New analysis by energy tech company, Open Energi, suggests that electric vehicles (EVs) could provide over 11GW of flexible capacity to the UK’s energy system by 2030. The analysis demonstrates the potential EVs could have as a significant grid resource able to provide rapid flexibility to support renewable generation, balance electricity supply and demand and alleviate strain on the network at a local and national level, without impacting drivers.
Open Energi’s analysis quantifies flexibility based on different charging scenarios, speeds and time of day, using industry forecasts for EV numbers to attribute a volume to each scenario. It finds that by 2020, with an estimated 1.6 million EVs on the road, there could exist between 200-550MW of turn-up flexibility at different times of day, and between 400MW and 1.3GW of turn-down flexibility, to be unlocked from smart-charging. Available flexibility would change throughout the day depending on charging patterns and scenarios. In 2030, with 9 million EVs on the road, this rises to up to 3GW of turn-up and 8GW of turn-down flexibility respectively.
Dago Cedillos, Strategy and Innovation Lead at Open Energi commented “The electrification of transport is happening faster than anyone expected and EVs are set to have a significant impact on infrastructure, systems and markets. There has been a lot of attention given to the ‘worst-case’ scenarios but smart charging technology means EVs can be managed to the benefit of the system, and help accelerate our transition to a more reliable, affordable and sustainable energy future.”
Whilst EV charging will cause an increase in overall electricity demand, the greater challenge lies in where, when and how this charging takes place. The overall electricity demand change is expected to be a single-digit percentage increase but if all this energy is consumed at the same time of day e.g. during peak periods, it could result in double digit percentage increases in electricity consumption. This creates challenges for generation capacity and for local networks, who could be put under strain to meet these surges in power demand.
Smart charging technology turns EVs from a threat to grid stability into an asset that can work for the benefit of the system. Optimal night-dispatch for example, can ensure all vehicles are charged by the time they’ll be used the next day without compromising their local network infrastructure. Cars could help to absorb energy during periods of oversupply, and to ease down demand during periods of undersupply. On an aggregate basis, they can help the system operator, National Grid, with its real-time balancing challenge, and provide much needed flexibility to support growing levels of renewable generation. Suppliers could work with charge point operators to balance their trading portfolios and manage imbalance risk, helping to lower costs for consumers.
However, the success of EVs – and smart charging – will be driven by user-experience. Dago added ‘Smart charging can only happen with the consent of the driver, and drivers will only consent if their car is charged and ready to go when they need it. A combination of artificial intelligence and data insight can help to automate charging without affecting user experience, so that the technology can learn and respond to changing patterns of consumer behaviour and deliver an uninterrupted driver experience. Getting this right is key to aligning the future of sustainable energy and transport.”
Full details of the methodology can be found here.
 National Grid Future Energy Scenarios 2017 (Two Degrees)