Solar carpark canopies such as at Westfield Marion could help manage electric car charging "hotspots". Source: Scentre Group
Solar carpark canopies such as at Westfield Marion could help manage electric car charging “hotspots”. Source: Scentre Group

More electric cars in Australia, as has been proposed under policies issued by Labor and The Greens in the lead up to next month’s federal election, will likely mean cheaper electricity prices and a more reliable grid, a leading electric vehicle (EV) consultancy says.

Daniel Hilson, the CEO of Evenergi, on Tuesday released a report, funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and the South Australia government, that said – contrary to the claims of the government that funded the report, and the front page headlines of the Sydney Morning Herald – the grid will be able to handle the increased demand of EV charging.

The condition is, of course, that it is managed properly. But planning, and some existing smart software can deal with that, and can  help better manage the grid peaks and troughs which invariably drive prices up.

“By encouraging EV charging at times when there is surplus energy and limiting the amount of charging during times of peak demand we can potentially create a more efficient, balanced, and flexible grid,” Hilson says.

“Evening out demand would unlock more value from existing power network assets. If managed correctly, this would ultimately lower costs for consumers.”

As Evenergi released its report, the minister whose agency commissioned it was saying something completely different on Sky News on Monday night.

Asked by right wing commentator Chris Kenny – who had helped kick off some of the nonsense reaction to Labor’s 50 per cent EV target a week ago – about the capacity of the grid to incorporate EVs, energy minister Angus Taylor said:

“We already have an electricity supply crisis impending, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator.

“It’s not just [about] the quantity [of electricity], it’s actually [about] when it’s required, so the idea here is that you charge up at night but they also want to have a 50% renewable energy target which means a huge amount of extra solar probably.

“Because the sun doesn’t shine at night and they haven’t explained how they are going to turn daytime solar energy to night time energy to charge up the car.”

Taylor has already been mocked for a series of wildly misleading tweets over the weekend, including referencing an old and debunked fake electric car review designed to throw a bad light on electric vehicle range.

In fact, nearly the entire Coalition has been caught out making ridiculous and ill-informed comments about EVs, even though they had been supporting investments over the last 12 months and there own policy assumes a target similar to Labor’s.

Hilson says the technologies to deal with the number and size of EVs plugged into the grid, and to use them to reduce peak demand, already exist.

“This technology already exists and there are mechanisms through which consumers can be compensated for assisting the network,” he said.

Several car makers are looking to exploit the opportunities here, starting with Nissan and its second generation Leaf, although it has yet to strike any deals with Australian network companies about using the technology.

Key findings in the Evenergi report include:

  • Electric cars, if managed correctly, could actually help lower energy costs for consumers;
  • Electric cars can assist in deploying renewable sourced energy on localised grids;
  • Electric cars have the potential to take up extra electricity at times when there is too much being generated, smoothing the load and improving grid stability;
  • The uptake of electric vehicles will not significantly impact the network for the next six years;
  • Careful planning will ensure the electricity network is ready for anticipated EV uptake from 2025 onwards.

Other findings in the report include addressing the issue of hotspots (which can occur when many EVs are charging in one location at once).

According to the report, hotspots, such as ultra-fast DC charging sites or public – with destination chargers, will be able to be operated using demand management software, and by installing solar panels on local rooftops or carpark canopies.

Note: We wondered, considering the contents of the report, how the SMH came up with a front page lead titled Power grid not ready for spike in electric vehicles.

Hilson, the report’s author, said he was non-plussed. “We have no idea how they inferred that from the release. They somehow ran with the opposite of what we said.”

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