SP Energy Networks & Field Dynamics accelerates UK’s plans for electric vehicles using ground-breaking modelling tool

One of the UK’s biggest electricity distributors will speed up plans for the roll-out of electric vehicles across the country by developing an innovative tool to analyse the infrastructure and uptake of electric vehicles, so that every home that wants to will be able to charge an EV.

SP Energy Networks has partnered with analytics consultancy Field Dynamics to develop the ‘EV Up’ tool, which will allow the network operator to better understand where demand for electric vehicles will come from so that it can plan investment in its electricity network. The tool will be initially used in Central and Southern Scotland, along with Merseyside and Cheshire before being used across the rest of the UK.

By accurately modelling what additional infrastructure may be required to be able to park and charge a vehicle at every residential address in the country, the tool will help SP Energy Networks enable communities across the UK to support Government targets on climate change and ultimately deliver a low carbon society.

The project aims to help with the challenge network operators are currently facing in understanding the demands of more people using electric vehicles on the current power network.Working in collaboration with Birmingham-based Field Dynamics, SP Energy Networks will use detailed demographics and a wide range of behavioural indicators to develop the new tool based on real-world experience of electric vehicle ownership.

Scott Mathieson, Network Planning & Regulation Director at SP Energy Networks, said: “In response to Government calls to decarbonise our transport systems, more and more of our customers are moving away from fossil fuel cars towards electric vehicles. At SP Energy Networks we have a wide range of initiatives aimed at helping develop the electricity network to support our customers as they make this transition. EV Up is the perfect answer to helping us forecast and plan our low voltage network more accurately and I believe will ultimately result in us being able to provide a better service to our customers as well as reducing costs.”

The new platform will assess the demand impact against a number of scenarios depending on vehicle types including battery sizes, charging profiles, volumes and ownership thresholds.

Charlie Gilbert, Business Solutions Director at Field Dynamics, said: “The electric vehicle marketplace is changing rapidly and it can be very difficult to predict what will happen. Our tool makes that much easier. Scenario planning is a sensible way to reduce unpredictability and we are very excited to be working with the team at SP Energy Networks to develop the model further.”

The project will cover SP Energy Networks’ distribution operating areas in Scotland and North West England. Findings will be shared across the wider DNO community as part of the Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) programme – allowing other areas of the UK to benefit from modelling.

Will Home Battery Storage Kill-off V2G Before it Even Starts?

Vehicle to Grid (V2G) is a great concept. We could balance the increasing strains on the electricity network, not by building more expensive infrastructure, but by using the batteries that we already have in our electric vehicles (EVs). Only that might not make much sense, and there may be a much better solution available today.

The V2G model requires vehicles to load and unload at times convenient for the networkThat is, lots of spare capacity during the day to absorb electricity from solar panels and then full batteries in the evening to discharge to the network to reduce demand.

The trouble is business, and occasional drivers don’t match this profile. Their vehicles are full and empty at the wrong times and it will require careful planning to contribute – not something we can expect from most drivers. In addition, the chargers are expensive, the billing complex and the alignment to network hotspots is difficult.

What really might kill off V2G is home battery storage, as we are really close to a 5-6 year payoff period. This does require some assumptions:

  • An installed 20kWh battery needs to be around £6,000 – currently, a 13.5kWh battery costs about £6,500 but these costs have dropped 80% in the last 5 years, so this isn’t far away.
  • The peak / off-peak variance needs to be 15p per kWh – at the moment it is closer to 10 -11p however, the combination of strong upward pressure on peak electricity costs and the impact of innovative time based off-peak charging means that 15p variance is closer than many think.

Once home batteries become financially attractive than their other 2 key properties really start to make an impact – their fixed location and when they run out of power, nothing stops.

As home batteries don’t move they can be relied upon to make consistent impacts on an electricity network, and with the right incentivisation, networks can be strengthened quickly and cheaply at specific risk areas.

When home batteries are drained, the normal network seamlessly takes over – no cars stop, no-one is stranded. This means that with smart responsive billing, a home battery can become an incredibly flexible resource at all hours of the day.

So what should we put our future bets on? The thing that no-one has quite worked out how to make happen, or the thing that we are all most probably going to buy anyway?

Article originally published by Ben Allan on 27/02/2019 via LinkedIn.