About ten years ago when I first heard about the idea of grid-integrated electric vehicles, I thought it was far-fetched. It seemed odd to think that someone would charge an EV only to send that electricity back to the grid.
The world’s moved on a lot since then. We know from South Australia’s experience that just 100MW of battery capacity has a significant impact on the energy market in that state. EV grid integration isn’t just a boffin’s proposal any more, it’s a looming reality.
That’s why last week the Australian Electricity Market Commission (AEMC) released an issues paper to get input on how this can happen. Submissions are open until March 19, 2020.
The media release quotes AEMC acting CEO Suzanne Falvi as saying with growing EV sales:
“we need to lock in lower cost ways to support consumers who want them”,
“make sure this technology makes a positive contribution to our future power system and doesn’t become another cost driver”.
So we’ve decided to give the issues paper a read.
The high points of the issues paper are:
- the opportunities EVs offer electricity retailers (beyond selling more electricity, we guess)
- what regulatory changes might be needed; whether retailers currently offer deals for electric vehicle owners, and what barriers might exist to creating offers
- the development of (and barriers to) non-residential charging products and services
- what EV value streams might exist now and in the future
Grid Integration Business Models
While last in the issues paper, potential EV value streams offer what I think are the most interesting possibilities – it’s where the AEMC discusses the different ways EV batteries can push power back into the grid.
Of course, the physical operation is the same: the car has stored power, and the grid needs to draw on stored power when “the sun doesn’t shine and the wind isn’t blowing”. What’s interesting is the business models the market might create to make this economic.
The issues paper offers two possible models:
- America’s Enel X, which aggregates EV charging loads, manages its 30MW/70MWh collection of customer batteries as a virtual battery, and gives customers reward incentives in exchange for their electrons;
- Simpler EV-as-battery solutions, using vehicle-to-grid (V2G) or vehicle-to-home (V2H) technologies built into the vehicles (apparently new Nissan Leaf EVs have this capability). This is being trialled in the UK by OVO Energy with 1,000 Leaf-owning households.
The Commission’s question for respondents to the paper is whether there are other possible business models for electric vehicles supplying home or grid power, and what regulatory barriers stop this from happening.
Government Policy Holding EVs Back
It’s still early days in the rollout of EVs. The issues paper says two million electric vehicles were sold globally last year and there are 5.1 million now on the road. Australia’s sales it describes as “modest” – 6,718 sold last year, but that segment grew by 203% over 2018 while the motor vehicle market overall shed 7.8% of sales between 2018 and 2019. Prices, the report noted, are falling, and charging stations are turning up all over the place.
The paper noted that because of the government’s outright hostility to electric vehicles (politely described as “a lack of supportive policy”), AEMO’s forecast for Australia is pretty limp between now and 2030: the market won’t reach a million EVs by 2030 as things now stand. Consumers retain their range anxiety and are worried about price.
The Magic Numbers: 500 km, $50,000
However, when car-makers can offer 500km range EVs for less than $50,000, the AEMC believes the market will start to take off.
Charging infrastructure is another matter: providers are well ahead of the curve it seems. There were more than 1,900 fast charging stations in the country in July 2019 (we guess that’s passed 2,000 by now).
The most important charging question if EVs are to be integrated into the energy system is charging behaviour – in particular the split between:
- Level One (trickle charge through a standard 240V outlet: up to 10 A, or approx. 2 kW),
- Level Two (a full overnight recharge from a dedicated outlet: 15-32 A, up to 8 kW single phase or 22 kW three phase)
- Level Three (DC rapid charge stations 30-300 kW).
It’s important because access to a fast recharge will influence owners’ willingness to send electrons back to the grid, depleting their EV batteries.
Research by Energia found people who could charge at home and at work are currently about 70% of the market, and they hardly ever use public charging stations; while the other 30% of the market use public charging stations for all their charging needs.
Another big influence on the market is consumers’ growing interest in automating some of the decision-making around their electricity consumption – the ability to take a “set-and-forget” attitude to when their EV chargers, pool pumps, home batteries and air conditioners operate. For example, the Zappi home charger from MyEnergi can be set to only charge your electric vehicle from excess solar energy.
EV Charging (And Discharging) Tariffs
Consumers will only get the most value out of grid-integrated EVs if retailers have products ready, though. As the issues paper puts it:
“The electrification of Australia’s passenger vehicle fleet is expected to materially increase electricity consumption in Australia and will change the underlying residential demand profile”,
so regulators should be able to:
“efficiently realise and deliver value streams from the charging (or discharging) of EV batteries”.
The AEMC asks what’s the role of regulators in helping electricity retailers craft products and services for the two-way market.
Should You Be Able To Choose A Separate Retailer For Your Car Charging Electricity?
The main regulatory change canvassed in the issues paper is whether consumers should be able to sign up with a second retailer for their controlled loads (Referred to as MTR, Multiple Trading Relationships). The AEMC has in the past allowed MTRs only if the customer has multiple network connection points installed, but the increasing penetration of distributed energy resources (DER) might justify revisiting that regulation.
Non-residential fast-charging currently used by a minority of EV owners could rise sharply, the issues paper suggests. For example, shared vehicle operators will probably take up EVs faster than residential customers, and they’ll pretty much exclusively use public charging facilities.
Get Your Submissions In!
If you want to have a say in the future of EVs and the grid, any individual, group or organisation can make a submission here.
Scroll down to the form, select ‘Market Review Submission’ in the first dropdown, then ‘RPR0012 – 2020 Retail Energy Competition Review’ in the second dropdown. Then fire away with your vision of Australia’s EV future.