Expert Interview – E-Mobility: A Chance or a Challenge for the Electricity Grid?

Expert Interview – April, 12, 2022

Speakers at the EM-Power Europe conference give a brief outlook on their session

A tremendous increase in electric vehicles is expected in the next few years, which will have an impact on the power grid. At the EM-Power Europe Conference in Munich on May 10 and 11, renowned experts will discuss what is needed to enable the successful deployment of electric vehicle technology. In the run-up to the conference, we asked the speakers of the session “Electric Vehicle Integration into Power Grids” a few questions about the challenges and opportunities of electromobility.

How does EV penetration impact the grid and what is needed to enable successful deployment of EV technology?

Bruce Douglas, Director Business Development & Communications, Eurelectric

Bruce Douglas: As the electrification of end-use sectors accelerates, the total electricity demand in Europe is expected to increase by around 1.8% per year by 2030, reaching around 3,530 TW. The strongest increase (in relative terms and compared to other end-use sectors) will come from transport, where, by the end of the decade, we expect 65 million EVs driving on Europe’s roads, up from less than 5 million today. Their penetration will see electricity demand growth for EVs rise by 11% per year, adding 200 TWh in this time span. The grid, by and large, will cope with the increased demand coming from the transition to EVs. However, once EV penetration reaches 50% on an urban distribution network, uncontrolled charging could lead to voltage deviations and affect the quality of power supply. To prevent the grid from having issues, smart and flexible solutions will be essential. Managed charging, either via supplier-managed smart charging or a user-managed response to time-of-use tariffs, will allow for load shifting, dampening the spike in peak load by up to 21% (compared to unmanaged charging).

Len Wismeyer, Business Developer Digital & Flex, TenneT TSO B.V.

Len Wismeyer: EU and country specific targets are clear, EV’s will be the future. The integration of EV’s will increase the demand for electricity and consequently, the need to transport the electricity to the EV’s. As for all other energy transition related technologies such as PV and wind, this requires not only significant investments, but a seamless fit with market mechanisms and the way we plan, reinforce, and operate our grid.

To successfully deploy EV technology, we need efforts from the TSO and market parties. TSOs should embrace the concept of decentral flexibility. This requires connectivity with aggregators, and ways to aggregate and validate the delivery of these small assets. Secondly, market parties need to develop innovative services for customers to unlock the flexibility for B2B2C energy services.

Line Nyegaard, Project Manager Research & Development, Elvia AS

Line Nyegaard: As far as Norway is concerned, from an energy perspective, the power grid will handle the transition to an emission-free car fleet. However, it can be a capacity related problem in the distribution grid if all households are charging at the same time - in addition to their usual consumption of electricity. A study carried out by the Institute of Transport Economics in Norway states that 9 out of 10 EV owners charge their cars most often at home. The challenges occurring in the low voltage distribution grid due to EV charging are related to weak grids and voltage quality. By introducing systems of smart charging in collaboration with price intensives (price signals and grid tariffs), the challenges are solvable.

How do you see the role of EVs in flexibility services?

Bruce Douglas: EVs participating in vehicle to grid (V2G) services will help boost the efficiency, reliability and stability of the grid through a number of flexibility services, such as peak shaving, load balancing, regulation of frequency or the incorporation of renewable energy. As smart charging technologies become more sophisticated, V2G solutions could bring an end to the curtailment of renewable energy generation, EV batteries being able to store this variable green electricity and discharge it at times of peak demand.

Len Wismeyer: One way to deal with the integration of EV’s is just by extending the DSO and TSO grid to facilitate peak load. However, to be efficient and smart, we need to embrace the EV not only as a means of transportation but we have to integrate it in the energy system. A huge potential can be unlocked by facilitating the right boundary conditions for EV’s to connect to TSO markets to deliver ancillary services. In the future, an EV will not only be a means of transportation, but a way to optimize ones energy bill! As a society, we should smartly deal with the limited resources we have, and make use of the infrastructure and resources available. This requires overcoming Silo thinking and facilitating sector coupling initiatives.

What is the impact of net booster/fast charging stations on the grid and how to respond to this?

Bruce Douglas: Interestingly, our analysis shows that in 2035, 85% of charging will be done at home, 6% in the workplace, 5% at the destination, 4% on public highway corridors. In light of this, we expect that only 2% of the total number of chargers to be fast or super-fast.

On the one hand, super-fast charging will be primarily needed on highway corridors, where drivers will pay a premium for the convenience of charging quickly so that they can continue their journeys. On the other hand, fast chargers will be employed in fleet hubs, where commercial and heavy-duty vehicles start and end their journey, and overnight stay hubs. Installing high-power charging infrastructure in these areas will need significant investment and must be carefully planned. However, depending on the dwell time, hubs offer the best use case for grids, since most of the charging will be done at night during the off-peak period. Hubs also offer the potential to optimise the energy network and pair with on-site solar and behind-the-meter energy storage. In light of the power (and speed) needs, the challenges are higher on highways, where we will see a mix of fast and super-fast chargers, coupled with limited opportunities for managed charging. The high-power charging will create the greatest grid impact, where high investment costs and grid upgrades are to be expected. This is exactly where technological solutions, such as co-locating solar and on-site behind-the-meter storage solutions that would give EV drivers access to charging from renewable power, will be essential.

Len Wismeyer: Fast charging itself is a tool to provide comfort to an EV driver. We have assessed a low potential of flexibility in fast charging itself since the goal of smart charging is to charge your EV and to continue your travel in the fastest way possible. The grid should cope with these charging stations via the processes in place, just like any other grid connection point. However, the tendence we see (in the Netherlands) is that smart charging stations are often combined with battery storage to reduce the size of a grid connection. In this case, synergies with the battery installed can be found in providing ancillary services, and not the car.

Line Nyegaard: From an overall system perspective fast chargers seem to have consistent profile over the year and between workdays and weekends. The peak is at around 5 PM. Our conclusion is that fast chargers do not represent a significant new stress to the transmission grid. However, on a regional and local level fast chargers can easily become a dimensioning factor.

EM-Power Europe Conference

In the EM-Power Europe Conference session "Electric Vehicle Integration into Power Grids" the speakers will provide you with insights in how charging management can benefit the utilities, how the increasing adoption of electric vehicles is impacting the grid and what is needed to enable the successful deployment of electric vehicle technology. The session will be held on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 from 4:30 to 5:20 p.m. at the International Congress Center Munich (ICM).

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