(3BL Media/Justmeans) — There’s an old saying, “be careful what you wish for, you might get it.” True enough, it cautions us to look beyond near-term results. There are those like Adam Vaughn, writing in the Guardian, now saying exactly that about electric cars. Certainly, Vaughn and others are not wrong. Big increases in EV utilization will tax our current electric supply. In his case, he’s quoting National Grid saying that EV growth in the UK could exceed the capacity of the Hinckley Point C nuclear power station by 2030. The idea that the 3.2GW plant, which is still under construction, could fall short of meeting demand that soon, is certainly a disturbing one.
When the plans for the plant were being drawn up, no one anticipated that the number of electric vehicles could possibly grow from 90,000 today, to nine million in 2030, a one-hundredfold increase. According to National Grid, these vehicles could add as much as 8 GW of additional demand, if they are not charged smartly.
What they mean by charging smartly is the idea that demand and supply can be tightly coordinated. You could get some inkling of this by imaging a conductor leading an orchestra, signaling each instrument when it’s time to come in. The art, if one were to call it that, is known as demand management. Demand management, according to EIA is, “designed to encourage consumers to modify their level and pattern of electricity usage.”
Generally, this is achieved either by technology or with pricing incentives.
The incentives are by far the simplest. Most industrial and commercial ratepayers, have sophisticated power meters that measure both consumption and demand. This allows utilities to charge more for electricity during periods of high demand. This encourages these large customers to minimizes their demand during high peak periods. They can use renewables, onsite storage, or other methods like thermal storage to shift things like their cooling loads from noontime till evening. However, demand pricing is generally not used for residential customers.