With US EV sales forecast to explode, Southern says grid will be prepared
- As more states, cities and municipalities work toward 100% zero emission vehicles by 2050, utility experts view the growing flexible load from electric vehicle (EV) charging as an opportunity.
- Despite concerns about meeting the anticipated load growth as utility generation increasingly incorporates renewable energy, utility representatives said they have already prepared for the growth of EV adoption, according to panelists at the Copper Development Association's EV Tech Summit on Tuesday. "We’ve done multiple studies on how much infrastructure you need to support a future of all EVs," Darren Epps, product development specialist for Southern Company, said on the panel.
- The biggest barrier to EV adoption is "actually a supply issue," to offer the U.S. consumer larger models like pickups and crossovers, according to Kellen Schefter, a panelist and senior manager of sustainable technology at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a lobbying group of investor-owned utilities.
As the country moves toward larger EV adoption, how much load growth do utilities need to be concerned about?
A November report from EEI and the Edison Foundation's Institute for Electric Innovation estimated the U.S. market will grow from having more than 1 million EVs on the road by the end of 2018 to 18.7 million in 2030. But that projection leads to only about a 2% increase of energy sales on the grid system, according to Schefter.
"We actually have a long time to go before [EV penetration] becomes sort of like a large grid impact," he told Utility Dive.
California has seen a larger amount of EVs on the road and, within Southern Company's service area, there's been a significant uptake of EVs in Atlanta, according to Epps.
"And we have not to my knowledge had a single distribution issue. The grid is really resilient, it’s robust, we’ve spent billions on it," Epps told Utility Dive after the panel.
"Really, one of the reasons we’re such proponents of [increasing EV adoption] is it does check all the boxes for us, it’s new load and it’s load at the right time," Epps said, after remarking that owners often charge EVs at night, helping utilities flatten load.
"One of our fears here is that some utilities may just decide, 'well, this is great because it's going to increase load,' and ... we don't want a situation where it increases peak demand," Dave Kolata, executive director of the Midwest consumer advocacy group, Citizens Utility Board, told Utility Dive in a phone interview.
California already started tying EV infrastructure investment to time-of-use rates, which marks progress on the policy-side, Kolata said.
"We think there's a need for proactive policies to essentially promote managed charging, smart charging and rate designs that encourage people to charge when it's best for the system," Kolata said.
Audi is really interested in implementing demand response and time-of-use capabilities into its EVs, Chris Michelbacher, the company's EV charging and infrastructure manager, said on the panel. In particular, Audi is interested in "receiving demand response signals directly from the utility" to help customers charge their vehicle while offsetting their utility bill.
"On the automakers' side, we need to see EV options for all types of cars," Schefter said. "But on the grid side, I think as more renewables are integrated into the grid, we’re going to need more demand-side flexibility in general."
To appease consumer interest in larger vehicles, Audi will be introducing an all-electric SUV, Audi e-tron, expected in the United States in next year.
"Really, the biggest barrier to me is getting consumers in the seats of EVs," Michelbacher told Utility Dive.
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