant of outages if it means they won’t be able to drive whenever they want. Grid solutions like distribution automation can lead to major improvements in electric service reliability.
What are the next steps?
Many of the technologies to prepare the grid for EVs exist today. But we need a revamped policy environment to ensure the grid can be readied for EVs. Here are a few changes that would help:
- Give incentives for energy efficiency technologies. Some technologies that essentially increase grid capacity to support higher electricity demand, like volt/var optimization programs, reduce demand and can have the effect of reducing utility revenues. Alternate rate structures are needed to compensate utilities so they have incentive to make these investments.
- Factor social benefits into rate case assessments. Studies show the staggering cost of outages, which will only increase as EV penetration grows. We need to ensure that the costs and benefits to the community — not just to the utility — are considered when evaluating rate recovery for investments that improve grid reliability.
- Recognize the full benefit of energy storage. Utilities are typically unable to recover the full value provided by stored energy systems. They often recover some of the investment based on reliability benefits, but not on other benefits like peak shaving, the importance of which will grow with increases in EV usage. Our regulatory environment needs to ensure the allowed return on investment in energy storage reflects the true value of these technologies.
This article was contributed to Smart Grid News by Mike Edmonds, Vice President of Strategic Solutions for S&C Electric Company. He is responsible for the strategy, direction and execution of S&C’s portfolio of solutions families. Prior to joining S&C in April 2010, Edmonds was vice president & general manager of Siemens USA Energy Automation group, responsible for the real-time solutions business for energy management systems, market systems, substation automation and protection control.