A subsidiary of Italian electricity and gas company Enel has begun mobilizing a network of 10,000 connected electric vehicle chargers to help California reduce peak demand across its sprawling electricity grid.
If the experiment works, it could point to a new way to finance charging stations, where suppliers use revenues from the grid to help cover the initial cost of installing the infrastructure, Greentech Media reports.
The platform developed by eMotorWerks “rearranges vehicle charging schedules across thousands of chargers to deliver reductions in electrical consumption for California’s proxy demand resource (PDR) market,” which Greentech explains as a mechanism that pays companies to bring their electricity consumption down below historical trends.
“Companies do that with thermostats, or by tweaking industrial activities. EMotorWerks does it with cars,” among other devices. When a demand peak is coming up, the company “can delay charging schedules across [its] fleet based on a signal from the grid operator, while factoring in drivers’ needs and letting them opt out of events if necessary. Drivers earn compensation based on the flexibility they provide.”
It’s a model storage companies like Stem are already apply to distributed networks of batteries, Greentech notes. “But this is the first time a large-scale network of electric car chargers has played that role, at least in the U.S.”
Of the 10,000 chargers, 6,000 have been installed since January 2017, with combined capacity of up to 30 megawatts. In August, the fleet delivered 974 hours of capacity at an average price of US$50 per megawatt-hour. The challenge for an aggregator like eMotorWerks is to know how much storage capacity it can actually count on, after accounting for the needs of individual drivers. But “we have a statistical perspective on the capacity that we have certain confidence intervals around, and we bid accordingly,” said CEO Val Miftakhov.
“Currently, eMotorWerks calculates that participating drivers will earn $40 to $80 per year for their willingness to delay charging. That’s more than nothing, but it’s not a major cash generator, especially compared to the outlay needed to buy an EV in the first place,” Greentech writes.
Over time, though, California’s recent commitment to hit 100% renewable generation by 2045 will drive up the market for storage and efficiency as a grid resource. The policy “will produce an influx of intermittent renewable energy, which will heighten the value of rapid-response, highly controllable tools for grid operations.”