While the primary goal of power networks has historically been to maintain the lights on, the grid operators are now faced with the task of keeping the wheels turning as transportation decarbonization increases demand for electricity. As per the International Energy Agency, the proportion of electric vehicles sold worldwide increased by more than 40% year on year last year, surpassing 10 million.
Even though electric vehicles account for only 1% of total vehicle sales, the IEA estimates that the global fleet of electric cars might grow to 145 million by 2030 if current carbon-reduction measures are followed. Experts agree that attaining “net zero” standards will necessitate widespread uptake of zero-emission vehicles as well as a rethinking of how cleaner energy is distributed to the transportation fleet. “Cars are both a danger and a chance to the grid and how to aid the energy transition,” director in charge of the transport decarbonization at the National Grid in the United Kingdom, Graeme Cooper, says. He claims that by the time we reach net-zero [in the year 2050], we will require double as much electrical power as we do now.
According to research by the UK’s Climate Change Committee, greater electrification of the economy, including the widespread use of electric vehicles, could result in a doubling of yearly demand, from the 300 terawatt-hours (TWh) in the year 2019 to about 610 TWh by the year 2050. Although technological advancements are pushing down the cost of EVs, according to the head of carbon budgets, David Joffe, at the advisory group, it is vital to maintain that “charging facilities is where it ought to be” to boost uptake.
According to Joffe, the prize is the decarbonization of road travel, which is still the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, ahead of electricity generation, building heating, and general industrial use. According to Cooper, the rapid increase of renewable energy sources, along with early preparation of power transmission upgrades and adoption of digitized demand management solutions for vehicle charging, should facilitate a green transportation revolution. Also, keep the lights turned on.
He claims that the grid is already evolving and that it is now the cleanest it’s ever been. However, encouraging vehicle charging while demand is low will be critical to avoid spikes in demand that necessitate the deployment of polluting hydrocarbon-fueled power plants. Cooper believes that the expansion of charging systems and smart meters, in combination with pricing that incentivizes users to use energy during times of low demand, can assist “put the cheapest and cleanest power into automobiles and tumble dryers.” It can also prevent customers from “consuming electricity when the system is stressed, and generation is at its dirtiest.”