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US utilities turning to managed EV charging programmes

According to a new study published by market intelligence company Northeast Group, US utilities are increasingly seeing electric vehicles ( EVs) as a crucial building block of their distributed energy resource (DER) plans, helping to smooth the demand for electricity while reducing consumer costs.

As such, utilities are increasing their ‘controlled fee’ system offerings to help move EV power demand to off-peak hours at a lower cost.

More than one-third of the US ‘s largest 100 utilities now offer managed EV charging programs to EV owners.
Only 18 of the 100 largest US utilities offered EV tariffs in the mid-2010s but managed charging had yet to take off.
To date, 21 of the top 100 utilities offer EV tariffs while 14 utilities offer actively managed EV charging, such as direct charge control via the EV charger, automotive telematics, or both.

The majority of utilities providing regulated charging services are the country’s biggest utilities — such as California’s PG&E and SCE and Duke Power Carolinas — reaching a wide swath of US EV owners.

Ben Gardner, president of Northeast Group, said: “Utilities have long offered EV customers time-of-use rates, but the recent shift to ‘active managed charging’ has really opened the door to using EVs for demand response and subsequently as distributed energy resources.

“Utilities can now monitor the charging of a customer’s EV directly at a time when costs and demand are lowest, thereby saving customers money while smoothing load curves.”

Although consumer participation remains small in the schemes, EV owners can save 37 per cent more by engaging in controlled EV charging or Time-of-Use initiative.

The Northeast Group advises utilities, regulators and car firms and suppliers of charging equipment to work together to increase the value of EVs as DERs.

One main factor to improve participation rates may be making the norm ‘opt-out’ for utility customers rather than ‘opt-in.’

Several utilities have already begun research to support such regulated charging systems through collaborations with automakers such as BMW, Toyota, Honda and Nissan, charger manufacturers such as ChargePoint, Clipper Creek and Greenlots (Shell), and grid suppliers such as Itron and Siemens.

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