Recently, AGL hosted the Electric Vehicle Council’s second workshop on Electric Vehicle Charging and the Grid. The workshop brought together businesses from across the electric vehicle (EV) supply chain to identify opportunities for action.

While the first workshop primarily focused on public charging, this second workshop delved deeper into residential charging and the benefits it can bring to the grid and to customers.

The widespread uptake of EVs, supported by renewable energy generation, presents a substantial opportunity to deliver emissions reductions consistent with Australia’s long-term commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Vehicle electrification has long been a consideration within AGL’s long-term strategy on climate change (see further AGL’s 2018 Supplementary Report, Powering A Climate Resilient Economy).

“Electric vehicles (EVs) are flexible resources that have the potential to deliver benefits to the evolving distributed electricity system, offering the potential for improved network stability and storage.”

This aspect of EV uptake was discussed in a report (PDF) produced by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) in collaboration with the South Australian government and South Australian Power Networks.

The report sought to understand the impact of EVs on the SA distribution network, in terms of both electricity demand and its interaction with the increasing levels of renewable generation.

It found that, while the transition towards EVs has the potential to have an impact on the electricity distribution network, careful system management can assist in realising the full benefits of EV uptake.

In particular, the report found that:

  • If managed correctly, EVs could potentially improve network asset utilisation and, in turn, have the potential to improve costs for consumers (with more electrons being used across the network’s infrastructure, distribution-use-of-system charges would be reduced).
  • EVs can be beneficial in terms of deployment of renewable energy at a local scale, due to the enhanced payback when EVs are coupled with local generation.
  • There is potential for EVs to be a storage option for over-generation during solar generation peak (for example, when solar generation outstrips demand, EV batteries could store that extra power).
  • While EVs present a ‘hotspot’ risk (where, for example, DC rapid chargers are clustered in a localised area, such as a shopping centre), demand management can address most hotspot situations by providing price signals to encourage ideal charging behaviour, using vehicle-to-grid opportunities, or using local storage.


AGL’s approach to EVs and the network

We have already begun to explore EV charging options, and we are working collaboratively with both distributors and the market operator to explore and trial system optimisation solutions that contribute towards network reliability.

Through our Peak Energy Rewards - Managed for You Program, AGL trialled remote EV charging management during peak events for a number of privately owned EVs in New South Wales.

The program is part of a nationwide initiative administered by ARENA and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to deliver a three-year demand response pilot project. The NSW Government provided additional funding to the initiative for projects that are based in NSW, such as AGL’s EV trial.

Demand Response contributes to the stability of the electricity system by reducing discretionary energy use at times when demand spikes, such as during summer heatwaves.

For this program, AGL deployed smart charging stations to trial participants. During the trial peak event that was staged in July 2018, any vehicles plugged in and charging at the time of the DR event had their charging activity remotely curtailed, and charging recommenced at the end of the event. Any vehicles returning home during the event had their charging deferred until the end of the event.

The remote charge management solution was successfully demonstrated, with the charging activities of 50% of participants deferred to the end of the event - translating to a 30kW load reduction.

Image: EV Demand Response program participant charging solution

An important relationship

AGL recognises the relationship between EVs, automation, and ride-sharing.

As recent analysis produced by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and UC Davis highlights, coordinated policy action on each of these three fronts would ensure the best opportunities to decarbonise energy use, improve road safety, and reduce transport costs for households, while also managing the risk of increased transport congestion and urban sprawl.

We recently discussed these matters in our submission to Infrastructure Victoria as it prepared advice to the Victorian government on automated and zero-emission vehicle infrastructure (a copy of which is available here).

Automation and the ability to integrate EVs into the grid will enable further opportunities to optimise the system – for example, allowing energy service providers to proactively manage charging activity to assist with a variety of grid services, including aggregation, demand response and renewables balancing.

AGL looks forward to continuing to engage with policymakers and regulators in the development of this exciting market to deliver greater value to our customers and the broader Australian economy.