Centrica bundles EV charging, solar and battery storage


Centrica Business Solutions is hoping to take a slice of the burgeoning EV market by bundling charging infrastructure with solar, storage and energy supply.

The company says businesses aiming to install large numbers of chargers are often falling at the first hurdle: sufficient grid capacity. It believes on-site generation can help address the issue and potentially bring firms into its virtual power plant, enabling them to cut energy bills through load shifting or earn revenue from balancing local and national grids, wholesale markets or enabling Centrica to reduce imbalance penalties.

A spokesperson told The Energyst that Centrica will fund solutions so that they are capex-based.

“We have a range of funding options including a PPA solar product, which allows businesses to immediately benefit from savings from having their own on-site generation capability with zero capital outlay,” she said. “We also have a combined solar-storage solution that provides flexibility and reduces energy spend when it is at its most expensive during peak hours.”

While Centrica ultimately aims to enable vehicle-to-grid (V2G) services, that remains “a way off”, according to the spokesperson. “We are very much looking at [V2G], but the optimisation angle today is focused on [customers’] wider estates in terms of onsite generation and storage, and managing that alongside the chargers so they’re all working in harmony.”

She added that while larger businesses, particularly those with fleets, are keen to understand smart charging solutions in order to cut running costs and avoid grid upgrades, “a lot of businesses are literally just looking for chargers and finding the whole thing massively confusing, hence the single supplier offer”.

Jorge Pikunic, global managing director for Centrica Business Solutions said distributed energy solutions will be “key to supporting the cost-effective rollout of EVs, reducing the need for costly grid upgrades and new centralised generation capacity”.

If companies buy-in to that approach, it will also boost Centrica’s distributed energy business and help deliver the global scale it seeks to achieve with flexible power. The company bought flexibility aggregator Restore in late 2017 for £62m in a bid to build a multi-gigawatt virtual power plant.

Centrica is planning a major EV rollout of its own. It aims to electrify 10% of its 12,000 vans by the end of next year – though may face challenges sourcing that many vehicles, as others such as Mitie have found.

Business considering electric vehicles should read The Energyst’s 2019 EV Report, available as a free download. The report includes a survey of industrial, commercial and public sector organisations on EV and charging rollout plans, including their attitudes towards smart charging and vehicle-to-grid. It also contains interviews with businesses installing charging infrastructure, including Marston’sMitieSES Water and UPS. There are also views from charge point operators, technology providers, consultants and technology companies, as well as energy companies.

Download the report here.

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