Driving force: Could electric vehicles reshape the grid?

Your electric vehicle could do more than simply replace fossil fuel transport. It could help stabilise the entire electricity network and cut electricity bills.

Long-time ARENAWIRE readers may remember funding announced in July 2020 for a “batteries on wheels” electric vehicle project.

The Realising Electric Vehicle-to-Grid Services (REVS) trial in Canberra attracted $2.73 million of ARENA funding. Run by ACT power company ActewAGL, the trial investigated whether a fleet of electric vehicles could provide similar grid services to big batteries and virtual power plants.

Well, the trial is now completed and the results are promising.

REVS has demonstrated Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology can provide support for the grid. In particular, it shows V2G can provide Frequency Control Ancillary Service (FCAS), which help maintain a steady frequency on the electricity grid.

If it lives up to its promise, V2G could reduce the need for investment in alternative FCAS devices such as big batteries. And we’re talking big numbers.

REVS calculates market growth will see almost 16 million passenger vehicles of all types on the road in 2040. Even if only 10 per cent – or about 1.5 million – of those vehicles were V2G capable and providing 11 GW of dispatchable storage, then that could potentially offset more than $6 billion in grid investment.

That, in turn, would lower the cost of electricity.

The project also anticipates that by monetising its FCAS capability, a V2G could in the future generate significant revenue for its owner.

Technical and cost barriers

But there are technical and cost barriers to be overcome.

Some of those technical barriers could be addressed by adjusting standards, rules and regulations.

For instance, a V2G unit connected to the grid acts as both a contributor of electricity to the network, and as a consumer of electricity from it. Currently, Australian standards do not cover this kind of device. New standards will need to be developed.

There are also problems with the idea of combining V2G devices to a Virtual Power Plant (VPP).

ActewAGL is working with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) which sets the rules around connecting VPPs to the grid.

And regulatory requirements around phase balance cannot currently be met without a significant investment in software.

Data will be collected to determine the level of imbalance and implement strategies to address it.

So, while much has been learnt, there’s a lot of work to still do. Watch this space.