Can Electric Vehicles Boost Grid Resilience?


Renewable energy sources like solar power are important, but as they increase in number, it places more and more strain on the grid.  The problem is particularly acute in California, so the state is looking into potentially utilizing EV battery storage to help alleviate consumption during periods of peak demand.  In other words, by storing power during off-peak hours and utilizing it during peak hours, the amount of generation currently produced during peak times can be reduced.

According to a white paper from the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC), “EV batteries plugged into smart charging stations can be fast acting resources to meet grid needs.”  The needs the PUC is referring to are depicted as a so-called Duck Curve, and although I won’t get into the details you can check out this article regarding why the Duck Curve is a problem.  In a nutshell, the Duck Curve shows that demand spikes late in the day, during times when people are typically home from work.

Of course, one thing missing from this equation is EV supply – simply put, whether it’s due to the price tag or the lack of charging stations, there simply aren’t enough EV’s out there at the moment to accomplish the goal.  But the PUC is committed to finding ways to boost EV demand, and the market is already trending in a way favorable to industry growth – EV manufacturing costs have declined 70% over the past 20 years, and charging stations have increased by a factor of 40 since 2008. But with this changing paradigm comes yet another problem that must be solved – tweaking traditional policy frameworks to accommodate the new market dynamics.

Only time will tell if the EV market will be destined to be an integral component of grid resilience.  But one thing I can say with relative certainty is that the potential benefits of using EVs for this purpose are not going to be realized any time soon – in fact, could take decades.  Sorry tree-huggers.

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