Electric vehicles represent an opportunity for grid operators to balance networks and for their customers to earn revenue, rather than a network-busting problem, according to Northern Powergrid.
Launching its ‘Customer-led Distribution System’ project, the company outlined its plans to create a smart local energy system. The firm sees electric vehicles (EVs) and vehicle to grid services (V2G) as cornerstones.
“Change is coming, it is just a question of how fast,” said head of trading and innovation, Jim Cardwell. “It is key for us to lean in and take a managed approach to the transition. We can’t just sit back and see what happens. It requires collaboration. Not just with the motoring industry and charging infrastructure providers – but a number of other actors in the system to get things joined up.”
He said that while a few years ago, DNOs saw EVs as “a big problem about to land on us”, the market has since moved forward.
“Now we see opportunities to add value to customers – and see V2G as a resource for customers to sell services back to grid operators. That is an opportunity both for customers and us.”
While there is some debate around customer acceptance of controlled charging, particularly out of home, the company suggested that compelling services could convince EV owners to opt in – and that providing those services could enable EV manufacturers to sell cars more cheaply.
Commercial development manager, Liz Sidebotham, added that, if customers accepted smart, or controlled charging regimes, “they can play an active part in system management and therefore become a resource rather than a problem”.
Asked whether network operators could help solve interoperability and standardisation issues that plague out of home charging, Northern Powergrid policy and markets director Patrick Erwin said the DNO “absolutely has a role in this”.
“We need to make the rollout work and [make it] as frictionless as possible. Some of that work will have to be done by government. But enabling the rollout of EVs will be a key part of DNOs role, along with enabling [V2G] services to customers.”
The company has collaborated with carmaker Nissan on battery storage and is also working on second life battery use with Newcastle University, deploying used batteries on a farm to manage power costs – and said it is actively looking for other second life uses.
Meanwhile, Northern Powergrid is using a 2.5MW standalone battery, operated by Kiwi Power, to generate revenues for its innovation fund via FFR and Triad.