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Electric Vehicles – A distributed energy resource?

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Gary Hilberg's picture
President Continuum Energy

Energy professional with over 30 years experience in electricity generation and oil & gas markets. Experience with many generation sources including fossil, nuclear, renewables and biomass....

  • Member since 2019
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  • Aug 26, 2019

This item is part of the Distributed Energy Resources - Fall 2019 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

The growth of renewable energy has expanded the focus on distributed energy worldwide.  The United States has benefited from low natural gas prices which has improved the small-scale gas-fired generation market, but none of these areas match the volume of distributed renewable installations, primarily solar PV.  Many readers, including the author, may already be owners of residential solar panels.  The retail segment must be considered in any distributed energy analysis due to the installation volume, consistently adding 500-600 MW per quarter1, since 2016.  This is an important shift in the power generation segment as this is the first time that direct end-user investment is having a significant impact on what has historically been an industrial and utility segment.  This investment is highly supported by state and federal incentives but even with this support, this must be seen as a willingness to participate in an industry that previously was invisible to most consumers.  There are 2 million solar installations now (2019) and studies project this to grow to 4 million in 2023.  Many of these are not residential, but most are!

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With this proven willingness to directly participate in the energy segment, it is necessary to consider another growing trend, electric vehicles (EV).  This article will not discuss the extensive work on the technology to allow Vehicle to Grid (V2G) connections, but on the potential scale of the benefit if these resources can be brought into the distributed energy market.  A particularly interesting factor is that there could be significant overlap between the residential solar PV segment and the EV segment.

There have been several recent studies on the market potential for the growth of stationary energy storage, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) produced a comprehensive report showing the worldwide energy storage market growing to a cumulative capacity of over 2.8 GW-hrs. (costs of over $660 billion) in 20404.  In the near term, this article uses cumulative capacity (MW-hr.) data from Wood MacKenzie/Energy Storage Association5 on US energy storage and BNEF on EV sales.  This article assumes an average EV battery size of 60 kWh and only includes vehicles sold after 2017. 

There will not be 100%, or maybe even 50% participation by these owners.  The key point is that the available storage capacity in the EV’s is six times larger than the dedicated utility storage capacity.  The intention of this comparison is to highlight the potential of the EV battery capacity to be a part of the overall energy storage segment.  The participation of retail electric users in the residential solar market (more than 2 million households in 2019) that is indicative of the willingness of the new consumers to be much more engaged that the traditional consumer.   

Of course, this effort will require significant additional infrastructure and a very large retail marketing effort to engage and incentivize the EV owners.  If successful, the effort will include a variety of programs to address some of the various energy storage value propositions that have already been defined in the core stationary storage segment.  As the numbers show, there is a unique opportunity for distributed generation developers to consolidate existing battery assets are part of their storage solution – maybe the most virtual of all generation resources?


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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 27, 2019

Clever programs that will turn the challenge of EV loads instead into an opportunity for utilities are a really great way to show how innovation and creative thinking will define the future of the grid. I just hope these type of programs come to commercialization sooner than later, as I'd love to plug my EV into one of them! Do you have any insights or at least educated guesses when these type of programs might start to see pilot and implementation?

Gary Hilberg's picture
Gary Hilberg on Aug 27, 2019

Matt - the best indicators of these programs is the where the current battery storage solutions are being deployed.  Lazard came out with a study that showed a majority of capacity is in the peak load shaving segment.  This would indicate to me that commercial and industrial facilities could utilize EV batteries to peak load shave.  

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