Utility Week

UTILITY Week 3rd February 2017

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20 | 3RD - 9TH FEBRUARY 2017 | UTILITY WEEK Operations & Assets "When there are millions of electric vehicles on the streets moving electrons around as well as humans, will EVs become the UK's new energy grid?" Viewpoint Phil Gilbert H ere's a scenario. As the owner of an electric vehicle (EV) in the not-too-distant future, part of your daily routine goes a bit like this: you drive to work and charge your car during the day through your company's on-site solar panels or combined heat and power engine, making best of use of decentralised and renewable energy at times of lower demand (and lower cost) on the grid. Because most car journeys in the UK are far shorter than the average (and improving) range of a modern electric vehicle, your travel needs are less than the energy storage capacity of your car. So once you arrive home you plug your car into your home electricity sup- ply and the battery becomes a supplementary energy source, taking on some of the effort of powering your home and offsetting energy costs. Smart interfaces mean there will always be enough power le in your vehicle batteries to make the journey into work the next morning where you can recharge your car to 100 per cent and the cycle begins again. In that way our cars stop being simply a mode of transport and become a supplementary source of power for our homes and a way of managing demand on the grid – helping to reduce demand spikes on the distribu- tion networks in the peak evening periods. That's a future that is not so difficult to imagine but, realistically, it's a world away from where we are now. What we need is something that drives the integra- tion of ultra-low emission vehicles and smart charging technology with renewable energy sources and battery storage, because the biggest benefit in terms of carbon emissions per mile is to align charging solutions with, for example, localised solar or wind energy. To incentivise that kind of activity you need wide- reaching legislation – transport is one part of the plan but it is by no means all of it. In short, you need policy that brings together transport plus energy stor- age plus distributed renewable generation. By incen- tivising all three, you effectively turn our transport system into our energy grid. Instead of electrons moving around the country via pylons and wires, they move via batter- ies in vehicles. And by charging when renewables are available and at their most plentiful – when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing – you are also working towards offsetting the intermittency of renewables and storing power ready for use at times of peak demand. At scale – and we are looking at replacing the vast majority of the 30 million cars on British roads – this is the equivalent of 1tWh of power that can be made avail- able for the grid. This is not small scale and it will need a sea-change in how we think about energy, transport and buildings. The UK has EV targets out to 2050 but we are already about five years ahead of that in terms of vehicle num- bers. Estimates are that we will have around 700,000 EVs by 2020 and 3-5 million by 2025. That's a significant step up from the 80,000 or so we have now. So how do we get there? It is vital we give motor- ists the confidence that comes with improved access to charging points and at Eon we are working with busi- nesses and local authorities to not only provide greater numbers of charging points but a more efficient and seamless service to make charging easier. Equally we need greater availability of – and cus- tomer demand for – battery storage technologies in business and residential properties. Eon's Aura system, which links domestic solar and battery storage, is prov- ing hugely popular in Germany and will be coming to the UK shortly. The future could also include closer integration of technologies allowing neighbouring buildings to benefit from scale and shared services, and may well be driven by ever stricter vehicle emissions legislation. Clean air legislation will drive a lot of demand but in the absence of binding national targets now we may see certain cities taking the lead with their own conditions. That is already being seen in cities across the globe and London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, in particular has pledged to clean up the capital's air quality. Consumer demand for new technologies is showing no sign of slowing down and there's a clear step-change in attitude towards renewable energy and the need to reduce our carbon footprint. Local governments and businesses can take the lead here. Instead of finding that consumer demand outstrips the capabilities of infra- structure in the not too distant future, they can lead by example and get ahead of the impending EV curve. Phil Gilbert, director of B2B energy solutions, Eon UK

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