New Research Shows Utilities Need to Prepare Now for Mass EV Adoption

30 Nov 2018

The growing energy demand for electric vehicle (EV) charging could lead to greater instability in electrical grids unless utilities take a proactive approach to planning their future networks, according to a joint study from L.E.K. Consulting, a global management consulting firm, and Australian EV charging infrastructure company Tritium.

The study highlights a clustering effect in which a higher proportion of EV ownership in certain locations has the potential to overload local electricity infrastructure, particularly the feeder lines into a street or other location.

“There are significant opportunities for network owners, operators and energy retailers, as EVs are one of the few growth drivers for many developed energy markets, and also enable the opportunity for utilities to build closer customer relationships,” said Natasha Santha, principal at L.E.K. Consulting. 

“But utilities need to be proactive in planning for a future scenario of significant EV adoption, especially in a world where spending capex on additional infrastructure at the cost of the consumer is no longer a palatable response.

“The real challenge for utilities is managing peak demand increase and the greater unpredictability that comes with greater EV adoption. EV charging has an element of randomness that needs to be managed; this can stress local infrastructure and heighten the need for increased network investment.” 

Among other findings, “Preparing the Grid for the Uptake of Electric Vehicles” found that: 

  • The expected increase in overall energy demand is relatively modest in the short to medium term. In 2017, the estimated electricity demand from all EVs was 54 TWh—roughly 0.3 percent of global electricity demand. With a predicted 125 million EVs on the road in 2030, the overall EV share of energy demand would increase to only 6.3 percent (assuming a level of battery energy efficiency similar to today’s).  
  • Owning an EV will increase a household’s electricity consumption by about 50 percent. Assuming utilities make no infrastructure changes, EV charging is unmanaged and 50 percent EV adoption, the impact of EV charging on a local network at the end of the workday would drive up peak demand by about 30 percent.
  • As the demand for EVs increases, there will be a growing requirement for charging infrastructure. The International Energy Agency estimates that the number of charging stations required by 2030 will exceed 130 million units—close to 30 times the current installed base.
  • The development of high-power charging infrastructure may have a more manageable initial impact for network operators. High-power chargers, up to 350kW each, are typically installed in groups. While these groups of high-power chargers equate to very large (1MW+) connections, the charger owners will deploy the appropriate infrastructure adjacent to the charging equipment at the time of installation. 

Top five measures utilities can take to accommodate and profit from the EV future

The study outlines five measures utilities should consider taking to stabilize future grid behavior and ensure EV adoption maintains its pace.

1.    Design tariffs and demand response programs. Utilities need to begin preparing incentive structures to manage residential chargers, such as time-of-use EV tariffs that can shift customer charging behavior. They could glean lessons from South Australian and Queensland networks, which are piloting new tariffs to encourage households to use electric hot water systems in off-peak periods.

2.    Utilize smart software. Managed charging software schedules home charging throughout the night, averting the risk of EV owners all plugging in at once during evening peak demand. These solutions use lessons from such measures as air conditioning incentive programs.

3.    Improve grid information. Provide clear, detailed information to businesses and entrepreneurs looking to invest in and install public charging infrastructure. For example, PG&E has an interactive mapping tool that shows the locations on its network where existing equipment has the capacity for EV charging.

4.    Assess adjacent opportunities. Utilities should begin to explore other opportunities arising from the deployment of charging infrastructure, such as stationary battery storage, that would reduce grid augmentation costs and enable charger deployment in areas of the network that would otherwise be prohibitive.

5.    Trial, test and work with charging manufacturers. Collaboration and joint research will enable utilities to be at the forefront of emerging vehicle, charging and grid integration technologies. 

“Across the world, we’re beginning to see measures that will only further foster the uptake of EVs, such as in Madrid, where most gasoline- and diesel-fueled cars have been banned from driving in the city’s central streets during the day and are required to park in car parks, off the road,” said David Finn, CEO and co-founder, Tritium. “Governments all over the world are seeing the benefits of an e-mobility future and utilities have a tremendous opportunity to drive growth in their businesses, but they have to be prepared for it. That means putting the right infrastructure in place to manage an increase in energy demand.” 

L.E.K. Consulting |

Tritium |