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German power provider to use electric cars to stabilise the grid

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Renewables International

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German green power provider Lichtblick has announced plans to incentivize the charging of electric vehicles at times of low power demand. In doing so, the firm also explains why this is not already happening.

The idea is pretty straightforward: store power in batteries at night, when wind power production can be fairly high but demand is always at its lowest. Otherwise, people will come home from work and a plug in their cars around 6 or 7 PM, when power demand peaks. If that happens, electric mobility will destabilize the grid.

Simple time-of-day rates would solve the problem, but German utilities don’t always offer them. And there is no requirement for owners of electric vehicles to have them (there probably should be).

Now, Lichtblick aims to avail itself of an option in Section 14 a of the German Energy Management Act, which specifies that electric vehicles, heat pumps, and overnight electric heating systems can all function as “controllable consumption equipment.” In that case, the grid fee is reduced.

The power provider estimates that a household’s power rate could be 30 percent lower in such cases, and the cost of charging electric vehicle could drop by “up to 200 euros annually.” According to the press release (in German), the project is currently being rolled out with “a number of test customers,” who will be able to charge their cars at lower rates between 9 PM and 6 PM.

The business model is, however, still a blunt instrument; it does not truly reflect whether excess power is available or not. If the wind is not blowing at night, you still get the incentive, and if a record level of solar power is generated around noon time on a weekend (when demand is low), you have no incentive to charge. Germany still cannot get its head around truly flexible time-of-day rates. The mere mention of retail smart metering draws protest about data privacy.

If the option exists in the law, why hasn’t anyone done this before? The answer is perhaps the most interesting part of the story. Lichtblick says the law does not specify rules for such agreements between power providers and grid operators.

In practice, an energy provider like Lichtblick would have to negotiate complex agreements with each of the almost 900 distribution grid operators in the country towards offering inexpensive electricity for electric cars at private charging stations,” the press release explains, adding that “the tremendous amount of work involved would outweigh the cost savings.”

Germany is now considering upfront purchase price bonuses for electric vehicles, a policy that is pursued in numerous other countries as well, but the German public and numerous German experts remain critical of the policy, pointing out that only the rich would benefit from the bonus as long as electric cars cost twice as much as the new vehicles most people can afford. Furthermore, electric cars are still cars; true progress will come from walkable cities with excellent bike paths.

Source: Renewables International. Reproduced with permission.  

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  • Alastair Leith

    “Furthermore, electric cars are still cars; true progress will come from walkable cities with excellent bike paths.”. Nice. As a carless bike and PT commuter I think Australian cities are a long way off bicycle nirvana but even if we made it, people will still pay a premium for the privilege of car transport, we need to clean it up ASAP.

    • Cooma Doug

      Cars will be the poles and wires to the residence. Why would you be hard wired to the grid if your car brings energy in and out in synergy with the home energy system?

      • Alastair Leith

        why would you drain your car battery overnight staying up with a Game of Thrones or Warcraft marathon (i’. not a gamer or GOT fan BTW but many are ) when you need to drive to the other side of town the next morning? I think EVs as the grid killer is overstating it. Coal generation corporations are actually hoping on EVs to buy them another few years 😉

        • Cooma Doug

          The home energy will rarely need the car battery. If it does it will put a harmless dint in the battery charge.
          The car will be the poles and wires. The car will make high density living solar powered.

          Most sets of units nowdays in Australia have two cars per unit. But what makes it great is the car computers communicate in the complex and reference each others energy and travel profile. If your cars are out of town it matters not as your unit will use the energy from other cars on the site.

          • Alastair Leith

            how do you get to work on a >10km commute by EV (most car commuters live in outer suburbs where PT is poor and time-consuming to use long distances) when you have drained the battery at home.

            i take your point about wee hours charging (12am – 6am) but I thought you said the EV was going to be the poles and wires and yet it’s relying on the poles and wires to time shift load and recharge at home in this scenario.

            would 6 hours be long enough to fully charge an EV? will it be at home when the mid-peak is pouring out of your PV array?

            You are assuming that the utilities will be sympathetic to your needs with cheap night tariffs. I hope we get this kind of grid reform, then all of us can form a community run and owned energy bank and piss off the Fossil Fuel big three who tried to kill the RET.

          • Cooma Doug

            Car will charge in 30 minutes. Car will supply the home for 5 days if required. The home will have battery system as well. The car will be more significant in high density unit complex with limited solar roof space. Each init in such places now have 2 cars. There will be a symergy of energy management between them. The cars will be bringing energy into the complex.

        • Cooma Doug

          The cars are not going to be grid killers. They are going to be the grid to residential areas.

        • trackdaze

          The car will have reserve storage on returning home. It could be used to power the home and reduce the peak load on the grid and then recharged overnight or wait until its parked at work,shop or home recharging.

        • Miles Harding

          This may not be as silly as it sounds. I observe that the EV is trending towards 60kWh of battery, in which case, typical daily use will see the battery expire from ageing issues long before it does from cycling. My guess is that there may be up to 20kWh per day available without compromising the life of an EV battery.

  • Miles Harding

    With the advent of battery storage, would it not make sense to run the entire household, office or factory from off-peak energy, charging when it is available?

    Some form of legislation around requiring 2 days of storage and spot pricing to consumers would make an enormous difference to the viability of the high renwable grid and also has the effect of focussing minds on efficiency to avoid the cost of batteries needed to support inefficient use.

    The german critics are missing the point of electric vehicles.
    If those that can afford them don’t buy them, there won’t be any possibility of them becoming more affordable. EV costs are front-loaded, so the entire cost of ownership must be considered, not just the sale price.
    Their premium price is transitory, they will get cheaper (by less because of the big battery trend) and petroleum fuels will become more expensive and/or difficult to obtain**.

    ** Try to get a timetable for depletion!
    Places like the USA it is relatively straightforward (and very different to the official statements), but the middle east (and Russians?) conceal and cook the books to such an extent that anything they say is unreliable.

    As a consumer nation, we should be prepared for the pertroleum story to change for the worse at any time, except that we’re not. Still highly car dependent with an effectively zero EV fleet. Australia will get caught asleep.