Grid Reliability for EVs

Utility Transportation Electrification: Part 5

Grid Reliability for EVsHow to Ensure Grid Reliability for an Electrified Transportation Future

In this five-part blog series, we will dissect the key areas of a transportation electrification strategy. These points are expanded upon in D+R’s white paper, “A Utility Roadmap for Transportation Electrification.”

The series includes:
Part 1: Why Successful Implementation Begins with Collaboration
Part 2: How a Robust Charging Infrastructure Benefits Utilities
Part 3: Why Designing Effective EV Incentive Programs Matter
Part 4: How to Educate Consumers About the Benefits of EVs
Part 5: How to Ensure Grid Reliability for an Electrified Transportation Future

There are clear environmental benefits to increased electric vehicle (EV) adoption, but there is no doubt that we are stepping into uncharted territory when it comes to powering large numbers of these vehicles. EVs create new demand for electricity, and it is important for utilities to prepare for an uptick of EV use in their service areas by developing a dynamic grid reliability plan that is customized for their needs.

There are many factors playing into grid reliability that make comparing different service areas like comparing apples to oranges. For example, resource mixes, generation capacity, and EV adoption rates can differ among different communities. In addition, EV adoption is often clustered in certain areas due to socioeconomic factors, meaning that local grids will face different levels of strain. Since each utility’s situation is unique, there is no prescriptive strategy to ensure grid reliability, but there are a few tools worth exploring when developing a much-needed electrification strategy.

Time-of-use rates, vehicle to grid technology, and smart charging are all tools that utilities can utilize to manage the surge of electricity needed to charge EVs. Time-of-use rates, or the fluctuation of electricity prices based on peak and non-peak hours, are particularly variable depending on a service area. For example, according to CityLab, if all personal vehicles in both California and Texas went totally electric, Texas would use less electricity than what it has available in surplus during off-peak hours, while California could see a demand higher than its excess supply. This example highlights variations caused by differences in climate. Texas is hotter and therefore has more capacity to ramp up electricity use during off-peak times due to the excess power capacity present for peak air conditioning use. California, being more temperate, does not have the same fluctuations in energy use. This example highlights why it is important for utilities to launch voluntary pilot programs in their service areas to learn about their unique situation through trial and error.

Two technologies used to manage the grid are vehicle to grid (V2G) technology and smart charging. V2G technology is one reason why the EV revolution is often described as being an opportunity for utilities. V2G gives utilities the opportunity to store excess power in EV batteries that can then be returned to the grid when needed. Where V2G provides an opportunity for flexibility from the storage perspective, smart charging allows for flexibility at the source by adjusting charging times bases on price and supply. Smart charging tools are not currently automated, but there is an opportunity for that feature to be available in the future.

It is important for utilities to prepare for the impacts that the EV revolution will have on the grid. You can find more information about time-of-use rates, V2G, smart charging, and how these tools have already been implemented in service areas across the country in section 5 of “A Utility Roadmap for Transportation Electrification.”

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