H Ev

How electric vehicles can enable grid resiliency and real decarbonization

March 22, 2023
"There is a whole network of connected assets that can be aggregated and optimized with AI-powered software to create what the industry calls virtual power plants."

By Ruben Llanes, CEO of AutoGrid Systems

With electric vehicle (EV) sales projected to exceed 50% of total auto sales by 2030, utilities are facing both a rapid rise in electricity demand and an enormous opportunity to tap flexible capacity. Although we’ve made impressive inroads over the past decade, the US still faces the critical need for solutions to its strained and inefficient electric grids, which significantly impact the world’s carbon output. Today’s power providers have questions about EV-charging insights, demand forecasting, the ability to shape load and manage demand peaks, while providing a seamless customer experience.

The answers to those questions are found in smart-grid technologies.

Smart-grid technologies are in the midst of a global boom, with the market size to reach an estimated $846 billion by the end of 2030. EV charging touches on several aspects of utility regulation, including utility treatment of distributed-energy resources. The truth is, there are resources to support the energy grids around us, yet we’re not utilizing their availability. By further leveraging software and AI within our grids, we'll be able to find and create a resource that can be used to balance the supply-and-demand equation.

There is a whole network of connected assets that can be aggregated and optimized with AI-powered software to create what the industry calls virtual power plants (VPPs). These VPPs are not real, physical power plants, but act as such. While serving the same function that a traditional fossil fuel-based power plant provides, a virtual power plant is, in fact, a superior solution. VPPs are cleaner and more cost effective, because they monetize the long tail of assets, which are largely underused.

A key example of this: EVs. Within California, there are more than one million electric cars registered, though most of those electric vehicles are not in use 90% of the time—they are parked in a garage at homes and offices. These vehicles can be turned into a grid asset, with the grid tapping into the batteries during those times when the system needs it, with the added benefit of creating a new source of revenue for the vehicle owner.

More than ten years ago, the first distributed-energy resource (DER) that we connected was an EV charger. Since then, we have deployed solutions at scale at multiple utilities across North America and globally, leveraging a vast ecosystem of EV and electric vehicle supply-equipment vendors.

We recognize that in order to create a decarbonized and democratized EV-grid infrastructure, innovation must be a constant.

By tapping into the EV value chain to support the grid, we’ll be able to play a meaningful role in accelerating the energy transition, which is critical to meeting decarbonization objectives. To date, the industry has underinvested in the means necessary to achieve the energy transition. According to the International Energy Agency, annual investments in energy-sector infrastructure and technologies will need to increase from today’s level of $1 trillion to $4 trillion by 2030 to accomplish net-zero emissions by 2050.

With these demands in sight, funding for this transition has finally become a top priority. With the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) signed into law last year, billions of dollars in incentives, grants and loans became available to support new infrastructure investments in the areas of clean energy, transportation and the environment. Backed by this funding within the next decade, a crucial opportunity to accelerate the modernization of the US energy grid is upon us. When combined with the EV boom, there’s an opening for the creation of a connected and resilient grid that can tackle decarbonization at scale.