EV Charger

How ENERGY STAR EVSE Can Help Utilities Manage Electric Vehicle Demand


The electric vehicle (EV) revolution continues to make headlines as sales forecasts are revised upwards. Bloomberg’s latest forecast shows EV sales increasing from a record 1.1 million worldwide in 2017, to 11 million in 2025, and then surging to 30 million in 2030. Utilities will need to prepare for the grid impact of so many EVs on the road. One opportunity is for utilities to leverage the new ENERGY STAR specification for electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to promote EV chargers that minimize energy waste and support connectivity to home energy management systems.

For utilities, the time to begin preparing for wide scale EV adoption is now. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) recent report, 10-30 million additional EVs on the road could add over 11,000 GWh of new load to the U.S. power grid. Fleetcarma estimates that a typical EV will use 261 kWh monthly, increasing the household demand for electricity in the U.S. by 25 to 40%.  Such big hikes in electricity demand can affect the stability and efficiency of the grid if utilities can’t plan for it. The Sacramento Municipality District Utility has to replace about 17% of its transformers because of the damage caused by the EV overload.

Many utilities are looking into time-varying rate programs to minimize peak demand and encourage off-peak charging. They should also consider creating incentive programs for ENERGY STAR certified EVSE. The ENERGY STAR specification covers both type of AC EV chargers – Level 1 and Level 2. Level 1 chargers use a 120 V wall outlet and provide 2-5 miles of range per hour of charging time, while Level 2 chargers require a 208 or 240 V wall outlet and provide 10-60 miles of range per hour of charging time. EPA may also expand the scope of the ENERGY STAR program to include DC fast chargers, which can deliver 50 kW or more and charge a battery to 80% in 20 minutes.

Why promote ENERGY STAR certified EVSE?

Charging infrastructure can be prohibitively expensive for many potential EV customers, and as EVs transition from the “early adopter” phase to mass market adoption, affordable charging infrastructure will be needed to ensure that everyone can take advantage of the benefits of electric transportation. In California, the cost of Level 2 home charger equipment and installation is together about $1,400 on average, depending on a home’s age, other loads, and circuit capacity. In commercial settings, the cost of installing a Level 2 charger is approximately $6,000. Rebates and incentive programs for homeowners and businesses to install efficient EVSE infrastructure are a relatively cost-effective way to help satisfy increasing charging needs over the next decade.

The ENERGY STAR program gives utilities a clear benchmark for programs. More than 90% of U.S. households recognize the ENERGY STAR label, and the program’s third-party certification and verification reinforces confidence among consumers. ENERGY STAR EVSE models use 40% less standby energy than non-ENERGY STAR models. This adds up to a lot of lifetime energy savings when one considers that EV chargers are in standby mode for 85% or more of the lifetime of the charger. In fact, according to EPA, if all Level 1 and Level 2 EVSE sold in the United States met ENERGY STAR requirements by 2026, the savings in energy costs would grow to more than $17 million, and more than 280 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions would be prevented.

Connected functionality is an optional, but important, feature for ENERGY STAR EVSE. The models with this feature are capable of integrating into demand response programs. Consumers, builders, policy makers, and utilities can find ENERGY STAR certified EVSE with connected functionality by using the ENERGY STAR Product Finder Tool and filtering for “Connected Functionality Capable” products. In addition, all ENERGY STAR certified EVSE must meet electrical safety requirements. This is an important feature since many retailers currently sell products with no electrical safety certifications.

For these reasons, the California Energy Commission (CEC), through its California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project, recently announced that all equipment qualifying for funding must be ENERGY STAR certified. Likewise, the Regional Technical Forum (RTF) in the northwest is currently considering an energy efficiency measure specifying ENERGY STAR certified Level 2 chargers. Localities and utilities looking to prepare for an EV future should strongly consider following suit.

Gabe Duarte is a Senior Associate at D+R International, where he conducts market research on EVs and works with utilities on EV program implementation and strategy. Since 1996, D+R has worked with the federal government and its private-sector partners to make the ENERGY STAR logo the national symbol for energy efficiency. Today, D+R supports the ENERGY STAR programs for appliances, lighting, water heaters, windows, doors, and skylights, and EVSE. 

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