Utility companies are starting to feel the impact of electric vehicles, according to Dan Byrnes, SVP of product development at Oracle Utilities. Can their existing grid infrastructure manage the added demand?


lectric vehicles (EVs) have never been more viable than they are today.

Consumers are opening up their minds to more environmentally-friendly forms of transportation, and advancements in EV technology have increased vehicle range and brought down price tags. Simply, EVs are more readily available today than ever. In June alone, Tesla sold just under 40,000 Model 3s, and every major manufacturer from Porsche to Volkswagen has new models in the making. The International Energy Agency predicts the install-base of EVs could reach as much as 125 million in 2030, compared to 3.1 million in 2017. But while the rise of EVs can have a substantial positive impact on the environment, this cannot happen without creating challenges for the existing electricity grid, which was created long before EVs were a commercially viable consumer product. As transportation continues to evolve from gas to the grid, the utility retailers must plan for an uptick in energy demand that will vary dramatically by area. Estimates suggest the rise in EVs will

result in a peak energy load growth of one to four per cent. This may seem low, but it could bring with it volatile, unpredictable energy spikes at both a local substation and feeder level. In certain urban areas, where the population is denser, EV charging could be responsible for as much as 30 per cent peak growth. For individual households, the impact will be just as significant, with energy usage increasing by 15 per

cent or more. And during peak times, energy usage could even double. The pressure is mounting for utilities to start planning for this shift, to minimise its effects. The first step is understanding the impact EVs are currently having on the grid. This involves gaining full visibility over the current footprint of EVs within concentrated areas, as well as the energy consumption habits of their owners. Luckily, technology is available on the

market that is already helping EVs better understand these factors. Applying machine learning and advanced analytics to data intelligence from household energy patterns and advanced metering infrastructure data (where available), utilities can now detect and disaggregate the presence of EVs within a household. Using this technology, utility companies can glean the time and frequency of charging, and as such, better predict energy consumption and forecast future demand as more EVs come online. This is critical for several reasons. It

helps time and resource-strapped utilities make needed assessments on grid investments. They can then assess whether enhancements are needed to meet supply and demand today, or whether customer engagement programs can help curb and even the flow of charging at peak times. This insight also allows utilities to become trusted advisors to customers who may be in the dark as to how owning an EV is impacting on their energy footprint and bill. By providing customers with an


insight into both these factors, utilities can incentivise EV owners to change their charging behaviour to plug in at off-peak times – saving them money and supporting the health of the energy grid. Looking ahead, these same kinds of

engagement programs will be able to be used to buy back unused energy from their customer’s EV batteries, further benefitting the customer while balancing supply and demand in times of need. However, not all detection tools are

created equally. As a proliferation of solutions come onto the market, utilities would be well advised to carefully assess their options. In particular, utilities should consider the amount of research that has gone into the tool; the sophistication of the classification model behind the data; its ability to drill down to a granular level when analysing energy spike; programs to engage customers in behavioural change, and most importantly, whether or not it is saleable and flexible enough to remain future-proof over time. EVs are set to change the way we get

from A to B, and with it they are also going to change the way we consume energy. Utilities need to start planning now, to manage the changes that the EV explosion is going to bring. Advanced analytics and machine learning are helping utilities manage the shift, and ensuring that the impact of EVs remains a positive one, for consumers and energy grids alike.

Oracle Utilities ENERGY MANAGEMENT | AUTUMN 2019 23

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