Although electric vehicles (EVs) are proliferating globally, power sector measures that can optimally enable smart charging are not yet fully present in emerging markets and developing economies, states the International Energy Agency (IEA).
This is according to the IEA’s Facilitating Decarbonisation in Emerging Economies Through Smart Charging report, which looks at how decarbonisation can be facilitated through smart charging.
According to the report, although there are several requirements for smart charging to take place, the power sector has a unique role that can’t be overlooked, namely in establishing the foundations of how EVs can be used as a resource.
The potential of smart charging on the power system lies largely in its potency as a flexible asset, states the report, enabling widespread renewable penetration and consumption management.
According to the report, while most of the uptake of EVs is found in the US, Europe and China, EVs are also starting to penetrate markets in emerging economies.
Electric two- and three-wheelers are more common in Asia, with sales of electric three-wheelers constituting 46% of total three-wheeler sales in the fiscal year of 2022. Meanwhile, electric buses are gaining ground in Latin America, where most have reached cost parity with diesel buses.
These trends are likely to continue as these economies set more adoption targets for the end of the decade.
However, to accommodate the increasing uptake, the necessary charging infrastructure will be needed to coordinate the increasing electric load coming onto the grid.
While the energy required by EVs is low compared with typical daily electricity consumption, the IEA states how ensuring enough grid capacity will be the more important parameter given the high-power requirements that the charging process can take.
Charging of two- and three-wheelers may not lead to significant increases in peak load until a high level of penetration, whereas charging of buses will raise peak load and often require dedicated transformers.
The role of smart charging
This, states the IEA, is where smart charging needs to be more widely adopted, as it provides an avenue of integrating the EV into the power system where the charging process can be adjusted to be in line with power system objectives.
Said objectives could be voltage regulation and reduction of local peak in the distribution grid, or frequency regulation and energy arbitrage in the bulk energy system.
Smart charging of EV fleets can provide a good source of power system flexibility, increasing the uptake of renewables while maintaining power system stability.
However, for smart charging to be coordinated optimally and support the system, it needs to be able to adjust in response to system signals.
States the report: “The faster the EVs can react, the more services it can provide. Such high levels of coordination can happen only through digitalisation.
“With the help of telecommunications and connectivity, smart charging service providers can exist to help serve as intermediaries to balance the needs of the EV users, charge point operators and power systems.”
Power system measures missing
According to the report, the main signals which can serve as rewards or sources of value for EV users and smart charging service providers are:
• Differentiated tariffs: Tariffs which vary rates based on time of day to incentivise the behaviour of EV users about when to charge their cars
• Procurement of local flexibility: Distribution grid operators enter into contracts with aggregators or charging service providers to manipulate the charging process to achieve local needs.
• Wholesale energy market access: Whereby vehicles can participate in changing the supply-demand curve to lower peak generation and increase renewables consumption.
• Ancillary services market access: Allowing aggregated EVs to respond to system services such as frequency response.
In advanced economies such as California, South Korea, the Netherlands and the UK, each of these power system measures is widespread or in progress, with the exception of procurement of local flexibility in South Korea.
However, for the studied emerging economies, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Maharashtra, Morocco, South Africa, Tamil Nadu, Thailand, Tunisia, Uttar Pradesh and Vietnam, the opposite is true.
Differentiated tariffs were found to be the most common measure, although not absent in Colombia and Morocco.
The only other measure found was that of ancillary services in South Africa and in progress in Chile.
According to the IEA’s findings, depending on the degree of EV integration desired by the economy in question, different technological and regulatory frameworks will need to be deployed for the sector to facilitate a fair and efficient smart charging process.
Specifically, they state, the following recommendations are made to establish a smart charging ecosystem:
- Establish a framework for demand response in the power system, which could be implicit via tariff variation or explicit through direct bidding of demand in wholesale and balancing markets.
- Ensure standardisation and interoperability; said standards could be set by tying them to charging infrastructure incentives, as a de facto standard based on public tenders, or legislated directly as a regulation
- Establish minimum requirements for smart communication and control, thereby ensure future EV uptake will instill the ability to participate in smart charging
- Ensure matching with clean electricity, whereby signals to charge could come either from the electricity market through wholesale prices, or from end-consumer electricity prices that reflect the best time to consume clean electricity
- Reform the role of distribution operators from passive owners and providers of network capacity into active managers of an interconnected system that can help activate EVs’ full potential