In the realm of more-enthusiasm-but-no-more-analysis for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, Fereidoon Shioshansi at the EU Energy Policy Blog asks, “Will V2G Evolve Into A Great Electrical Sponge?” He asks the question, and it is an excellent question to ask, but he doesn’t answer it.
Instead we get a little taste of claims made by researchers based on a pilot project – “the extra costs of making an EV battery V2G compatible could be as little as $1,500 while the potential reward may be as high as $3,000 per annum through a ‘load-balancing contract’ with a grid operator” – and follow those claims with the usual rather unconstrained imagination of exciting possibilities.
Actually, Shioshansi is better than many commentators on V2G because he at least realizes that there is more than just an electrical cord necessary to connect an the electric car and the vast power grid in need of load balancing services:
Additionally, the owner must reach an agreement with the grid operator – most likely through an aggregator and/or intermediary – to provide a reasonable revenue stream for the car owner while offering tangible storage and balancing service to the grid operator. These are formidable but not insurmountable challenges.
“Not insurmountable” is technically correct, but a casual stroll through history offers some perspective. It took a literal act of Congress to get much third party access to the transmission grid (namely, the Energy Policy Act of 1992), and then it was several years before final rules governing third party access were issued by FERC. It typically takes a supportive state law or regulation for local distribution companies to become very interested in helping consumers attached distributed energy sources to the local grid, and while energy policy folks have been talking about these issues for decades most places don’t have much in the way of effective state policies supporting distributed energy resources. The physical proof-of-concept type issues are being solved, thanks in large part to the efforts of talented researchers at the University of Delaware and elsewhere, but the associated contractual/policy/institutional issues are far from being resolved.
In order to manage the safety and reliable operations of the grid, grid operators like to have some control over devices connected to the grid. V2G asks us to imagine a world in which consumers are attaching to the grid at times and points of convenience to the consumer, and then have the grid operator pay the consumer for some limited access to the battery capabilities of the electric vehicle for the uncertain amount of time the vehicle remains connected. And advocates of these ideas ask us to believe, simultaneously, that electric vehicles with V2G technology will be available in large enough numbers to make it worth the trouble of someone to overcome all of these challenges, and yet not available in large enough numbers to overwhelm the electric system’s demand for load balancing service.
I haven’t done the analysis, but I can state with fairly high confidence that the demand for load balancing service is not perfectly elastic at the $5 – $10 day rates obtained by the three test cars in the University of Delaware/PJM pilot project.
So while Shioshansi asks a great question, his conclusion is an appropriately tempered “V2G technology may prove to be a welcomed blessing.” (Emphasis added.) Hedging claims is probably wise in this space.