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Don  Dulchinos's picture
Director of Market Facilitation OpenADR Alliance

Don Dulchinos serves as Director of Market Facilitation for the OpenADR Alliance. In this capacity, Don seeks to drive the awareness and adoption of the OpenADR standards, both across global...

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  • Mar 27, 2020

This item is part of the Innovations in Power - Spring 2020 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

The electric vehicle industry has spawned an ecosystem of vehicles, charging equipment and managed charging businesses. A key emerging trend is how central the role of electric utilities has become for a new generation of Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) companies, which might be called EVSE 2.0

Electric vehicles first rose to prominence with Tesla’s introduction in 2007, with other manufacturers (OEMs) introducing EV’s more slowly over time. In the early years, EV owners expected to charge at home, usually at usual household voltages 110, and sometimes with solutions calling for high voltage outlets – so-called Level 2 charging.  Only a handful of companies saw an opportunity for outside-the-home commercial charging as electric industry suppliers like Schneider and General Electric entered the market. These EVSE installations were small additions to utility commercial markets.

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Then start-up ChargePoint quickly became an industry leader, with a business model that wasn’t just about selling equipment installation, but adding a digital networking and data model integration.  Consistent with this model, ChargePoint decided to create and share an open standard around EVSE interconnection, publishing the Open ChargePoint Protocol, or OCPP.  Its aim was to create an open application protocol which allows EV charging stations and central management systems from different vendors to communicate with each other. It is in use by a large number of vendors of EV charging stations and central management systems all over the world.”   Many other charging station manufacturers adopted OCPP as well.

Following closely on these developments is the very recent rise of new companies that might be called EVSE 2.0, a group of start-ups that are introducing novel managed charging business models. These business models seem to almost always call for interconnection to utility DR, DER or other programs.

This trend dovetails with the more general trend of utilities incorporating distributed energy resources.  In recent years, with falling prices for renewable generation and growing renewables portfolio commitments, utilities have become more comfortable in working with third parties whose business models were predicated on utility interconnection. In that context, EVSE has looked like more than just another commercial customer.

One technical implication of distributed energy resources is that as the number of interconnected customers and devices multiplies, the more important it is to have standards-based integration in order for that business to scale.  This is the trend that has driven growth in the usage of the OpenADR protocols for DER.  After many years of usage by large C&I customers, OpenADR saw a new burst of activity in recent years as utilities began to take on more distributed energy resources, ranging from renewables to smart thermostats.  Not only can utilities communicate pricing and event information to potential program participants, they can do so in a way that does not cause consumers to rely on them for third-part device issues like software bugs.

Along the same lines, it turns out that EVSE 2.0 companies not only support common industry charging standards like OCPP, but are also incorporating OpenADR compliance. (Actually, industry pioneers like ChargePoint or Greenlots were also early adopters of OpenADR.) In fact, out of 40 companies joining the OpenADR Alliance or certifying OpenADR products in 2019 (a large increase over previous year) almost half of these new entrants are EVSE 2.0 companies. Specialists may wish to further explore the compatibility of OCPP and OpenADR in a recent white paper.

The EV phenomenon in many ways is still in early stages, with the percentage of EVs to overall car ownership still in single figures. But that seems likely to change quickly as battery prices continue to fall, consumers become more educated, and EVSE 2.0 companies continue to innovate. One might watch for future trends affecting utilities in this space:

  • Beneficial electrification’s impact on utilities, with EV’s accounting for as much as 10 – 20% more demand for electricity per household, and with load characteristics that may be straightforward to manage through timeof-use rates and other strategies.
  • The emergence of vehicle-to-grid solutions, perhaps led by business models such as EV fleets, where duty cycles are well understood and provide for reliability.
  • The synergistic effects of the growing demand for renewable sourcing of electricity for EV charging.

All of these trends point to deeper EV integration with electric utilities, and a continued need for efficient, scalable solutions.


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