A large increase in the electric vehicle fleet will either cause problems for system operators or present a balancing opportunity, depending on whether a smart digital solution can be found to optimise charging times.
As part of a €1.5 billion three-year new business and digitalisation drive, Engie is testing one such method of encouraging customers to charge their vehicles to coincide with periods of favourable conditions for renewable supply or lower consumption.
Teaming up with Jedlix, a smart charging solution provider, Engie is offering incentives for customers to charge their vehicle at certain times in a pilot project based in Belgium. An app will inform the customer when it will be given credit for charging their vehicle based on daily forecasts of weather conditions, available renewable generation and demand collated in an asset management platform.
“Engie wants to be the leader in the carbon-free transition. To bring this ambition into reality the company offers its customers the most innovative solutions and engages into sustainable partnerships, such as with Jedlix,” says Philippe Van Troeye, CEO Engie Benelux. “With this joint project, we want to gain more insights into smart charging, and we are convinced that the findings will help us further in the road to sustainable mobility.”
The two-year project has two phases, the first restricted to Tesla owners and a second phase bringing in other brands. Jedlix is also partnering with BMW, Groupe Renault and others. The ENGIE project aims to reach at least 1,000 participants, who will be paid for each kilowatt hour they use at times indicated by the app. Customers in Belgium pay a fixed price for their electricity or a variable price that follows the market, so they cannot benefit from time-based tariffs in order to lower their bills. But in the Netherlands, for example, such a system could be used by customers to take advantage of dynamic pricing.
“With more than 10 million electric vehicles in Europe by 2025, smart charging will become the charging mode by default to reduce the total cost of ownership of the car, enhance the user experience and facilitate the insertion of electric vehicles into the grid. We are proud to partner with Engie on this exciting journey and bring together the best smart charging experience to Belgium EV drivers,” says Serge Subiron, CEO Jedlix.
With power demand in Europe set to rise to 5,000TWh/year in future there is an urgent need for demand management solutions and for customers to become more involved in energy usage decisions. Many digital pilot projects designed to allow system operators to take advantage of greater flexibility as energy becomes more democratised will demonstrate whether customer incentives are enough to change behaviour effectively or if some sort of enforced remote control will be required.
Customers may have to modify their expectations for energy access if the desired goals are to be achieved, said Stephen Woodhouse of Pöyry at a recent E.DSO event. “We can’t build the infrastructure to meet needs at current behaviour. If people wait until they get home to charge their cars they will exacerbate the evening peak,” he said.