As we all know, Electric Vehicles are cleaner than their petrol-powered counterparts but they are not emissions free - total climate impact of operating an EV depends largely on the sources of electricity used to charge up the car's batteries.
We are rapidly transitioning to a world that runs more on clean energy but what if the impact of fossil fuel power plants could be eliminated immediately by powering EVs with renewable energy that's already available?
This is something that is being explored right now in California where BMW have been developing the capability to align EV charging with renewable energy generation. Pacific Gas & Electric (the utility for Northern California) provides a renewable energy projection to the car company, which is used to optimize charging in a way that maximizes the amount of wind and solar used to power participating vehicles - fascinating!
Right now, this is a pilot program and more testing will take place in 2019 (focused on more action at the local level and combining renewable energy/pricing optimizations with demand response) but in the future, if this charging program can be executed on a much larger scale, it will be easier and cheaper for utilities to add more solar energy onto the grid and there would be a sustainable revenue stream that supports payments to the customers, and then payments to companies such as BMW serving as an aggregator.
It's becoming more & more apparent that flexible resources, that can utilize excess renewable energy generation during the day and help curb the steep ramp in the evening, are becoming increasingly important to grid operators and utilities due to ongoing growth in renewables - EV charging is definitely a potential complement to this trend.
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“In the spring, the renewable supply on the grid for PG&E and other utilities in California could easily exceed 80 percent,” said Adam Langton, energy services manager for BMW North America. “They’re increasingly going to have a challenge of getting load to align with that solar generation…so shifting EV load into those daytime hours starts to create a real benefit for the utility.” In the future, if BMW can execute this charging program on a much larger scale, it will be “easier and cheaper for utilities to add more solar energy onto the grid,” he added.