Electric Vehicle Chargers and Grid Stability: A Future Power System - Samir Alilat & Hamzah Ahmed

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Roundtable discussion hosted by Hamzah Ahmed, Senior Power System Engineer, Energy System Catapult and Samir Alilat from partners Kelvatek

The increased requirements for Low Carbon Technology (LCT) pose a range of  technical problems and opportunities for Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) today, as well as in the future. Along with key industry stakeholders, Energy Systems Catapult and Kelvatek held a roundtable to proactively aim to identify key blockers to wider adoption of LCTs, and more specifically, Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers, under the topic:

What risks and opportunities could the mass adoption of Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) chargers present to the Grid at both a Local and Transmission level?

The roundtable furthered discussions from a discovery project delivered with Kelvatek, and other projects exploring these areas such as Project REV (Resilient Electric Vehicle).

Attendees included:

  • National Grid ESO (NGESO) – The GB Transmission System Operator
  • National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) – Owner of Electricity Transmission assets in England and Wales
  • Sygensys
  • SP Energy Networks (SPEN)
  • National Grid Electricity Distribution (NGED, formerly WPD)

Growing Demands on the Grid

At present there are approximately 40,000 Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) in the UK, a number expected to rise to between 8-12 million BEVs by 2030, with NGESO estimating this number to increase to 37.4 Million BEVs by 2050. With this increase in energy demand and requirements of the network, there are various unknowns and potential opportunities to be explored.

Potential risk factors ranging from housing diversity, system operation (managing the electricity power system in a safe and efficient manner), and government policy will all affect how the future grid handles the increased capacity as well as the potential for sudden demand increases during different times of the day.

Newer builds will be easier to retrofit with technology that will aid in system operation and help to ensure security of supply for the consumer. However, less than 10% of housing in the UK has been built after the year 2000, with higher rated domestic supply fuses which limit the amount of current that can go into a property. Older properties normally have more limited fuse capabilities and these will need to be upgraded by the DNO. Lack of notification to the DNOs when moving house causes additional problems, especially on the older networks because the DNO can’t detect the clustering of LCT.

System stability and frequency issues, like sudden excursions outside the operational parameters (i.e. within ±0.5Hz from 50Hz), and fault ride through, are all issues that can present a problem, but technology innovation and smart solutions can be put in place before EVs become more widespread.

The team identified four areas where further innovation and collaboration could empower the future grid.

EV & Grid Stability – Priority Areas

  1. Grid Visibility – Creating greater visibility of events and customer behaviour across the network.
  2. Funding, Incentives, Regulation & Standards – Knowing where and when to invest, within a clear but comprehensive regulatory framework. Increasing levels of new technology will be deployed at lower voltages levels of the grid, exploring how these can affect these frameworks is essential.
  3. Flexibility, Transitory Events & V2G – Systems flexibility to defer system reinforcement, potential for incentivised movement of BEV’s for one off events and to opt into flexible V2G services.
  4. ESO DNO Communication & Coordination – Bridging the communication gap between the ESO and DSO and DNO networks. Create a system that’s going to be secure, low carbon and affordable.

Samir Alilat, Head of Innovation & Business Development at Kelvatek said: “As more electric vehicles come online, there is essential work to be done to prepare the UK’s grid for the increased requirements of low carbon technology.

“In bringing together Distribution Network Operators, the National Grid and other core stakeholders working on these issues, the roundtable provided a fantastic forum for generating cross-sector recommendations to manage the potential network risks associated with the growth in EVs.

“Moving ahead, Kelvatek will look to build on these recommendations, working in partnership across the sector to deliver innovative technologies which build the resilience and flexibility of the UK’s grid in support of our net zero ambitions.”

If you’re interested in joining these discussions, or potentially collaborating in future projects, please email Samir: s.alilat@kelvatek.com

Summary of Potential Risks

  • Housing Diversity – Only 9% of housing in the UK is post 2000 with higher rated domestic breaker ratings. Around a quarter of all homes are terraced in the UK meaning lack of potential off-street parking locations. Retrofitting older houses with 7kW chargers and heat pumps will require at a very minimum, supply fuse upgrades from the DNO as well as potential wiring upgrades. Newer builds should be easier to retrofit. 40% of all motor vehicles in the UK do not have off street parking.
  • Consumer Notification – People have a duty to notify the host DNO, but the lack of notification causes a problem especially on the older networks because the DNO can’t detect the clustering of LCT.
  • System Operation – System stability, frequency issues, frequency excursion, fault ride through issues can all present themselves as has been identified by Sygensys in their Project REV report. These issues all need technological and smart solutions in place before EVs become more widespread.
  • Government Policy – Could trigger a large wave of increased connections depending on subsidies or further policy changes i.e. ICE ban. Defining time of use tariffs and off-peak as the same time in the day e.g. 1am to 5am may result in peak demands shifting from traditional times to early hours essentially moving the problem, not solving it.
  • Capacity – Do the DNOs have the capacity to host that capacity, at the low voltage LV level? All DNOs have submitted plans to reinforce the network as part of the regulatory period RIIO ED2.
  • Thermal Constraints – Both at the transmission and distribution level.
  • Cold Start – After a power outage, an increased need in sudden EV charging from consumers could cause an unmanageable loss of diversity, particularly at the LV level.
  • Smart vs Dumb Chargers – ‘dumb’ chargers that exist in the current generation of EV chargers could cause an issue if adoption is more widespread. Smart chargers could assist network operators manage a constraint network and are a lot more predictable. The network infrastructure needs to stay one step ahead. However smart chagrin may present its own risks in the form of cyber security threats, maloperation risks and if large numbers of BEVs are used for System Operation tasks, the System Operator may not be able to view how much of that service is available resulting in them over-procuring competing services, leading to inefficient system operation.
  • One-off Risks – Transitory constraints and peak events will no longer be predictable like the current demand curves that exist on the system today. Increases in wind, solar and battery installations will mean forecasting demands alongside potential faults on the system could result in large constraints on the network where there are concentrated EV demands.
  • Looped Services – New builds cannot be looped. Stopped looping services in the 90s. Early 2020 all new builds and all service alterations are three phase supplies. Already a policy decision that every consumer can have a 12 kilowatt heat pump and a 7.4 kilowatt charger.Identifying existing looped services in housing is a significant task and will require significant civil engineering works to access the cables. Properties with looped connections would not be allowed to have BEV chargers and Air Source Heat Pumps due to the limiting nature of looped services.

