Reducing grid strain with automated energy management for EV charging
As the popularity of electric vehicles (EVs) continues to grow, attention is focusing on electric utilities’ capacity to serve new EV charging loads. There are hundreds of electric utilities across the country, each responsible for balancing customer supply and demand to maintain grid safety, reliability, and resiliency. The rapid increase in EV adoption will require these utilities to expand their grids. The challenge is to build new capacity in time to meet public policy targets that call for thousands more EV passenger cars, commercial trucks, buses, and off-road vehicles in the next decade.
All this expansion could be lengthy and costly. A 2022 forecast for EV charging in the state of New York estimates up to $28 billion in new distribution system upgrades are needed to meet state policy goals. This estimate assumed a high electrification scenario and unmanaged charging of consumer and fleet EVs. Unmanaged vehicles plug in and begin charging whenever they are not driving.
Managing charging using software that includes automated load management (ALM) is a readily available solution for addressing the growing demand on the electrical grid. That same 2022 forecast in New York estimated that managed charging could save ratepayers $11 billion.
bp pulse works with a variety of fleets, from transit buses to passenger vehicles, to reduce peak energy demand using ALM, a feature of omega, our proprietary charging management software (CMS). Our solutions can save fleet energy costs, and potentially save on project installation costs and lead time.
How does ALM work for EV fleets?
Charge management software with ALM assesses the customer’s vehicle energy needs and optimizes their EV charging profile to fit within electric service constraints and utility tariff rates. Our omega CMS takes into account other fleet data such as vehicle state-of-charge, vehicle usage, and total charger load to ensure EV fueling is both energy and cost-efficient.
The objective is to minimize peak demand to lower costs and avoid overbuilt installations. The solution can also integrate distributed energy resources such as solar and battery storage.
Reduce Peak Energy Demand
Omega manages fleet charging on a daily basis, and can automatically adjust in response to extreme events. For example, during a heat wave, when customer demand is high and approaches the maximum system capacity, utilities or system operators may call on customers to conserve electricity to avoid service outages. If called, the CMS will automatically react and use ALM to reduce charging demand, for example, by delaying vehicle charging until the utility lifts its call for demand management or by sharing power among several chargers on the same circuit. If available, the system can use backup energy storage to continue charging sessions.
During California’s historic heat wave in 2022, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) issued Flex Alerts for nine consecutive days, calling for voluntary electricity conservation during peak hours. Over this period, customers successfully conserved electricity to help CAISO balance the system. With transportation electricity demand in California projected to reach nearly seven percent of total statewide electricity demand by 2030, EV load management will become an increasingly crucial demand-side resource to utilities and system operators. ALM can enable those EVs plugged into the grid to flex their charging in response to emergency events.
Install Infrastructure Faster
In addition to being a grid-friendly practice, EV fleets equipped with ALM can potentially connect with less “to-the-meter” infrastructure. CMS can limit power draw to the available utility service capacity. This could allow fleets to install a first wave of chargers under the available service while the utility increases power to serve additional chargers. It could also allow the customer to install more charging capacity with less utility infrastructure, using ALM to balance charging demand among the fleet of vehicles. Less infrastructure means less time needed to get the charging up-and-running. This is a huge benefit given that utility service interconnections can take 12 to 18 months to complete — and even longer if grid upgrades are needed.
Save on project and energy costs
Managing EV fleet charging with ALM is the smart solution for both utilities and fleets. With less utility “to-the-meter” infrastructure needed and shortened project timelines, this means cost savings for the fleet. Furthermore, by right-sizing service connections, EV fleets may avoid grid upgrade costs that would be passed on to utility customers through tariff rates.
With omega, our customers can automatically manage their energy costs and maximize their electrification benefits, while also avoiding the strain of incremental peak load on the grid. As more utilities enable ALM solutions–or better yet, incentivize ALM–we can accelerate EV connections.