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Enel X Smart EV Charging Helps Battle California’s Rolling Blackouts

We frequently talk about Demand Response programs when we talk about smart-charging. We’re convinced the future of EV charging will include large-scale Demand Response programs within every utility in the US. 

However, for now, Demand Response with EV charging is still in its infancy, and outside of California, there are only a few relatively small pilot programs currently in effect. However, as is often the case, the state of California is leading the charge into Demand Response, and for good reason. Their energy grid system is often stressed, and having the ability to shift demand loads is proving to be a very valuable asset. 

Demand Response provides an opportunity for electric vehicle owners to reduce the stress on the electric grid by reducing or shifting their electricity usage during peak periods in response to time-based rates or other forms of financial incentives. However, in order for them to do so, they need to allow their utility to communicate to their charging equipment to offer a real-time response to the grid’s needs. 

The Enel JuiceBox smart EV charger is one of the few chargers available today that can participate in Demand Response programs.

For the first time in nineteen years, California is experiencing rolling blackouts with nearly a million residents affected. The exact causes are not yet clear but it appears to be a combination of factors including the extreme heatwave the state is witnessing. 

Knowing that Enel X Charging (formally eMortoWerks) is very active in demand response around the country, especially in California, we reached out to them to find out what they were doing to help the local grid operators get through this tough period. Below is a summary of what they provided us.

Demand Response in Action

In the past two weeks, the majority of all California demand response programs were called into action, including five different programs across Southern California Edison (SCE) and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). Enel X resources have been dispatched on average 20 hours across all programs so far through last Tuesday. 

The majority of that load comes from conventional demand response, but energy storage and smart EV charging contributed and are proving important for the future of energy in California.

On Friday evening, Sonoma Clean Power dispatched its GridSavvy Community—a population of over 900 electric vehicles, and scores of smart thermostats and heat pump water heaters—to coincide with the Flex Alert and the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) forecasted peak. In addition to the automated response of the smart technologies, like the JuiceBox smart charger, Sonoma Clean Power is leveraging the GridSavvy Community to help spread the word on behavioral changes—such as shifting energy use to midday—that can help relieve stress on the grid. 

Additionally, from Friday afternoon through Tuesday, the Enel X e-Mobility team has had about 20 hours of dispatch across 8 zones in California, activating JuiceNet-enabled smart home chargers without any necessary human intervention. The average dispatch event duration to JuiceNet customers was just over 3.6 hours per day, with event participation rates above 90 percent. 

In line with the continuing Flex Alert calls this week, Enel X is activating a broader share of its smart EV charging virtual-battery to voluntarily reduce strain on every corner of the California grid. Enel X’s JuicePoints customers in California are rewarded with cash for participating in these smart EV charging events. 

The Future of Vehicle Grid Integration   

As a global leader in environmental policy, California has adopted ambitious goals to transition not only to a zero-emission transportation sector but simultaneously to a 100 percent carbon-free electric grid by 2045. Electric vehicles are widely popular in the state and gaining traction fast: Sales were up 63.7 percent year over year, towards a goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025, and 5 million by 2030. Using the flexibility of electric vehicle charging could help California to meet both its transportation electrification and renewable energy goals.

SB 676, signed into law Oct. 2, 2019, by Gov. Gavin Newsom, is a key milestone in achieving this vision.  SB 676 requires the CPUC to establish strategies to maximize the use of VGI — including both managed charging and V2G — through 2030. Following the recent conclusion of the CPUC’s VGI Working Group, the agency is now turning to the question of implementing the provisions of the bill, which it is required to do by the end of the year.

In the near-term, Enel X hopes that the future of Vehicle Grid-Integration includes innovative approaches to rate design, including dynamic rates, interconnection tariffs for EVSE load management, and bidirectional EV charging, i.e., “V2G,” and integrating managed charging into wholesale markets. The CEC’s VGI Roadmap update, expected Q3 or Q4 2020, should drive new opportunities implementing managed charging.  

enel x demand response

“Until we see more top-down activities in the policy arena, we’re still taking a bottoms-up approach to implementing managed charging. For example, Enel X has been participating in CAISO day-ahead and real-time markets for years, where we’ve been managing JuiceBox charging stations and rewarding customers for making their charging flexible through our JuicePoints program,” said David Schlosberg, Vice President of Energy Market Operations. 

Enel X believes policymakers can best encourage managed charging and V2G by establishing market frameworks and sending price signals to allow for the monetization of VGI services.  

“We need to break out of the predominant mindset of the past decade that has greatly inhibited VGI deployment, namely: ‘show us the value’ first before moving to implement programs, markets, and rates that enable VGI.  We need to create the right conditions for third-party providers to bring VGI services to market, and these solutions will start to see huge uptake if they deliver tangible value to drivers and provide a compelling solution for meeting customer- and grid- needs compared to other mobility and grid balancing options,” said David Schlosberg, Vice President of Energy Market Operations. 

V1G can lay the groundwork necessary through the development of the controls and infrastructure that could facilitate a V2G future and therefore is worth investing in. As the heatwave is expected to continue throughout this week, and the heat seen in California and other parts of the country this summer is part of a broader trend, with extreme weather expected to continue increasing over the coming years, EV charging will be an even more critical grid resource in years to come.  

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