How an electricity savings and grid flexibility platform enables EVs

Energy efficiency and electric vehicle charging are currently key concerns for utilities. We speak to industry experts to explore how they work together.
Published: Thu 21 Jun 2018

Whether it’s this year or the next, electric vehicles will hit the market at a rapidly increasing rate as the technology becomes more viable.

As it is, the grid is not resilient enough to handle this increased pressure. The peak load will rise exponentially, and there are many unanswered questions around who holds the ultimate responsibility for the growth and infrastructure.

In conversation with Grzegorsz Nowaczewski, CEO and Co-Founder of Virtual Power Plant (VPP), we discussed some of the main issues facing electric vehicles (EVs) on the grid, as well as the potential solutions.

Nowaczewski says: “Utilities are going through a transition with many dimensions, and they need new services and new products. For instance, you can buy energy from many different brokers now. Most importantly, millions of EV cars will soon be hitting the European roads, and without real-time management of EV charging, the power grid will not be resilient.”

In a webinar, brought to you in partnership with European Utility Week, we learned more about how VPP combatted these issues by combining disruptive technology with optimised energy management and efficiency.

Combining energy efficiency and EVs

The solution for them began in building energy efficiency. Nowaczewski says: “We started to work with energy efficiency because in Poland, there was a real difficulty when handling demand response problems.”

To Nowaczewski, there were several key reasons why they focussed on a building management and demand response model before integrating EVs.

  1. Over 30% of energy consumed by modern buildings is wasted.
  2. Roughly speaking, 10% of conventional power plants operate only 1% of the time annually.
  3. Utilities and other agencies are going to invest billions for electric grid resiliency, reserve capacity, microgrids and storage. Energy efficiency for modern facilities can optimise part of investments.
  4. Every year, hundreds of thousands of EVs will hit Europe’s roads. It will be a challenge for drivers, property managers and engineers working for utilities.

He continues: “The best way to monetise the flexibility of the building is e-mobility. Nobody understands what the future for EVs in cities is. I think that we’ll charge many cars during the night, but peaks caused by charging the car during the day can kill the grid for utilities.

In his opinion, the best way to combat this is through a combination of energy efficiency, demand response and real-time management of EV charging.

In the webinar, Grzegorz Nowaczewski explained that Virtual Power Plant invested in research and development of an innovative Office Building Management System services named oBEMS.

VPP’s building energy management system

Nowaczewski believes a crucial way to balance the grid when EVs become more prominent is through more energy efficient, better managed buildings.

Part-funded by European funds, VPP invested in project oBEMS (office building energy management systems). Typically, building management systems are manually controlled by a facility manager who can activate HVAC remotely.

He says: “We designed a technology platform named Enable DSR, which consists of packages designed for different types of facilities and shifts the energy demand. We’re not losing comfort from HVAC, just optimising.”

The concept behind VPP’s building management system is the aggregation of groups of facilities into one integrated system under remote control, which is programmed to recognise if and when a facility needs to be used. Nowaczewski explains: “Algorithms managing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) have to control ventilation according to occupancy versus comfort, and factor in weather forecasts as well as prices from wholesale electricity markets.”

In this way, modern facilities are able to react to electrical grid needs and optimise energy usage according to the load of the building or the weather forecast. Aside from the savings which can be unlocked from this, automated building management systems can also facilitate the feasibility of new technologies on the grid, such as EVs.

In the webinar, Grzegorz Nowaczewsk discussed the smart charging solution by Virtual Power Plant, Driv2e.

Driv2e smart EV charging

Integrated to its Enable DSR solution is VPP’s Driv2e, a smart charging solution which feeds off energy efficient commercial buildings.

The product is still under iteration, and more innovative technologies will come into play in the future. Nowaczewski says: “The shifting of power between buildings and charging infrastructure requires reliable reconciliations, and real-time negotiation of smart contracts. One of the first objectives of driv2e is to design a smart contract architecture. Enable DSR platform is transaction oriented, this meaning blockchain ready.”

Although the full usage of this kind of solution is not entirely imminent, Nowaczewski feels it is important to prepare well in advance. He says: “We still don’t have too many EVs, but that will change in 2-3 years. There are some areas where we can gain some experience, and companies and people all around Europe can share their experience. I think that the Dutch examples of implementation and management of EVs in the grid are awesome, for example.”

There is no cure-all for the impending rise of EVs in the grid, however solutions such as this begin to utilise what we already have and understand into what will soon become commonplace. Nowaczewski says: “I think that there is no one solution for such a complex issue as the management of EVs in the electrical grid. We have no historical data - we have to learn more, and fast.”

Register for European Utility Week

For more key insights into the EV market and more, join us at European Utility Week on the 6-8th of November in Austria, where there will be a dedicated programme to the evolving emobility space. Find out more and register your place here.