Sean K. Sullivan, Smart Grids Program Director, AVANGRID
Electric vehicles (EV)are not a technology of the future: They are here now, and their popularity will increase for the foreseeable future. More EVs are necessary if we are going to meet our ambitious carbon-reduction goals. Like many other states, New York has aggressive EV adoption targets—aiming for 850,000 on the road by 2025 and 2 million by 2030. The federal government is following suit, with the Biden Administration creating an executive order that set a national goal of 50 percent of new car sales to be EVsby 2030.
This exciting and rapid expansion of EVs can present a challenge for the electric utility. Significant growth in EV charging will lead to increased electrical load and, potentially, costly peak demand in the evening hours if EV charging is not carefully coordinated and managed. Electricity produced for peak demand is typically more expensive and is often generated by burning fossil fuels, depending on the wholesale market generation mix. As utilities in the U.S. prepare to handle the increased peak load due to EV adoption, the market in New York presented an exciting opportunity for AVANGRID’s operating company, New York State Electric &Gas (NYSEG), to pilot an innovative solution.
Before the pilot, existing customer behavior meant that residents were inclined to charge their EVs during existing peak times, often plugging in when they returned home from work or school. Time of Use (TOU) rates are the existing default solution for most New York utilities to manage this late afternoon/early evening peak. However, as EV demand increases, using a TOU rate would simply shift that increased charging to the program-specific off-peak time when most owners would start to charge their vehicles, unintentionally creating a new peak as a result of increased demand.
"Participation in innovative programs like OptimizEV will enable New York to meet its ambitious climate targets and help shape our clean energy future"
AVANGRID’s Smart Grids Innovation and Planning team began considering ways to mitigate the occurrence of creating this potential new EV peak. They formed a project team with Cornell University, Kitu Systems, Ta item Engineering and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to design a pilot and test a hypothesis: “If offered an incentive, a customer will allow the Electric Utility to manage the charging of their EV.”The OptimizEV Pilot Project was born from this hypothesis. The success of the project hinged on the reality that the automobile has long been a symbol of personal freedom, and having a vehicle charged and ready to drive is critical to that freedom.
The OptimizEV pilot aimed to assess incentives to encourage load-shifting of the residential EV charging and explore customer expectations for participating in a utility-directed EV load-shifting program. Essentially, the pilot sought to ensure that EVs are charged within the timeframes specified by the residential EV owners. The flexibility of allowing AVANGRID to coordinate charging is incentivized by discounts on their electricity delivery cost, which is based on the length of time their cars are charging. The discounts are reflected on their monthly bills. Participants can choose to skip coordinated charging if they wish, allowing the ability to charge immediately when needed and opting out of savings for the charge session. During the pilot, OptimizEV participants managed their charging schedule with a smartphone or computer, selecting their desired level of charge and departure time. Participants received a free Level 2 charger with installation at their homes as an added incentive to participate in the pilot.
Cornell researchers designed the scheduling and charging control algorithm, and Kitu provided the EV supply equipment and a dedicated version of its Convoy™ EV charge management platform. The pilot location was in the Ithaca area of New York—a NYSEG Energy Smart Community in Tompkins County, due to the high saturation of local EV owners, energy progressive stakeholders and the existing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) footprint.
The orange curve in Figure 1 represents the baseline electricity demand without EV charging over one day, and the green curves represent new electricity load due to EV adoption and subsequent at-home charging. The graph on the left shows uncoordinated EV charging in green, resulting in a peak demand that is much higher than the usual baseline evening demand. OptimizEV coordinates EV charging as shown in the graph on the right, which fills in the valley of the overnight baseline load.
OptimizEV was demonstrated with 35 residential customers, 100 percent of whom stated that OptimizEV met their needs, and 91 percent saying they would maintain participation if the program continued. OptimizEV began in September 2019 and concluded in May 2021, comprising a baseline period followed by 15 months of full program operation. Over the duration of full program operation, customers allowed utility control of their Level 2 electric vehicle charger for an average of 9.8 hours, earning discounts that appeared on their utility bills. The optimized charging of all-battery electric vehicles (BEVs) resulted in an average 18 percent peak reduction, and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) saw an average 37 percent peak reduction. OptimizEV managed 4,435 charging sessions; 64 percent were optimized, meaning customers trusted and valued the OptimizEV program to allow utility control of their EV charging. Combined with 91 percent of customers in support of continuation of the program, it is clear OptimizEV identified and capitalized on a market need in residential EV charging and demonstrated that, if offered an incentive, a customer will allow the electric utility to manage the charging of their EV.
Lessons learned from the OptimizEV pilot informed the design of EV charging programs across New York and beyond, including the Mass Market Managed Charging Program recently proposed by NYSEG and RG&E. The proposed program is a comprehensive managed charging program for residential EV owners/operators and incorporates both passive and active features designed to encourage and optimize off-peak charging of lightduty EVs. The proposal is voluntary for participants and provides incentives that scale in relation to participation, as users choose to optin to features that require increasing levels of participant commitment. Proposal participation levels vary from basic to advanced and allow participants to commit to managed charging activities at their comfort level.
Participation in innovative programs like this will enable New York to meet its ambitious climate targets and help shape our clean energy future.