By John Addison (2/22/09; updated 2/25/09)
Google Energy could be a Smart Charging and V2G Provider
Google finally won approval from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to be an electric utility. Now that they are making billions delivering web ads, do they want to make added billions selling electricity? Quite possibly. Google already offers a smart meter app that allows smart grid customers to manage their home electricity use. With their new approval to be a utility, Google could be a smart grid / smart charge service provider.
Auto makers and utilities have already agreed on smart charging standards that allow you to plug-in using a J1772 connection, but not have charging start immediately. A service provider is needed to look at your preferences, take action, and provide information. Your preference might be to not charge until 9 p.m. when rates fall to a fraction of peak electricity demand hours. You might want to receive a text message when your charging is complete. You might want Google Maps to show you the nearest public charging stations that are available and display their cost per kilowatt hour. It looks like a natural for companies like Google. They story gets better in the year’s ahead when cars are V2G enabled.
Electric car sales will get a boost when the utility meter spins backward and customers make money by plugging-in. University of Delaware, AutoPort, and partners are planning to put 100 electric cars on the road in the next 18 months that will plug-in and sell power back to the utility using vehicle-to-grid (v2G) technology. AutoPort plans to secure local fleets that fund conversion of their vehicles. The University of Delaware currently has six Scion eBoxs, converted by AC Propulsion, to be electric cars with V2G.
I just got to hear from the V2G experts while I attend the American Association for Advancing Science (AAAS) Conference. I am posting this report from the conference.
A solar home might have 3 to 5 kW of solar PV. An electric car might have 24 kWh stored in its lithium batteries. Vehicles can be charged at night when excess wind and other forms of electricity are generated. The electricity can be sold back at premium rates during peak hours.
By the end of the decade, some electric cars will be less expensive to purchase than gasoline powered cars; most will be much cheaper to fuel. Monthly electric utility bills will be small for some; others will get paid to plug-in. The concept is not new. Solar power grew rapidly whenever feed-in tariffs created an incentive by having utilities purchase power from homes and businesses.
V2G will initially be promoted by agile businesses that can make things happen much faster than cautious utilities or automakers. When V2G becomes a billion dollar business, look for hundreds of players including auto makers and utilities.
The V2G cars in Delaware will get Big Bucks to sell electricity back to the grid. Electric utilities are becoming desperate for stored energy. Utilities are willing to pay serious money for some contracted delivery of electricity. Dr. Jasna Tomic of CALSTART reports that utilities will pay $15 to 55 MWh for electricity supplied for frequency regulation, but the utility does not want to deal with 100,000 car drivers. The utility wants one aggregator in the middle to provide the power. This could eventually be a billion dollar opportuntity for a Google, GE, IBM, EnerNOC, Better Place, or a new start-up.
Spinning reserves is another major opportunity. If a GW coal or nuclear plant goes down, a utility needs to find a new GW of power online in ten minutes. If you are an energy aggregator who can guarantee that GW 24/7 year-round you can make money every day of the year, even if reserves are rarely needed. A utility might pay $20 MWh for spinning reserves.
Ken Huber, Manager Advanced Technology for PJM, an independent systems operator (ISO) PJM, told me that they had 30 incidents last year that required the use of spinning reserves. On average, the reserves were only needed for about ten minutes. PJM is an energy wholesaler with over 550 member companies that serve 51 million people services in 13 states. On a typical day they are providing 100 GW of electricity. They can handle a 144 GW peak load.
These premium ancillary services can cost-justify early adoption of V2G. A decade from now, less valuable peak and base-load delivery of electricity from electric car batteries may add to the economic value of V2G.
Utilities and their air quality regulators would like to get rid of dirty peaker plants that may only be fired up a few hundred hours per year, when temperatures soar and air conditioning blasts cold air. Dr. Tomic estimates a peak power value of 5 to 80 cents per kWh. For those afternoon peak hours, utilities might offer 2 to10 cents per kWh.
100 V2G cars in Delaware is only a beginning. Fleets will be early adopters of V2G. In the United States, fleets currently have over 20,000 light-electric vehicles in operation. These same fleets will be candidates for new freeway-speed electric vehicles with V2G. Early adopters will include other universities, corporate leaders, and government organizations. The U.S. Post Office, if it secures funding support, may convert part of its 220,000 fleet to electric delivery vehicles with V2G. Utilities with thousands of cars and heavy-duty trucks are perfect candidates for early adoption of V2G.
A New Breed of Energy Service Providers
Electric cars, smart grids, and needed grid available storage will attract a agile innovators, many with deep pockets. Ken Huber of PJM identified a number of potential aggregators that include energy storage providers such as CAES which currently provides PJM with one MW of lithium-ion battery storage; smart grid providers such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Cisco; vehicle service providers such as GM OnStar, Grid Point, and Better Place; and demand-response providers such as Comverge and EnerNOC
Some energy providers will fight to be first to market with smart charging and V2G services. Others will be fast followers. Most utilities will leave the investments of capital and creating new business models to others. Some innovative utilities may directly offer their own V2G services – Duke, Edison, Sempra, Austin Energy, and Xcel come to mind. Electric car customers will benefit from the convenience, smart charging cost savings, and ability to make money with V2G.
The Grid is Ready for Millions of Electric Cars
“Electricity is the new vehicle fuel,” explains Dr. Will Kempton, Director, Center for Carbon-free Power Integration, University of Delaware.
He is confident that the U.S. electric grid can support millions of electric cars that are likely to be added in the next decades. He observes that the U.S. total grid load is about 417 GW. If all U.S. cars will converted to V2G plug-ins with an average of 15 kWh per vehicle, they would provide 2,865 GW. A U.S. fleet of electric vehicles could provide 7X entire electricity needed in U.S.
The average U.S. car is parked 23 hours per day. If most charge off-peak and only 20 percent are available for V2G at any given time, V2G will be a major contributor in energy security and more affordable electricity. A brighter future will be created by early adopters of electric vehicles, utilities with renewable energy portfolios, and a new breed of smart grid and V2G service providers.