Powering Ahead: Utilities Evolving Role In EV Charging Landscape

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Opinion piece by Sanjeev Singh – Co-founder and CEO, Elocity

The increasing energy demand across the globe, in addition to the many concerns —environmental, societal, economic, from the transportation sector, has paved ways for developing alternative energy options for powering mobility; and economical innovative solutions for improving power efficiency and reducing operational costs. 

For a long time, the opportunity of EVs has been regarded as a game-changer for the Indian automotive sector. In recent years, a combination of Central and State Government led initiatives [such as the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME-II) scheme and EV-specific State policies, etc.] have promoted the adoption of EVs in the emerging EV field in India. 

At present, the penetration rate of the electric vehicle market only accounts for 1% of India’s total car sales, of which electric two-wheelers account for 95%. However, as India gears up to attain 30% market penetration of EVs by 2030, EVs are poised to introduce significant new load capacity, higher compared to industries such as steel. In a report from Brookings Institution India, by 2030, the total electricity demand of EVs may vary between 37 and 97 TWh, under 33% and 100% EV penetration sales by 2030, considering only intra-city (urban) passenger travel. This gradual shift to e-mobility will not dramatically overburden our existing power systems, however, the grid can face many challenges when multiple EVs are plugged together at the same time—such as congestion problems in already heavily loaded grids, overloading of distribution transformers, low voltage problems in largely radial networks, peak load, and energy losses increase and probably, large voltage drops and load imbalances between phases in distribution grids.

Hence, to meet this large increase in peak load, utilities will need to—either add generation resources required to increase or shift generation load timing, prepare additional energy storage to discharge at peak times, or smartly manage EV charging to shift or delay the load—or deploy some mix of these three approaches. The grid of the future will be structured to meet the financing goals of debt-ridden distribution utilities, as well as the end-users; and instead of involving expensive power generation and T&D network upgrades to meet the highest possible load, the focus will shift to using smart solutions to enhance flexibility and efficiency to better manage the load—to eliminate, or at the very least, dramatically reduce peak requirements and shape load to match available cleaner generation. 

It is worth mentioning that, in addition to facing a variety of challenges, utilities are at a crossroads that benefit from the huge opportunities to transition to electric transportation. These include an improvement in the revenues through an increase in energy distributed; EV charging can compensate for high RE production during valley hours, further allowing them to alleviate congestion and defer or reduce grid reinforcement; flexibility in short-term power system operations, etc. which will eventually impact the utility business model. 

Elocity works together with utilities using its smart EV charging management solutions —to aggregate and manage EV load to maintain grid reliability while understanding EV charging behavior and implementing grid friendly strategies to reduce CAPEX and OPEX need. It allows EVs to be used more as a flexible grid resource, which not only proves a greater degree of decarbonization in the power industry but also improves the financial viability of utility companies. This solution can be quickly and easily integrated with the utilities’ existing technologies and operate within existing industry standards.

Noteworthily, at this stage of early EV adoption, Indian utilities must take a driver’s seat and work together with the Government, decision-makers, automakers, Charge point operators (CPOs), and customers as early as possible; and take a proactive role in planning and deploying EV charging infrastructure across the country and promote the widespread adoption of EVs.

The way forward

India’s path towards carbon neutrality will rely on a greater degree of modern digital power grids to achieve transportation electrification. Therefore, electric utilities must continue sectoral collaboration to create an enabling EV ecosystem in which the power grid will form the backbone of the entire power system. On the horizon — with the right smart energy management, investments, regulatory approach, a right captive market, and technologies — utilities have a competitive advantage on becoming e-mobility powerhouses. 

By Sanjeev Singh – Co-founder and CEO, Elocity

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