Power grid officials: Flexibility needed as more electric vehicles plug in

Off-peak, night charging would reduce strain
February 18, 2023

Recent cold spells may have prompted the regional power grid operator to ask customers to conserve energy, but officials say more electric vehicles plugged into the system will be manageable as long as operators charge during off-peak hours.

“Ideally, EVs would draw electricity from the grid during off-peak or low-price periods,” said Jeffrey Shields, manager of media relations for PJM Interconnection, the Mid-Atlantic region’s power transmission organization. “This timing helps to enhance the efficiency of the grid by reducing the difference between off-peak and peak demand levels, and enables traditional power plants to operate more steadily and efficiently. Currently, those hours typically are on nights and weekends.”

A cold snap over the Christmas holiday prompted warnings across the radio waves nearly every 15 minutes asking customers to conserve energy. The early February arctic blast elicited similar warnings.

The recent warnings come amidst Delaware’s move to adopt California’s vehicle emission standards, which would phase in new car sales of zero-emission vehicles starting in 2025. By 2035, ZEVs would be the only new cars sold at Delaware dealerships. Vehicles with internal combustion engines using gasoline or diesel would still be allowed to be sold in the used-vehicle market.

Meetings held at the end of 2022 gave an overview of the proposed regulation that Gov. John Carney has said is needed to lower emissions and provide a market for zero-emission vehicles in Delaware.

However, some participants questioned whether the regional power grid can handle more electric vehicles plugging in. Days after California adopted its regulations that Delaware is considering, Gov. Gavin Newsom asked residents to avoid charging their electric vehicles over concerns the power grid would be stressed during a heat wave.

Shields said PJM is aware of Delaware’s plan and has been working with state officials throughout the regulation process.

“PJM works with all states in our footprint to implement their policies, keep up to date on policy changes and provide independent data, analysis and expertise to help each craft policies that preserve reliability and affordability for consumers,” he said.

Electric vehicles can benefit and integrate into the electric grid, Shields said, which PJM has helped demonstrate and evaluate.

Shields said PJM continues to analyze overall electrification as part of ongoing renewable integration study work. Particularly, he said, PJM is studying sensitivities related to an uptick in electric vehicles and electricity used for heating in the future. A push for electric pumps to heat homes, instead of natural gas, oil or propane, and replacing gas stoves and ovens with electric, are separate proposals by federal energy officials.

With all that on the horizon, charging flexibility will be key to prevent stress on the power grid, Shields said.

“We see that increased electrification of vehicles leads to load profile increases for both the summer and winter peak demand periods, which can be managed if charging is flexible,” he said. “Widespread electrification that includes building heating and industrial use is likely to increase the risk profile for the winter season.”

Following meetings held in November and December, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is writing a new Division of Air Quality regulation, for approval by DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin by March. Public hearings on the new regulation have not yet been posted.


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