Time is not on their side: Utilities ill-prepared for EV demand, SEPA finds
It’s always dangerous to make technology predictions, but right now this feels like a sure thing: Electric vehicles are going to become popular, mainstream, common. One day, even, the standard.
How and when these zero-emission vehicles are charged will be critical.
With the rise in EVs, your local electric utility could replace your local gas station. And some companies, like PG&E, are pursuing initial efforts to encourage charging when renewable energy generation is highest.
But new research shows utilities are generally ill-prepared for the influx of demand.
Charging infrastructure is growing, and utilities and state regulators have stepped up to spur its development. According to one EV charging company, Volta Charging, more than 80% of people live within five miles of an EV charging station, and more than half are within two miles. But with EV adoption in the nascent stages, demand impacts have been minimal.
Peak demand risks
Broadly speaking, utilities are embracing the change. They want new customers, new infrastructure, new demand. But according to a new report from the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), many utilities risk being overrun by new peak demand unless they move quickly to adjust their system, rates and demand management programs.
“Based on numerous and continuously revised EV forecasts, time is not on the utilities’ side,” SEPA concluded in its report, Utilities and Electric Vehicles–Evolving to Unlock Grid Value. “Forecasts increasingly predict exponential growth over a fairly narrow span of time,” the report finds.
According to SEPA, annual energy consumption from electric vehicles in the United States will rise from “a few terawatt-hours” in 2017, to at least 118 TWh — and potentially as high as 733 TWh — by 2030.
“Many utilities may be caught unprepared,” the report concludes. “While many utilities across the country have expressed an interest in growing load, they are also uncertain about the most effective approaches to ensure benefits for consumers and address concerns of regulators and other governance boards.”