H Sustainable

The effects of the EPA's electric-vehicle regulations on the electric grid

May 9, 2023
An aging electric grid could lead to brownouts and other problems if not managed properly.

By Don Reeves, SVP of outcomes at Itron

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just set its sights on an audacious goal: by 2032, two-thirds of all cars and a quarter of all heavy trucks sold in the US must be electric vehicles (EVs). But as EV adoption surges, utilities must brace for impact. An aging electric grid could lead to brownouts and other problems if not managed properly. That's why utilities need to act fast and prepare for the increase in demand, as well as meet the needs of new EV owners and ensure grid reliability during peak times. One crucial step in preparing for the increase in EV demand is the installation of private, commercial and public charging stations.

As more consumers switch to EVs, the need for convenient and accessible charging infrastructure will increase rapidly. Utilities will need to collaborate with other stakeholders, such as governments and private companies, to strategically place charging stations in urban areas, highways and commercial centers. This will not only enable EV owners to charge their vehicles easily but also ease the strain on the grid by reducing the load on residential charging.

Another key aspect of preparing for the increase in EV demand is better management of supply and demand through smart-grid technology. Modern smart grids now use distributed intelligence and action at the grid edge to monitor and optimize the delivery of electricity. Utilities can proactively manage the variations in electricity demand caused by EV charging by leveraging advanced analytics, real-time data, and automation.

Although some tools have been used both historically and today, "active, local, and autonomous" EV management is the way of the future. These difficult constraints will be localized, putting pressure on the distribution system to provide relief, particularly in the coming years. Only solutions at the grid edge, not in the back office, can solve this in real time. But keep in mind that while the EPA is a key player in driving the shift toward transportation electrification, the impact of this change will be felt immediately through the CA Advanced Clean Fleet rule, which is currently under review and will affect 15 states.

Furthermore, utilities need to invest in advanced grid monitoring/management systems to detect and address potential issues proactively. This may include predictive maintenance of grid infrastructure, automated fault detection and isolation, and grid reconfiguration to reroute power in case of equipment failure or high demand.

The EPA's new mandates for EV sales will have a significant impact on the electric grid, and utilities must be prepared. Installing public charging stations, leveraging smart grid technology, and investing in advanced grid monitoring and management systems are critical steps for utilities to proactively manage the delivery of electricity and ensure grid reliability during high-use times. By embracing distributed intelligence and acting at the grid edge, utilities can meet the needs of new EV owners, avoid brownouts, and pave the way for a sustainable and reliable electric future for smart industry.