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 A tidal wave of EVs will drive the flexibility market | Automotive World

James Johnston argues that new business models are needed to ensure EVs deliver a positive impact to local and national energy grids

The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is finally upon us. EVs are now a common sight on the roads and this is reflected in recent sales figures. In the UK, for instance, around 15% of new cars are now electric.

As the energy system becomes greener and industry shifts away from fossil generation, the role of flexibility becomes more significant. EVs have the potential to play an important role in the future of the world’s power systems: helping to balance the electricity network by absorbing energy during periods of oversupply and to reduce demand during periods of undersupply.

According to some estimates, EVs will potentially provide over 11GW of flexible capacity to the UK’s energy system by 2030. And so the growth in smart-charging EVs could be transformative for the energy grid. Smart charging is crucial to enable us to utilise EVs for flexibility, as it can ensure that EVs are only drawing from the grid at times when there is low demand or surplus generation.

As the energy system becomes greener and industry shifts away from fossil generation, the role of flexibility becomes more significant

In turn, this means EVs aren’t putting strain on the grid by charging during times of low generation or high demand. By doing this, EVs can assist regional network operators with real-time balancing challenges and support growing levels of clean-technologies connecting to the grid.

To ensure the continued rise of clean transport on the roads and clean-tech flexibility on the energy grids, barriers to participating in flexibility markets need to be removed. These include removing the restrictions on the ability to stack revenues across flexibility markets and continuing industry efforts to standardise participation across distribution system operators (DSO) flexibility markets. Making these small changes will help to support the flexibility revolution that has already started in some regions.

The growth in smart-charging EVs could be transformative for the energy grid

There is significant optimism in the UK that this growth can continue, following the government’s recently released Smart Systems and Flexibility plan that indicated that 13GW of flexibility could be provided to the system by 2030. To make this a reality, it is important to introduce greater standardisation for procuring flexibility to simplify the process, improve access to participation and support real innovation in renewable energy and clean technologies. Given that the market is still fairly young, the industry should combine that standardisation with the ‘learning by doing’ approach that has contributed to the recent growth in flexibility markets.

For example, combining EV smart charging with flexibility markets can provide DSOs with more options for effective grid management, optimising the safe delivery of power to EVs without compromising on delivering electricity to offices and homes.

The impact of that will be a more flexible energy grid, able to support the continued growth in renewable energy, and a cleaner car fleet to reduce air pollution in our cities. It truly is a win-win.


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

James Johnston is Chief Executive and Co-founder at Piclo. Piclo Flex is an independent marketplace for trading energy flexibility online

The Automotive World Comment column is open to automotive industry decision makers and influencers. If you would like to contribute a Comment article, please contact [email protected]

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