- Oct 4, 2022 8:52 pm GMT
I recently posted a short poll to the Energy Central audience about utility preparations for transportation electrification. While not exhaustive, the feedback indicates how our peers view the situation. Here are the results from 40 participants and what it means to you.
- On a scale of 1-5, how prepared are utilities to support aggressive transportation electrification?
No one believes utilities are "very well" (5) prepared to support aggressive electrification. Virtually everyone was at the midpoint or lower, and I agree with that sentiment. Most believe it can be done, but we have serious work to do and need new tools.
- On a scale of 1-5, what level of prioritization is your organization putting towards getting ready for the EV revolution?
A wide range exists in how seriously utilities are taking the EV revolution at this time. There is roughly 10% in the lowest and highest categories with everyone else somewhere between the extremes. Nevertheless, it's encouraging to see 3 and 4 together make up over half of the total. Taken together with question #1, this means the problem is being prioritized, but we are not there yet.
- Which of the following is most concerning? Pick one:
Most respondents are concerned about resource adequacy (see question 4) and the fact that it will take decades to benefit the climate.
The red slice is arguably the most alarming reflecting the belief that EVs will crush our networks. That is a startling thought for dedicated utility employees who have spent their careers striving to provide safe, reliable, cost-effective service for their customers.
- What is missing today for utilities to respond effectively to transportation electrification?
The last question was a freeform query – What's missing today? Several themes emerged.
Capacity – Capacity was a significant concern, and NERC agrees in their 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment report that shows over one-half of the USA is at risk for insufficient operating reserves this summer! Gasoline is a potent fuel; replacing that energy via the electric system is non-trivial.
Planning – Adequate comprehensive planning and alignment on policy rightfully concerned many respondents. Someone cited the lack of clarity, asking - who has the ball and is responsible for reliability? It's not as straightforward as it used to be.
I make a hobby of asking people what they think of EVs. Most are confused by the mixed message of conservation to avoid blackouts, yet encouragement to buy EVs adding load to the system. This reveals an underlying change in the utility landscape.
People now somewhat accept, even presuppose, unreliable electricity and rolling blackouts. As a result, they feel compelled to invest in their own generator or battery backup when the utility can't meet their needs. These issues, formerly reserved for developing nations, reveal a deterioration in what was traditional utility planning and responsibility.
Collaboration – Several respondents noted the need for better analysis and simulation. Good analysis rests on good data, and in the case of EVs, that takes many forms, from infrastructure to customer demographics. On top of analysis is the need for greater collaboration between parties not accustomed to sharing data or working together. Utilities, DOTs, state and local governments, car manufacturers, and charging network operators must share information, optimize, and improve EV planning and execution.
Joshua Aldridge's comment posted on the survey sums up the general feeling well –
"…the vast majority of utilities from generation down to distribution are not ready for mass implementation of EV technology. Every client I work with personally is rightfully concerned about the circuit capacity impact to their systems, particularly how these assets will worsen T&D congestion and capacity. It's going to be a hard turn, but it can be made."
Joshua Aldridge, Technical Solutions Engineer, Sentient Energy
Joshua's observation reinforces that utilities need new capabilities to respond well to transportation electrification. For example, utilities need better data models that include additional details and equipment types, better visualization and analytical methods -- plus collaboration tools to connect with a wide variety of stakeholders.
However, they must also be very good at their core business workflows connecting new EV charger services, building new transmission and substations, system reinforcement projects, and normal maintenance. For more information on how ArcGIS helps utilities use location technology to address challenges, download our free ebook.
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