A major new report has called on Australia’s energy market regulators and distribution network companies to fast-track reforms to grid connection standards and constraints, to pave the way for electric vehicle to grid (V2G) technology that will be crucial for managing a future with millions of batteries on wheels.
The 169-page report, compiled by a team at the Australian National University, is part of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency-backed Realising Electric Vehicle-to-Grid Services project, or REVS.
V2G, broadly speaking, is the concept of discharging an EV battery in order to serve a secondary purpose – which puts V2G in the same sort of basket as distributed storage, solar, and other forms of demand response.
Compared to solar and stationary battery storage, however, V2G is still firmly in the niche technology category, even in parts of the world with high EV uptake (i.e. not Australia).
But the ANU report argues that even at this nascent stage – and even despite Australia’s laggard status – it is vital to “right size” electricity market rules and technology standards help deliver the value and minimise the risks associated with mass EV uptake.
“V2G will see the most uptake when there are clear standards and rules around its usage, spanning charging standards at the vehicle end, and system standards and rules at the grid end,” the report says.
Locally, the ANU has been working with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency on a REVS trial, that will install 51 bi-directional chargers for a fleet of 51 V2G capable vehicles in the ACT.
The project will monitor charger and vehicle availability, as well as a range of electrical parameters, which will enable the delivery of market contingency Frequency Control Ancillary Services (FCAS) at a fleet scale.
For a more comprehensive perspective, the ANU report – titled the A-Z of V2G – has reviewed a broad range of international reports and trials as the basis for a series of policy and industry recommendations, to which they assign varying degrees of urgency.
At the top of the list is to fast-track electricity market updates required in Australia to more fully value the increasingly critical roles of energy storage to provide fast and flexible power supply and demand.
Markets for these services include system services such as frequency control and demand response (FCAS), network services such as voltage and congestion management, and financial services such as generation firming and hedging.
According to Björn Sturmberg, research leader at the ANU’s Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program, the move to 5 minute settlement in Australia is one local example of a positive step in this direction.
“I think a point that’s stood out to me is just how much value batteries can bring by simply having stored energy available (that can be delivered extremely rapidly), rather than the quantum of energy that passes through them,” Sturmberg said in a Q&A with ARENA.
“This may seem self-evident, but it’s surprised me to see how many applications draw upon battery energy rarely, but place a very high value on the insurance of having stored energy available. These include grid frequency management, uninterrupted power supply for buildings, backup power for homes, the delivery of power to disaster areas,” he said.
“Australia can also learn from overseas markets, particularly those where network services are used much more. The Piclo Flex platform in the UK is a great example of this, with over 10GW of capacity available to be procured for distribution services through a transparent market.”
On the technical side, Sturmberg says the “crux for V2G” – and where he sees the greatest opportunities for ongoing improvements for all DER – is with bi-directional chargers, which are also a major part of the conversation around distributed solar and storage.
“These are still in an earlier phase of the technology development curve than many of the other power electronic converters used to connect generation and storage to the power system and as such lag behind in their functionalities and cost,” he said.
“In particular, there is more work to be done to enable a greater range of grid support functionalities, such as reactive power support, and building backup power functionalities, such as grid forming and UPS.”
On the consumer and business model side, another “immediate” action recommended by the ANU report is to start building a “compelling narrative” of how V2G can help EV owners get a share of the wider benefits of V2G as a financial reward.
“Our review found that little is known about EV owner attitudes to V2G,” said Sturmberg. “We see this as an exciting opportunity. It’s rare to have a blank slate on which to create meaning and shape the utilisation of a new technology.
“Some of the early factors that will need to be addressed are assurance around having sufficient charge in vehicles when they’re needed for driving, trust in the service providers that are being given partial control of vehicle charging (this holds for managed uni-directional charging also), and the owner’s ability to feel in control of setting the level of access granted to service providers.”
Finally, says the report, V2G is also about managing what is shaping up to be an enormous source of new demand from Australia’s electricity system as consumers shift to vehicles that refuel via the grid, and not the bowser.
“The relatively high power requirements of EV charging will change societal electricity consumption patterns and if not managed well will place significant strain on the grid,” the report says.
“However, the large storage capacity of EV batteries presents an opportunity for better grid management, especially considering the long periods of time that most vehicles spend parked. Vehicle to grid (V2G) is a new technology that promises to connect these dots.”