Two Stories Show How We Can Continue Progress On Grid Stability

The future of the power grid is a topic we’ve covered numerous times at CleanTechnica. While it’s an important topic, it’s definitely not the “Checkmate, libs!” talking point the anti-EV FUDsters think it is. But, just because the problem can be solved doesn’t mean there isn’t some work involved in keeping it going and growing just like we have for over a century. Two news stories that came across the desk here show us that companies and non-profit groups are actively working on solutions.

Leap Joins Partnership to Accelerate the Energy Transition

Leap, a platform for energy market access and services, has revealed its participation in the Virtual Power Plant Partnership (VP3). Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) established the VP3 initiative in 2023 to promote virtual power plant (VPP) solutions that support the transition to a decarbonized electricity sector. Leap has partnered with other top energy technology firms such as Google Nest and Sunrun to collaborate closely on VP3 projects that foster the development of virtual power plants. This association furthers Leap’s commitment to providing sustainable energy solutions while also emphasizing the significance of cutting-edge technological advancements in clean energy.

“We’re seeing a massive adoption of smart energy technologies in homes and businesses, and with that comes an unprecedented opportunity to scale up virtual power plant solutions,” shared Andrew Hoffman, Leap’s Chief Development Officer. “Leap is excited to join the Virtual Power Plant Partnership to help unlock the full potential of DER aggregation to balance the grid, lower carbon emissions and create real financial value for participants.”

Virtual power plants operate as a network of distributed energy resources (DERs) integrated into the grid from numerous households and buildings, offering versatile support to electricity grids. VPP solutions play a vital role in boosting the grid’s reliability while lowering its carbon footprint, enabling the integration of more green energy sources.

Through its platform, Leap pools battery storage systems, EV chargers, and smart building systems, among other DER technologies, to provide VPPs across a range of energy markets in the United States. Currently, Leap is authorized to serve over 65,000 meters and a total load of 660 MW. In its Virtual Power Plant market report, Wood Mackenzie recognized Leap as the leading VPP market interface in terms of aggregations.

The practically demonstrated performance of VPPs in fortifying grid resilience during the historic California heat wave in September 2020 exemplified Leap’s proficiency in mobilizing over 24,000 unique energy devices to strengthen the strained electric grid, thereby generating over $1 million in revenue for its affiliated technology partners. By working with the VP3 partnership, Leap’s team of energy market experts will assist in reshaping the market for VPPs by spearheading policy development, undertaking research on VPP-associated benefits, and implementing practical recommendations and roadmaps for the industry. Through this collaboration, Leap seeks to drive industry-wide awareness of VPPs and effect a smooth transition to a greener and more resilient grid system.

Researchers Advocate For EV Efficiency To Lower Grid Impacts

Just because a vehicle is an EV doesn’t mean it’s the best EV it can be, especially in terms of environmental impact. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit research organization, released a report earlier this month explaining how increased efficiency can greatly reduce the strain on the grid, giving operators more time to implement cleaner power and leaving room for other energy needs.

With the expected increase in global vehicle numbers to 300 million by 2050, electrifying nearly all of them can have a major effect on the grid. They explain that at today’s average EV efficiency of 3.4 miles per kilowatt-hour, this would imply an additional 1.2 million gigawatt-hours of electricity consumption each year — equivalent to 113 million households’ electricity needs — and is consistent with other studies showing considerable increases in electricity usage from near-full EVs for light-duty vehicles. However, if the highest present level of efficiency was achieved at 4.2 mi/kWh, then complete electrification would amount to 970,000 gigawatt-hours instead — enough to power 21 million US homes today. The improved efficiency would thus lead to significantly lower energy consumption and could result in considerable cost savings on electricity bills across the nation.

The ACEEE report also shows that EVs can vary drastically in efficiency. While some models achieve greater than average efficiency, some achieve much lower efficiency, using double the energy of more efficient models. So, if the EV industry gravitates toward less efficient models, the challenge of powering them will be a lot greater. But, encouraging the market to embrace efficiency more can lighten the future burden.

The report gets into ways this can happen, both physically and in terms of government policy.

For the vehicle designs themselves, there are three main things at play. Vehicle weights, when greater (especially with larger battery packs) lead to less efficiency. Vehicle shape can drastically affect efficiency due to aerodynamic drag. Finally, the efficiency of drivetrains is another important factor.

The report argues that regulators must therefore focus on efficiency to ensure further emissions cuts, cost savings for drivers, and a more responsible deployment of mineral resources in EV batteries. The EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Emission standards for light-duty vehicles historically served as leverage for improving the efficiency of gasoline-powered vehicles, but today, EVs are deemed as having zero CO2 emissions under those same standards and hence do not receive any encouraging reward for their efficiency. Therefore, efforts should be taken to amend these standards to incentivize increased usage of cleaner, better performing EVs and not just zero emissions from the vehicle itself.

Putting These Stories Together

If I could tell readers one thing they should take away from these stories, I’d say it’s that EVs are a big part of the story of the future of the grid, so we must manage them right.

On the upside, they can be part of stabilizing and strengthening the grid, especially with not only V2G technology, but all of the other V2X variants. EVs don’t necessarily have to be controlled by the grid to contribute to the problem. People will naturally try to rely on an EV battery to reduce peak energy usage (and the peak rates that come with that) even if they aren’t giving the power company the proverbial keys.

On the downside, EV design can either make the problem better or make the problem much worse. It’s important that we take efficiency into account and don’t just let automakers get a pass just because it’s an EV.

Featured image provided by Leap.


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