Part 3: EV Charging Stations – Utilities

In our last two blog posts (Part 1; Part 2), we have reviewed the different types of charging station hardware, and service providers.  The third critical player in charging station development is the electric utility.  Some utilities are advocating for EVs since they see the possibility of stealing market share from gasoline and diesel suppliers and want to be proactive in defining the grid-interface.  On top of that, EVs are a great way for utilities to green their image, since EVs frequently appeal to a similar segment of customers who otherwise may defect from the grid.  

Los Angeles has two primary electric utilities: Southern California Edison (SCE) an investor-owned utility and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) our municipal utility.  The former has a relatively forward thinking “Transportation Electrification” program, while the latter provides a simple rebate as part of their Charge Up LA! program.

SCE offers a number of different programs to their business and residential customers encouraging the installation of EV charging.  For anyone interested in EVs, the SCE website is a great reference with summaries of rebates, installation FAQs, and even sample workplace surveys to help business owners assess the value of installing EV chargers.  Ultimately, they control the EV charging through their time-of-use (TOU) rates.  This means that the cost of energy varies throughout the day and encourages off-peak EV charging.  TOU rates are frequently looked upon as the first, critical step to monetizing grid services.  Creating a market for grid services such as demand response, voltage regulation, and peak shaving, allows for innovative business models that make EVs and other technologies valuable.

LADWP’s program is far simpler and less comprehensive than SCE’s.  It offers a rebate (~$4000/charger) for residential and commercial charger installation.  The rebate application requires technical documentation that emphasizes product selection and quality of installation.   While this helps consumers make the jump to EVs, the structure of the program does little to enhance integration of the vehicles to the grid.

While LADWP and SCE’s programs are fairly different, there is one thing in common – the application process is tedious, requires professional support and understanding of a lot of fine print.  This provides great opportunities for businesses like us, but makes it frustrating for consumers.  

As more vehicles connect to the electric grid, forward-thinking electric utilities will see their potential value.  Among many other grid services, electric vehicles could minimize the impact of renewable intermittency, improve grid resiliency and provide demand response services, but this will only happen at scale if there is monetary value associated with each service.  SCE is conducting a number of pilot programs to evaluate different models for “Transportation Electrification.”  There are also many startups clamoring with new technologies to ease the problem. We look forward to seeing how new hardware, innovative software and forward thinking utilities integrate EVs into our electric grids!  

 

References:

EV Chargers: http://www.pluginrecharge.com/p/electric-vehicle-supply-equipment-evse.html

Everything else SCE: https://www.sce.com/wps/portal/home/partners/contractors/electric-car-installation/

Advertisements