Utilities Are Taking an EV-industry Leadership Role
Utilities are emerging as dominant players in the global race to electric vehicle adoption beyond just the power supplier. Unlike many new entrants in the e-Mobility market, utilities are starting with significant competitive advantages:
- They are already in every single customer’s home.
- They have insights to the customers’ electrical usage.
- They have long-established communications channels to customers.
- They already have extensive infrastructure in place.
- No e-Mobility service provider can operate without their infrastructure.
These competitive advantages give them stronger insights into the market overall and into customer charging requirements. Furthermore, their ability to work from within the regulatory environment gives them significant power to change the policies governing their own ability to become active participants in the market.
The Smart Electric Power Alliance has defined three stages of utility involvement: early – where opportunity awareness exists but action has yet to be taken; intermediate – they have begun to plan and implement EV-related activities; and late – utilities have developed long-term strategic goals and are already actively engaging with customers.
Utilities at the last stage are already making their marks across the globe.
European Utilities in Action
With the increasing demand for EV charging, utilities are directly addressing energy management issues head on with Smart Energy Management– ensuring that EV charging during peak demand does not cause long-term supply and infrastructure issues.
Vehicle to Grid (V2G) is one approach being taken, where stored energy from the electric vehicles is used to power the grid during peak hours, and then the vehicles are recharged during non-peak times. E.ON, a German power company; EDF, based in France; and Italy’s Enel are partnering with Nissan to build V2G networks. In fact, EDF is targeting a 30 percent market share for EV charging in France, Belgium, Italy, and the UK.
Centrica, a major power producer in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and North America, has embraced the EV revolution from multiple angles. They have not only become an e-Mobility service provider, but they are also transitioning 12,000 fleet vehicles to electric vehicles. Its recent order of 1,000 Vivaro-e vans from Vauxhall is the largest commercial EV order in the UK. The company has also launched Centrica Electric Vehicle Services to help companies transition to EVs.
California as the EV Leader
California, the world’s fifth largest economy, has been driving the United States’ electric vehicle adoption and zero emissions policies for decades. Utility e-Mobility projects worth more than US$100 million are already planned or underway. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) have installed infrastructure to support more than 12,500 charging stations across the state. Furthermore, SDG&E has been working with the Port of San Diego to install chargers for electric medium-duty/heavy-duty vehicles and forklifts.
Continuous efforts in the Rest of the United States
Based on those definitions by the Smart Energy Power Alliance, most of the 3,300 American utility companies are at the beginning or intermediate stages. Fifty utilities have filed plans with their regulatory agencies to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles among their customers. For example, utilities in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Massachusetts are planning projects of about US$25 million each.
Some are taking the California example to heart. Duke Energy of North Carolina has 600 electric vehicles in its own fleet and has built charging infrastructure in its employee parking lots to encourage adoption. They have installed almost 550 chargers in Florida and have created a study called Charge Florida, in which they are examining the impact of residential EV charging on the grid. In Asheville and Greensboro, North Carolina, they have provided grants for electric bus charging.
Dominion Energy, which provides electricity to Virginia and North and South Carolina, is working with school districts to promote electric school buses. Texas’ Austin Energy is partnering with the local school district to not only install chargers but also to create electric vehicle studies curriculum, as well.
Australian Utilities Taking the Lead
Many of the utility companies in Australia, which only has about 20,000 electric vehicles, are much further along the adoption curve and are already promoting electric vehicle charging opportunities.
Origin is cross-promoting its solar energy system with Hyundai. Drivers of Hyundai’s Ioniq or Kona Electric get a discount for adding the Origin solar system to their homes as the main source by which to charge their electric vehicles. If they already have the solar system, they will receive a discount on battery or electric tariffs.
Powershop is offering discount rates to EV owners who charge at night – between midnight and 4 am – to minimize the demand on the grid. AGL, the major player in Australia’s energy and gas market, is offering credits toward household electric bills to its traditional and solar customers who own electric vehicles and charge them at home.
Powering the Future
Utilities are leveraging their significant advantages when it comes to e-Mobility adoption. They have the knowledge, market position, the infrastructure, and an almost captive market. With the right smart energy management, investments, regulatory approach, and technologies they are becoming dominant players in the market.