Warn­ing over im­pact of plug-in cars on grid

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

ELEC­TRIC car own­ers are earn­ing as much as $1 530 (R20 577) a year just by park­ing their ve­hi­cle and feed­ing ex­cess power back into the grid.

Tri­als in Den­mark car­ried out by Nis­san and Italy’s big­gest util­ity, Enel, showed how bat­ter­ies in­side elec­tric cars could help bal­ance sup­ply and de­mand at times and pro­vide a new rev­enue stream for those who own the ve­hi­cles.

Tech­nol­ogy link­ing ve­hi­cles to the grid marks an­other chal­lenge for util­i­ties al­ready strug­gling to in­te­grate wind and so­lar power into their dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem. As the use of plug-in cars spreads, grid man­agers will have to pay closer at­ten­tion when mo­torists draw from the sys­tem and when they can smooth vari­able flows.

“If you blind­ingly de­ploy in the mar­ket a mas­sive num­ber of elec­tric cars with­out any vis­i­bil­ity or con­trol over the way they im­pact the elec­tric­ity grid, you might cre­ate new prob­lems,” said Fran­cisco Car­ranza, di­rec­tor of en­ergy ser­vices at Nis­san Europe.

While the Tokyo-based car­maker has con­ducted tri­als with more than 100 cars across Europe, only those in Den­mark are able to earn money by feed­ing power back to into the grid. There, fleet operators col­lected about €1 300 (R20 648) a year us­ing the two-way charge points, said Car­ranza.

Re­stric­tions on ac­cess­ing the mar­ket in the UK means the com­pany needs to reach about 150 cars be­fore they can get paid for power sent back to the grid.

That could be achieved by the end of this year, Car­ranza added. “It’s fea­si­ble,” he said. “It’s just a mat­ter of find­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate busi­ness model to de­ploy the busi­ness wide-scale.’’ Elec­tric car de­mand glob­ally is ex­pected to soar, putting fur­ther pres­sure on grid operators to find new ways of bal­anc­ing de­mand.

Power con­sump­tion from ve­hi­cles will grow to 1 800 ter­awatt-hours in 2040 from just six ter­awatt-hours now, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg New En­ergy Fi­nance.

PHOTO: ITUMELENG ENGLISH

The BMW i3 is one of the elec­tric cars avail­able in South Africa.

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