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Assessing the Potential for Grid-Interactive Vehicles

Stephanie Morse and Ingrid Malmgren -

In 2015 VEIC conducted the New York State Grid-Interactive Vehicle Study, in partnership with Steven Letendre, PhD, Green Mountain College, for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The highlights of this study are detailed below. Read the full report here.

Transportation is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. – accounting for approximately 27 percent of total 2013 emissions. Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are expected from the transportation sector as electric vehicle (EV) adoption increases and transport fueling is increasingly shifted from gasoline to electricity. Additionally, emissions from power production will decline as power suppliers seek to meet renewable portfolio standards and to comply with regional greenhouse gas initiatives and new US Environmental Protection Agency regulations contained in the Clean Power Plan. A link between the transportation industry and the electric power industry is being propelled by the emergence of EVs in the marketplace.

EVs are important to clean transportation, but a shift from fossil fuels to electricity as the primary supplier of energy for transportation will likely pose new challenges for utility providers with regard to peak power management. That is, EVs represent the single largest potential new demand for electricity in several decades. But this shift also presents new opportunities that, if properly managed, could result in net economic and environmental benefits.

Optimizing the many benefits of EVs

EVs are well suited for demand-side management (DSM) because vehicles are typically in use for mobility less than five percent of the time and EVs, on average, are actively charging only 20 percent of the time they are plugged into charging equipment. Thus EVs represent a flexible load that lends itself to shifting the timing of vehicle charging. EVs can also potentially contribute to electrical system reliability as distributed energy resources (DERs) providing storage. EVs have also been shown to integrate with the electric grid with bi-directional flow of power (both charging and discharging of the vehicle battery) occurring in response to signals from regional grid operators. Widespread integration of EVs with the electric grid would more fully realize the environmental benefits that EVs offer and make EV ownership more affordable through lower-cost charging and possible monetary compensation to the owner for providing valuable reliability and resilience services to the grid.

Grid-interactivity in the State of New York

New York State policies and programs have committed the State to supporting the expansion of clean energy and transportation options. However, it is through recognition of both the challenges and opportunities presented by the increased adoption of EVs and grid-interactivity that the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) commissioned the New York State Grid-Interactive Vehicle Study. VEIC conducted the study, in partnership with Steven Letendre, PhD, Green Mountain College, and was tasked with:

  • Engaging key stakeholders and soliciting their input on primary topics related to grid-interactive EVs
  • Conducting preliminary research on grid-interactive vehicle technologies, electricity markets, and the regulations and standards surrounding them
  • Developing a gap analysis to identify areas that require further work and thought from State agencies and industry actors, necessary for widespread market acceptance of grid-interactive vehicles
  • Creating a roadmap for decision-making about the introduction of grid-interactive vehicles in the state

The resulting roadmap was informed by a preliminary research report conducted to determine the current state of EV integration with the grid. This report was shared with key stakeholders, such as utilities, state agencies, industry groups, grid operators, and others who contributed feedback based on their experience and knowledge. A gap analysis was also conducted which identified barriers with the integration of EVs and the grid.

Key findings for success

  • Importance of Stakeholder Engagement

    The New York State Grid-Interactive Vehicle study demonstrated how significant stakeholder engagement is to the process. In this case the advisory committee played a critical role in informing and verifying the content of the reports included as deliverables in this study. Additionally and perhaps most importantly, the advisory committee meetings helped to uncover issues that could have easily been overlooked without the insights of key stakeholders, and therefore, informed the prioritization in the final roadmap.

  • Mitigate Distribution-level Impacts

    As originally conceived and studied, vehicle-to-grid is primarily considered an opportunity for EVs to participate as resources in wholesale electricity markets. Perhaps one of the most significant lessons learned through this study is that this is too narrow a view of the potential resource opportunities of grid-interactive EVs. The earliest impacts of increased EV adoption will be felt at the distribution level, and many opportunities exist to mitigate these impacts and create value through grid-interaction at this level.

    Demand-side management, controlled charging, and other behind-the-meter applications allow the new load created by EV adoption to be introduced in a manner not detrimental and potentially beneficial to distribution-level operations. These opportunities should be pursued first. It is unlikely that grid-interactive vehicle applications will move forward if their original introduction creates problems for utilities; efficiently and effectively integrating EVs at the distribution level will set the stage for more complex forms of aggregated integration in the future and perhaps pave the way for participation in wholesale electricity markets.

  • Economic Analysis

    One reoccurring theme that emerged from the research is that the development of a grid-interactive vehicle infrastructure in New York State requires extensive economic analysis. The roadmap produced in this project lays out a general framework to guide this development, but it is noted many times that each step in the process must be informed by continued research, data collection, and economic analysis. Many unknowns were identified regarding costs of implementing various systems, and even less clear is the expected value of the potential opportunities. Cost-benefit analyses and subsequent business model development will be a key determinant in the forward movement of grid-interactive vehicle opportunities.

  • Inclusion of EVs in the Reforming Energy Vision (REV) proceeding

    Another key finding from this study is that now is the time to incorporate EV systems and technologies into regulatory proceedings. The final roadmap of this project lists the six objectives outlined in the REV proceeding; EVs have the potential to contribute to each of these. The progression of policies, regulations, and applications based on innovation and expansion of the EV market can support the goals of the REV proceeding to identify ways to achieve better load factor and smoother load shapes for the State’s electric grid.

These key findings demonstrate the complexity and immense opportunity of EV integration into the electric grid. This roadmap details the critical elements for a potential way forward to widespread integration, although this path is not entirely linear. It will rely on continued research and review of the value of EVs and new technological opportunities, to inform whether changes in trajectory should be made.

New York State has a history of innovation in the energy sector. By merging the grid-interactive vehicle concept into the State’s REV proceeding, New York State will bring its history of energy innovations into one of the most challenging sectors—transportation.

Read the full report

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