Why utilities MUST take on EV charging themselves (and the right way to do it)



A few years back, many utilities feared the onset of electric vehicles (EVs). They were concerned about peak load impacts. And about damage to overloaded transformers from nighttime charging.


Today, many utilities are eagerly awaiting EV charging, especially those that have a high percentage of intermittent renewables. They want use EV charging to buffer those renewables as their output moves up and down. To gain those benefits, the utility has to be in charge of deciding when and how fast to charge.


And now the rub: Regulators in many states won't allow their utilities to own and operate charging infrastructure. The solution? Educate them. This guest article may help. - Jesse Berst


By Brett Hauser


How open standards can future-proof the electric grid

There is a lot of talk about the utility death spiral - how business models are outdated and how disintermediation is occurring between utilities and their customer base. Although traditional utility business models are under attack, electric vehicle charging provides utilities a unique opportunity to redefine their relationships with customers to provide a rich, more engaging experience.


Utilities that implement intelligent charging solutions can influence when and how EV charging occurs. This enables them to reduce peak demand and mitigate the impact of EV charging on the grid.


The importance of open standards

By taking on these activities itself, a utility gains new opportunities to engage customers and avoid disintermediation by third parties with similar solutions. By choosing applications that use open standards, utilities gain the flexibility to scale their implementations without the risk of vendor lock-in from proprietary solutions.


Ideally, time-of-use (TOU) rates are available to encourage EV owners to charge at night when demand is lower and electricity prices are cheaper. However, if customers on TOU rates begin EV charging at roughly the same time, they actually create a ‘second peak’ problem. Utilizing automated demand response programs will enable utilities to smooth out demand rather than just shifting the peak from daytime to nighttime.