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Acronym / Term Explanation
BEV Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) is a type of electric vehicle that is solely powered by one or more electric motors using energy stored in rechargeable batteries. BEVs do not have an internal combustion engine and produce zero tailpipe emissions.
Distribution System The distribution system is the lower-voltage network that delivers electricity from the transmission system to end consumers, including residential, commercial, and industrial users. It operates at lower voltages (typically 400 V to 132 kV) and involves the distribution of electricity within localised areas.
DNO Distribution Network Operator (DNO) is a company responsible for operating, maintaining, and developing the distribution network within a specific geographic area. DNOs manage the local distribution networks, connect customers to the grid, and ensure the reliable delivery of electricity to end consumers.
DSO Distribution System Operator (DSO) is an entity responsible for operating, controlling, and optimising the distribution system. DSOs manage the flow of electricity at the distribution level, monitor and maintain network reliability, connect distributed energy resources (DERs) such as rooftop solar panels or electric vehicle chargers, and facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources and other decentralised technologies into the distribution grid.
ESC Energy Systems Catapult is an independent, not-for-profit centre of excellence for energy system innovation and decarbonization. Its aim is to accelerate the transformation of the UK’s energy system and support the transition to a low-carbon future.
ESO Electricity System Operator (ESO) or sometimes referred to as Transmission System Operators (TSO) are responsible for the safe, efficient and secure operation of the transmission system, normally encompassing voltage levels above 132kV. They are required to ensure constant supply of electricity by balancing supply and demand in real time, manage faults and comply with supply and quality standards to maintain quality of power.
Fault Ride Through Fault Ride Through: Fault Ride Through (FRT) refers to the capability of an electrical device or system, such as a wind turbine or an electric vehicle, to remain connected to the power grid and continue operating during a fault or disturbance event. It indicates the ability to ride through temporary voltage dips or interruptions caused by faults without disconnecting from the grid.
Housing Diversity Housing diversity refers to the variety of housing types, designs, and sizes within a particular area or community. In the context of power systems and EVs, housing diversity can impact the distribution network’s load profile and the demand for EV charging infrastructure.
LCT Low-Carbon Technologies (LCT) refer to technologies and solutions that have a lower environmental impact compared to traditional energy sources. This can include renewable energy sources like solar power, wind power, and hydropower, as well as energy storage, energy efficiency measures, and other clean technologies.
NGED National Grid Electricity Distribution (NGED) is a company that owns and operates the electricity distribution networks in England and Wales. It is responsible for distributing electricity to homes, businesses, and other consumers at the distribution level. Formerly known as Western Power Distribution (WPD).
NGESO National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) is responsible for the overall operation of the electricity transmission system in Great Britain. It ensures the reliable and secure supply of electricity by balancing supply and demand in real-time, managing network constraints, and maintaining system stability.
NGET National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) owns and operates the high-voltage electricity transmission network in England and Wales. It is responsible for transmitting electricity from power stations to major substations, which then distribute the electricity to distribution networks and large consumers.
SPEN SP Energy Networks (SPEN) owns and operates the electricity distribution networks in central and southern Scotland, as well as parts of North Wales and Merseyside. It is responsible for delivering electricity to homes, businesses, and other consumers at the distribution level.
System Operation System operation refers to the coordination and control of the electricity system, ensuring the reliable and secure supply of electricity. It involves activities such as load balancing, managing network constraints, maintaining voltage and frequency stability, and responding to changes in supply and demand in real-time.
System Stability System stability refers to the ability of an electrical power system to maintain a balanced and secure state.
Transmission System The transmission system refers to the high-voltage electricity network that transports bulk electricity over long distances from power generation sources (such as power plants or renewable energy installations) to major substations. It operates at higher voltages (usually in the range of 132 kV to 400 kV) to minimise energy losses during transmission.

About Kelvatek (UK Division of the Camlin Group)

At Camlin, our goal is to optimise the critical infrastructures that people, cities and communities around the world depend on, all day and every day. As these networks get bigger and more complex they’re becoming exponentially harder to manage. Kelvatek is the UK division of the Camlin Group, working to make the world’s energy infrastructure run more efficiently, ultimately helping customers keep the lights on. Our smart solutions for electricity network faults and load management, monitoring and asset management enables electricity networks to run more smoothly, safely and sustainably.

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