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Driving Change

Kickstarting the vehicle-to-grid integration movement

vehicle to grid integration concept

The long view on electric vehicles is that they can provide unique benefits for the power grid and for drivers if charged and managed in a smart and dynamic way. But for a long time, saying the acronym "V2G" (for "vehicle-to-grid") to a utility or automaker was the equivalent of talking about flying cars.

But it looks like, at least in California, that's starting to change. A couple of weeks ago, the Vehicle Grid Integration Working Group — which includes automakers, utilities, government agencies, nonprofits and tech and infrastructure providers — released a report highlighting hundreds of ways that electric vehicles immediately can provide benefits today to the power grid, to consumers and to companies.

Some of those near-term benefits include lower monthly utility bills for EV-owning residents, ride-hail drivers and companies — a service that could be enabled by offering these groups new favorable rates for charging during certain times of day. When the charging of these electric fleets is managed in a smart way, it also can provide an on-demand energy asset for utilities. 

The group identified 320 use cases for integrating EVs with the power grid that can "provide value now," including 240 applications for light-duty vehicles and 80 for electric trucks and buses. Eighty of those 320 use cases were focused on "V2G," which would enable the bidirectional flow of electrons and data between the vehicle and the grid. 

The broad stakeholders that need to collaborate on this potentially complicated system are starting to get on the same page.

The group also made a series of policy recommendations, such as reforming utility rates to include an "EV fleet commercial rate," that can help electric fleet owners and managers avoid the stiff demand charges that have been holding back the market. Other recommendations include funding pilot programs that use EVs as emergency backup power for homes and opening up V2G projects to current state incentives.

While the report is just one step to kick-starting the vehicle-to-grid market, it's a strong signal that the broad stakeholders that need to collaborate on this potentially complicated system are starting to get on the same page. 

Other regulatory moves in California are also focused on pushing this market forward. Late last year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 676 into law, which calls on the California Public Utilities Commission to establish strategies and quantifiable metrics by the end of 2020 that will grow the vehicle-to-grid market over the next decade. 

If these types of policy programs are successful, 2021 could be a crucial year for vehicle grid services, and the long-hyped V2G, to move forward in California and globally. Karim Farhat, director of mobility solutions for Engie Impact (who participated in the vehicle-grid working group), said in an interview that for vehicle-grid integration, "it's time to start moving the needle and setting concrete targets."

This article is adapted from GreenBiz's weekly newsletter, Transport Weekly, running Tuesdays. Subscribe here.

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