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Investing in Energy Storage & Smart Mobility, Forging a New Evolution

Electric vehicle (EV) deployments are expected to increase rapidly - Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates that EV adoption will expand to 56 million drivers by 2040. With this influx of electrified transportation expected to plug into the grid in the years ahead, it’s imperative that stakeholders from the EV infrastructure, utility and energy technology sectors, including providers of energy storage, work together to sustainably grow our EV network without disrupting grid operations. Together, we must understand the adoption curve for EVs, EV chargers, and residential energy storage deployments, and create comprehensive strategies for integrating these resources into the grid. 

Important questions to consider include: 


What are the biggest challenges to achieving EV charging at scale? 

This might be the toughest topic to dissect. As EVs become more affordable and are able to go longer distances, demand for EVs are expected to outpace that of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Today, the average range of an EV is between 100 to 150 miles per charge, and by 2020 the average range is expected to increase to 300-400 miles per charge. However, like any transformation in any major industry, the transition needs to be thoughtful, coordinated, and well planned to ensure that drivers are able to charge when needed. The issue right now is the lack of infrastructure and ability to charge quickly, which is impeding the full adoption of EVs. Most public charging stations today are “Level 2,” meaning that they deliver between 7 to 19 kilowatt-hours (kWhs) of energy every hour. For example, a battery electric vehicle (BEV) sedan with a 60-kWh battery would take five to ten hours to “fill up” at a conventional (as opposed to fast-charging) Level 2 station. Having so few stations and such long service times eventually turns off would-be buyers. 

Where should energy storage be placed to best support EV infrastructure? 

I work alongside individuals who come from large-scale grid connected energy storage backgrounds, some of whom previously worked for ABB’s energy storage group. With that in mind, a typical perspective adopted when considering locations for EV infrastructure and supportive energy storage devices is that storage is best placed in areas where there is the potential for a clustering effect for plug-in electric vehicles (PEV). As we all know, a clustering effect can potentially cause the entire grid to collapse, and in order to combat this, we will eventually need upgrades to our electricity distribution infrastructure, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 

It’s also a general best practice to place energy storage where a multitude of direct current fast charge (DCFC) vehicle charging stations are present. Because DCFC charging stations have high utilization rates, energy storage systems are a good technology to pair alongside DCFC deployments because they are able to charge and discharge without triggering a higher demand charge. As more EVs come online, we’ll see more energy storage placed nearby public and private infrastructure. 

What regulatory challenges does energy storage face? 

As of now, there is a lack of regulatory support at the national level. In the earlier days of both wind and solar, we saw tax incentives from either the ITC or PTC, which helped propel the industries. Currently, we’re at grid parity under certain conditions, but are beginning to see pockets of regulatory support in California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Arizona, which all have storage targets. For example, New Jersey approved a 2GW target to be achieved by 2030 with an interim 600MW target by 2021, which will accelerate short-term build in the PJM region. Furthermore, New York approved a 1.5GW energy storage target to be met by 2025, Massachusetts expanded its storage target to 1GWh by 2025, and Arizona is considering a 3GW target by 2030. Taking all of these targets into account, we’re beginning to see a slow but sure shift into more regulatory opportunities for energy storage.

How are business models evolving alongside the grid to include V2G (vehicle-to-grid) and blockchain technologies?

As a result of recent EV growth, the potential for new business models are emerging to maximize value derived from V2G interactions, meaning that there is a bi-directional flow of energy between the electric vehicles and the utility grid. For example, fleet owners and operators who have a significant number of vehicles that sit idle during a period of time can potentially aggregate the battery power from the idle vehicles and push power back into the grid to participate in the wholesale energy markets and provide ancillary services such as frequency regulation, spinning reserves or participate in market-based DR programs, which is already happening today. 

Another emerging trend that has the potential to impact how we interact with energy is blockchain technology that facilitates peer-to-peer energy trading. Blockchain is well-suited for this because it creates a transparent, auditable, and automated record of energy generation and consumption as it allows digital information to be distributed across all networks. As an example, blockchain technology helps solar power generators feed excess electricity into the local grid, or sell it to other customers, and receive compensation directly from the customers rather than relying on a third party. With this in mind, blockchain is a premier add-on that we can expect to be utilized as we continue to see EV adoption increase. It’s easy to imagine a future in which individuals can sell the excess power from their residential solar or energy systems or provide charging services to the general public. 

In conclusion

There’s a need for all stakeholders to be engaged in the conversation about how we transition to smarter, cleaner, and safer mobility systems. The investment and infrastructure to support electric mobility will vary significantly from one place to another, thus any approach needs to be market specific. Local stakeholders should plan for electrification while taking into account local characteristics, especially urban infrastructure and design, the energy system, and the culture and patterns of mobility. By helping cut operating costs, enhance revenues, and improve reliability, battery storage could play a crucial role in this new evolution. 

Harmeet Singh's picture

Thank Harmeet for the Post!

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 15, 2019 1:47 pm GMT

There’s a need for all stakeholders to be engaged in the conversation about how we transition to smarter, cleaner, and safer mobility systems

Very well said and a key point-- though one important group to also involve is the customers themselves! Can't let this become one of those situations where industry comes up with a solution that ends up not resonating with customers, the EV adopters should be carried each step along the way as well to sanity check how useful and utilized potential solutions would be

Vladimir Vinogradov's picture
Vladimir Vinogradov on Nov 18, 2019 5:05 am GMT

It's a good text. 

"The investment and infrastructure to support electric mobility will vary significantly from one place to another, thus any approach needs to be market specific."

What can be the volume, timing and return on this investment? These are important questions that need answers.

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