In Delaware at Least, Electric Vehicles Earn Money From the Grid

Vehicle to grid technology is making money at last, and it’s mainstream news too. In a press release earlier today NRG Energy said that:

Joined by government and industry leaders, the University of Delaware and NRG Energy are celebrating an important milestone for its eV2g project today: becoming an official resource of PJM Interconnection and proving for the first time that electric vehicle-to-grid technology can sell electricity from electric vehicles (EVs) to the power grid.

Cameras were on hand to record those celebrations, and here is the resulting video:

According to NRG’s press release, Delaware Governor Jack Markell said that:

Moving innovative ideas out of the classroom and into the marketplace is critical to growing our economy. The partnership between NRG and University of Delaware perfectly illustrates the potential for research institutions to spur economic development

whilst NRG Executive Vice President Denise Wilson said that:

This demonstrates that EVs can provide both mobility and stationary power while helping making the grid more resilient and ultimately generating revenue for electric vehicle owners.

and University of Delaware President Patrick Harker said that:

I thank all of the industry and policy leaders who have come together around a project that incorporates clean transportation, stable energy and profitable sustainability. And I thank Prof. Willett Kempton and his fellow scientists for leading the way. It might be a few more years before a grid-integrated vehicle sits in every American driveway, but I’m excited to continue the journey.

Personally I suspect it might be a few more years before a grid-integrated vehicle sits in any American driveway, let alone in any British driveway. One of the reasons I say that is covered next in the press release. NRG briefly mention the raison d’être of V2G:

For grid operators, the technology serves as an innovative new approach to energy storage. It has the potential to balance the power provided by intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar. Energy storage, such as large-scale batteries or those in a fleet of vehicles, can take the wind’s power generated at night and store it to use when demand is higher.

Whilst that potential may well exist, here’s the rub when it comes to reality. Michael J. Kormos, who is senior vice president of operations at PJM pointed out that:

PJM changed rules for participation in the regulation service market to decrease the minimum amount of power needed to participate and we implemented new rules that recognize and compensate faster, more accurately responding resources, such as batteries. We knew that by doing so would attract innovation and would find potential for energy storage or other technologies. We’re glad to be a part of this project and hope that this inspires continued innovation among our partners and others in the industry.

How many other “grid operators” like PJM, whether in the United States or over here in Europe, are going to be willing to change their rules and lower their thresholds for entry into wholesale electricity markets to include an EV sat in a driveway overnight, or even a fleet of 15 Mini EVs as in this project? If the answer turns out to be “none”, then who’s going to do the necessary aggregation and sit in the middle between the EVs in every driveway and the PJM’s of this world?

Be all that as it may, and no doubt having read the same press release as me, the New York Times put a slightly different spin on the story. They point out that:

The scale of this project, using 15 two-passenger Mini E models, donated by BMW, is indeed minuscule compared with the task of keeping the grid system that serves two-thirds of North America in balance, making sure that supply matches demand as precisely as possible.

and quote Michehl Gent, former president of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (or NERC for short) as saying that:

The Delaware idea is tiny but promising. If we can get our electric vehicles to do more than just be electric vehicles, it will be very well received.

It would certainly be well received by your humble author, although at this juncture in history I cannot help but wonder which of all the currently competing international standards will ultimately ensure that all the electrical, mechanical and financial components of a future smart grid, produced by a plethora of international vendors, will all happily co-exist. There are still a long list of hurdles to be jumped before the realisation of Professor Kempton’s vision of:

[Seeing] the electric car and the wind machine as complementary tools for a low-carbon energy system.

is turned into electrical, mechanical and financial reality.

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