Blog #1 - Green Energy Overtime: Optimising Vehicle-to-Grid Devices In Lockdown

Posted: 01 Jun 2020

Valts Grintals

Flexibility Analyst

Electrifying our heat and transport in the transition to zero carbon is sparking big changes in how electricity is consumed in the UK.

Over the last two months of lockdown, a dip in demand and record-breaking levels of sun and wind have created difficult conditions for the grid. However, as the UK transitions to become fully powered by renewable energy, and demand for power becomes less predictable, the challenges the energy system is dealing with in lockdown are a sign of things to come. 

Addressing the challenges brought to the fore in lockdown will therefore set us in good stead for the future. Using smart, flexible devices in people’s homes – such as electric vehicle (EV) chargers and smart heaters – to take in green energy when it is in abundance and feed it back to the grid when demand increases, could be a game changer. This grid flexibility would enable higher renewable energy integration onto the electricity system, help prevent excess wind and solar from going to waste, and system faults like blackouts. 

Kaluza’s flexibility platform is connected to thousands of these devices and intelligently controls their charging patterns so that they consume energy when it is cheapest and greenest for the grid, enabling customers to save on their energy and carbon too! This blog will focus on the role that vehicle-to-grid (V2G) devices – bi-directional electric vehicle chargers – have played in the last two months of lockdown and what this could mean for our future smart grid.

 

Unmanaged electric vehicle charging vs. V2G

So, what’s so special about a V2G charger? Consider a typical EV user that arrives home at 5pm, plugs their car into their EV charger and needs to use it again for their commute at 8am. A conventional EV charger, without smart charging capability, would start charging the car at full power immediately after it is plugged in until the EV battery reached full capacity. This often corresponds to times of peak demand in the system, of which the “HH electricity price” in the visual below is an indicator. The car remains plugged in until 8am when it is actually needed, and yet it is charged in a way that increases peak demand on the grid.

Unlike a conventional EV charger, a V2G charger is able to both import power from the grid to charge the EV battery, and also export power from the EV battery into the customer’s home and the grid if requested. A customer with a Kaluza-connected V2G charger is able to use Kaluza’s mobile app to specify at what time they actually need their car charged and ready. 

During periods of high system prices or peak demand (4pm to 7pm), Kaluza’s platform commands the vehicle to export power from the EV battery into the grid – thus reducing peak grid demand. When the platform takes such an action, customers are rewarded for their part in helping the grid. Then, during the overnight hours when electricity prices and demand are low (often corresponding to periods of renewable generation), the Kaluza platform commands the vehicle to import power from the grid into the battery so as to get the car ready by 8am, as scheduled by the customer. Thus, Kaluza is able to support the local electricity grid while also ensuring that end customer needs are met.

V2G in Coronavirus lockdown

Out of our portfolio of connected devices, the Kaluza-connected V2G devices has shown the most dramatic response to the UK’s grid in lockdown. As you can see from the data below, Kaluza’s platform has been able to support the network by absorbing abundant renewables from the grid and exporting back to the grid at times when additional capacity is needed to meet the afternoon peak demand. During the first week of lockdown our connected V2G chargers exported almost 50% more than on a regular week, pre-lockdown. 

The illustration below shows how a group of Kaluza-connected V2Gs responded to market signals and helped to balance the system during lockdown in a 12-hour period. Between 12pm and 4pm the connected EVs were used to charge as the overall grid had a high % of renewable generation and negative system imbalance requiring additional load. Between 4pm and 9pm, renewable generation capacity on the system dropped below 30%, and system imbalance indicated that additional capacity was needed to supplement the additional load. In response to this change on the system, the V2Gs were further utilised to support the system with additional capacity from export. This is just one of many examples throughout the lockdown period where we see Kaluza V2Gs help the system deal with rapid changes in demand and generation.

Lockdown Learnings

The UK’s Covid-19 lockdown period has clearly illustrated the challenges ahead in managing a zero carbon energy system. However, as proved by the performance of the Kaluza platform and the network over recent weeks, the essential components are in place to facilitate the decarbonisation of the grid. It is more vital than ever that the UK’s energy market recognises the value that smart, residential flexibility offers and allows these innovations to scale – unlocking rewards for everyone.

Kaluza’s upcoming whitepaper will take a deep dive into how the Covid-19 lockdown has affected the UK’s energy system, and demonstrate how smart, flexible technologies – including V2G – could help shape a more resilient, renewable system. 

 

A Kaluza optimised Indra V2G device at an OVO Energy Customer's home.

A Kaluza optimised Indra V2G device at an OVO Energy Customer's home.

About the Author

Valts Grintals

Flexibility Analyst

Valts has over four years’ experience in the UK and European energy storage and flexibility space. Valts has a MSc in Renewable Energy and Distributed Generation from Heriot-Watt University. He began his career as a consultant, assisting a range of energy suppliers, OEMs, network operators and EnTech start-ups in navigating the emerging flexibility markets. Valts joined Kaluza as a Flexibility Analyst in 2018. As Flexibility Analyst, Valts works with Energy Traders, Energy Suppliers and Network Operators to understand and resolve grid challenges with domestic flexibility, helping to shape the future of energy.

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