Guest Blog: Are utilities ready for vehicle-to-grid?

Most European countries have committed to Net-Zero carbon emission targets by 2050 or earlier. In order to achieve this, many things we do today will need to be electrified, including our cars. However, with the gradual phase out of fossil fuels and more reliance on unpredictable renewables for generation, there is an increasing need for alternative levels of storage, such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) to balance what will become a more erratic electricity system. In this SustMeme Guest Post, engineering manager for World Kinect Energy Services, Adam Pigott asks: Are utilities ready for V2G?

AP: Whilst the infrastructure as it stands today could largely handle V2G in terms of physical power flow, the telemetry does not yet fully exist to manage the import and export dynamics and quantify the financial ‘reward’ for anyone participating.

Furthermore, the number of electric vehicles (EVs) that can support V2G is unknown, with only Nissan officially stating that the new Leaf is V2G capable. Whether other EVs have the necessary hardware (either capable today or via software update) is not clear.

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) vs solar export  

V2G differs from solar export in terms of what is being supplied to the electrical system. With solar, financial reward is gained by exporting energy, often small quantities for long periods of time, but is fundamentally unpredictable — the grid cannot depend on it and must modulate conventional dispatchable power generation to compensate.

Exported energy is metered by a totalizer and data is supplied to the utility to calculate the value of the power monthly or quarterly (normally at a relatively low unit rate per kWh).

V2G can export energy (at much higher power than solar export), on demand and possibly for very short periods of time to help the grid operators balance the system at 50Hz. Consequently, it is more about pushing out power for short durations when needed, than it is about the continuous delivery of energy.

As such, V2G participants would likely not be rewarded for kWh of energy exported to the grid, but more based on a demand payment for availability and the number of demand events undertaken.

For example, energy exported from solar installation on a building may attract an export payment of 4p per kWh, whilst a company capable of providing a Demand Response Service may be paid the equivalent of £60 per kW each year to either reduce their load, on demand, or export to the grid for very short durations.

The future of V2G

Any V2G-capable electric vehicle, coupled with a suitably equipped smart charger, could provide V2G services today. The smart charger would simply monitor the grid frequency; and, if grid frequency dipped below 48.5Hz, the charger would export back to the network, automatically. What isn’t universally possible today is the mechanism to then reward the EV owner for providing this service.

To further complicate the picture, the question also needs to take account of who is financially rewarded – is it the vehicle owner or the owner of the charging infrastructure?

If the latter, this is fine if the vehicle is charging on your own drive, connected to your infrastructure and you gain the financial benefit. However, connected to a public charger or a charger at work, would you be so happy for your vehicle battery to be used for V2G (potentially increasing wear and reducing lifespan) if someone else other than you are financially rewarded?

Legislation key to driving V2G

My belief is that V2G will have to be driven by legislation. V2G will be necessary in the future to support the distribution infrastructure. V2G will effectively alleviate some of the issues EV themselves create, reduce infrastructure upgrade costs and allow for much greater levels of renewable generation to be deployed, by smoothing out the unpredictable nature of renewable output.

However, to ensure this happens, the EV owners will either have to be financially rewarded for allowing export from their EV (and the necessary mechanisms by which this happens will need to be established), or the government simply mandates that all EVs and chargers are capable of V2G and it becomes a necessary part of EV ownership in which all participate and there is no financial incentive.

Adam Pigott is an engineering manager with World Kinect Energy Services, who work with clients to understand their EV ambitions — whether that means creating revenue via vehicle charging, increasing footfall to a location, or providing on-site charging to staff or fleets in order to reduce carbon emissions.

You can check out the full archive of past Guest Blog posts here.

Would you like to Guest Blog for SustMeme? For more info, click here.

SUSTMEME: Get the Susty Story Straight!