Solar+Storage

California Starts to shape vehicle-grid integration strategy, considers using EVs during power shut-offs

As of August 2019, California had more than 600,000 electric vehicles out and about, as well as 20,000 public charging ports, as per a report from Gridworks. That number is set to increase; Newsom's chief request, signed in the wake of several devastating wildfires that consumed millions of acres in California this year, instructs the state's Air Resources Board to create regulations ordering the zero-emission vehicles objective, which is estimated to decrease over 35% of greenhouse gas emissions from cars in the state.

In any case, experts say the request could also change the idea of California's heap — one analysis from Energy Innovation suggests that staying on target to arrive at the objective could prompt a 9% increase in power interest by 2030 — and make the minimum amount of EVs needed to understand the VGI potential that the sector has been discussing for quite a long time.

VGI is fit for giving a wide suite of benefits to the framework — for instance, charging vehicles when there's excess solar on the network, giving resiliency services and back-up power when the lattice is down, and decreasing interest or sending out force back on to the matrix, Muller said.

"So I think it's going to be absolutely integral to transportation electrification going forward," he said.

In 2019, California lawmakers passed a bill requiring the CPUC to establish strategies and metrics to increase the integration of EVs into the grid by 2030, and the agency's new proposed decision lists some of those. This includes reforming retail rates, especially dynamic pricing structures — something that the commission is already reviewing for EV customers in Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric service territories.

The proposed decision, if approved by regulators, would also authorize utilities to propose vehicle-grid integration pilots, to prove that integration technologies can be scaled up and implemented in the real world.

Another potential strategy evaluated by the commission concerns designing wholesale market rules for vehicle-grid integration applications, and the proposed decision would instruct utilities to work with the California Independent System Operator and report back with possible updates. In addition, the proposal also looks at reforming interconnection rules to allow EVs to export power to the grid.

The commission also identified several near-term actions that "should be pursued as soon as possible," including instructing utilities to host a workshop in early 2021 with potential vehicle-grid integration demand response providers, and look into possible challenges that exist on that front.

Utilities would also be tasked with finding ways to deploy technologies to manage EV charging load as part of their transportation electrification program applications, with an eye to using EVs to reduce congestion on the distribution grid and avoid expensive physical upgrades to the system.

But there are multiple challenges in integrating vehicles with the grid, as the Gridworks report notes — there's little understanding around the costs involved, as well as the ability to actually engage customers.

"In a way, part of the difficulty is that VGI encompasses so much, so there's no one silver bullet to make [it] a reality," Muller said. Instead, it requires a number of different policies or refinements to existing policies, investments in new technologies and customer familiarity, Muller added.

The proposal, if approved, will eventually allow California to test the marketplace and determine what it's going to take for people to participate in VGI programs, what incentives should be involved, and what back office systems utilities need to develop, according to Mauro Dresti, senior advisor of transportation electrification (eMobility) technology strategy at Southern California Edison.

"I think the biggest challenge is trying to figure out what the incentives should be for the customers, and to get them to participate," Dresti said.

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