Several groups are studying the impact of electrification on the US electrical system, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado and its research partners, including the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and national laboratories such as Lawrence Berkeley and Oak Ridge. NREL, as part of its study on the future of electrification, used what it calls “multiple analytical tools and models to develop and evaluate electrification scenarios designed to quantify the energy, economic and potential environmental impacts on the U.S. electrical system and the broader economy.
Among the research by analysts and energy companies is the impact of electric vehicles (EVs) on electricity demand and the grid. Electric vehicles are part of a global push towards electrification, moving away from fossil fuels as the transport sector seeks to decarbonise. In fact, EPRI has a fleet electric vehicle infrastructure initiative, as well as an electric transportation program that examines the impacts of electric vehicles on the grid.
Companies involved in the design and manufacture of electric vehicle charging systems are also part of this research, seeking better charging methods for vehicle owners to enable cost savings and more efficient use of electricity. . Joseph Vellone, head of North America for ev.energy, a company developing what it calls “a smart, cloud-based platform that automatically optimizes electric vehicle charging, for greener, cheaper charging “, spoke with POWER about his company’s work, the place of electric vehicles in electrification, and the importance of reducing carbon emissions from transportation.
POWER: What is the main, or best, argument for electrification?
Vellon: Electrification is the only way to reach our net zero goal and fight climate change. Electrifying our infrastructure and powering it with 100% renewable energy provides the United States with a unique opportunity to rebuild our infrastructure in a robust, scalable, and emissions-free way.
Electric vehicles are a low hanging fruit on our path to net zero: we’ve found a way to produce them at scale, we’re already on track to build robust charging networks, and companies like ev .energy provide that Electric vehicle charging can be aligned with renewable energy generation to provide truly carbon-free charging.
POWER: Is the electrification trend good for consumers? Studies have shown that it is less expensive to heat with natural gas and therefore heating bills for homes (and businesses) would increase. Is the economic argument valid?
Vellon: As we are still in the early days of electrification, consumers are seeing higher costs which will naturally decrease over time as we scale the country’s all-electric infrastructure.
However, it is important to note that consumers benefit from lower costs in certain electrical segments. For example, BloombergNEF and ev.energy published research last year that found electric vehicle drivers in California are already saving more than $1,000 a year by smartly charging their vehicle compared to the equivalent of refueling. fuel at a service station.
POWER: Some energy analysts have expressed concern about the impact of increased electrification (and greater demand for electricity) on the power grid. Should utilities and others be concerned about increased demand on already strained transmission and distribution infrastructure?
Vellon: Utilities absolutely need to be concerned about the impact of electrification on the power grid. The typical EV alone consumes about as much electricity as an average US household, so we envision a potential doubling of residential electricity demand with the same poles and wires that were built over 50 years ago.
However, electric vehicles need not become a liability to the power grid; indeed, when their load is intelligently managed, they can become a network asset. The good news is that BloombergNEF and ev.energy analyzed over a million charging sessions on the ev.energy platform and found that most light EVs stay plugged in for 12-14 hours at a time, but only require 1-3 hours. charge per session to meet the driver’s battery needs. That means there’s huge flexibility in how we charge EVs, much like when you plug in your smartphone before you go to bed and you (hopefully) have an 8 hour window for the recharge.
Your charging may be delayed, slowed, or paused to meet network demands, and you probably won’t notice it while you’re sleeping, as long as it’s 100% charged by the time your alarm goes off. This concept is called “smart charging” and ev.energy has already proven its benefits with more than 50,000 EVs. We partner with major utilities like Southern California Edison and Avangrid to intelligently manage their customers’ EV charging in the background while ensuring the vehicle is charged when the driver needs it.
In addition to helping maintain grid balance, EV drivers also benefit from the financial incentives these utilities pay their customers for their flexibility, which can range from a 50% discount on the price of their electricity at fixed monthly incentives of up to $50 per month. . In states like Texas, ev.energy is working directly with grid operator ERCOT to aggregate EVs into a virtual power plant that can be turned on or off based on grid conditions. This can help prevent blackouts like the one that hit Texas in February 2021.
POWER: Are some methods of electrification, for example in the transport sector, more important than others?
Vellon: The transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, so I would argue that electrifying and decarbonizing transportation should be our top priority in the journey to net zero.
POWER: To what extent should energy efficiency be part of the electrification strategy?
Vellon: Energy efficiency must absolutely be part of this country’s electrification strategy. It is not enough to electrify everything; we also need to consume less electricity. Smart thermostats and higher LEED standards are two proven ways to achieve this.
However, some sectors are less favorable to energy efficiency, and transport is one of them. Planes, trains and automobiles need to keep rolling to keep our economy going, and while there are some marginal improvements to be made to the fuel efficiency of these vehicles, the biggest improvement will come from electrifying them and of their diet with carbon-free energy. .
—Darrell Supervisor is associate editor of POWER (@POWERmagazine).