How the grid is blocking EV adoption (and what to do about it)

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Editor's note: There’s no question that electric vehicles are a hot topic. They can potentially increase our energy independence while reducing our reliance on fossil fuel. Yet barriers are slowing adoption. We are all aware of common challenges such as cost, range, and the lack of charging infrastructure. But Michael Edmonds, the Vice President of Strategic Solutions for S&C Electric Company, says there is a "hidden" barrier -- the grid itself. When he explained his reasoning with me, I asked if I could share his insights with readers. I hope you will use the Comment form to explain if you agree or disagree. -- Jesse Berst

What are the next steps?

Many of the technologies to prepare the grid for EVs exist today. But we need a revamped policy environment to ensure the grid can be readied for EVs. Here are a few changes that would help:

 

·         Give incentives for energy efficiency technologies. Some technologies that essentially increase grid capacity to support higher electricity demand, like volt/var optimization programs, reduce demand and can have the effect of reducing utility revenues. Alternate rate structures are needed to compensate utilities so they have incentive to make these investments.

·         Factor social benefits into rate case assessments. Studies show the staggering cost of outages, which will only increase as EV penetration grows. We need to ensure that the costs and benefits to the community -- not just to the utility -- are considered when evaluating rate recovery for investments that improve grid reliability.

·         Recognize the full benefit of energy storage.  Utilities are typically unable to recover the full value provided by stored energy systems. They often recover some of the investment based on reliability benefits, but not on other benefits like peak shaving, the importance of which will grow with increases in EV usage.  Our regulatory environment needs to ensure the allowed return on investment in energy storage reflects the true value of these technologies.

 

Mike Edmonds is the Vice President of Strategic Solutions for S&C Electric Company. He is responsible for the strategy, direction and execution of S&C’s portfolio of solutions families. Prior to joining S&C in April 2010, Edmonds was vice president & general manager of Siemens USA Energy Automation group, responsible for the real-time solutions business for energy management systems, market systems, substation automation and protection control.

 

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