The UK’s recent fuel predicament led to a 1,500% spike in Google searches for electric vehicles (EVs) in September. So, it’s unsurprising to hear that after the gas crisis many people are now considering how to best reduce their transportation fuel bills, future proof their homes to replace their old gas or oil boilers and protect themselves from rising fossil energy tariffs this winter – whilst taking advantage of renewables when available.
We’re all aware that significant changes must be made if we are to successfully navigate the fast-evolving future ahead of us. Climate change has been apparent for several years, and whilst we’ve witnessed many pledges of change from world leaders, real action that takes us a significant step closer to a net zero lifestyle has yet to be made.
On the current trajectory extreme weather events will continue to uproot lives, destroy the planet, and disrupt supply chains as well as become more impactful on large network infrastructures. Demand for vital resources will only continue to soar, so alternative sources must be prioritised if we’re to achieve the targets set out by the UK government.
To mitigate against future energy crises this means transforming grids – at both national and local levels – to make them more flexible and resilient to extreme weather conditions and energy supply and demand imbalances, whilst minimising reliance on fossil energy imports across our society. Tech advancements will play a key role in creating a more efficient and cost-effective domestic energy landscape in all regions of the world. Efforts which reverse the architecture of the traditional power system to allow for further integration and interaction with consumers, more flexibility, and greater storage integration will ultimately pave the way for a decentralised energy economy.
Establishing a sustainable solution
Decentralising the grid is a big change, but the UK has built an impressive national energy infrastructure that’s among world leading infrastructures on the international energy stage. The precedent is set and with the right investment and government incentives the UK will remain a world leader when it comes to energy – this time with a new decentralised grid architecture that benefits from the integration of all renewable energy sources.
With significant improvements in battery storage, for the first time distributed renewables have become a sustainable option given the significant fossil energy cost increase observed through the past months. The concept of selling energy back to the grid is nothing new, but new generation bidirectional power electronics has recently made it possible to send energy from your electric vehicle (EV) to the grid (V2G) and use your EV to power your home (V2H) at a price point which is meaningful to end-users and the communities around them. With most people in the UK only using 5-10kwh per day and EVs now offering between 50kwh-100kwh battery capacity, there is a surplus of renewable energy at our fingertips. By capturing and then storing solar photovoltaic (PV) energy in EVs when the sun is shining during the day, prosumers – individuals who are both a owners of EVs and renewable producers, in this case PV energy – can sell their surplus back to the grid during times of peak demand (in the afternoon and early evening) when the grid lacks electricity and prices are high. They can then re-charge their EVs in the middle of the night when grid prices are a fraction of the peak prices.
Breaking down the numbers
This is particularly interesting as PV energy has, through this crisis, become the most competitive electricity option – currently around 5p/kwh over 20 years when the sun is shining, compared to the electricity retail price which is expected to jump soon to around 28p/kwh. A typical house in the UK, which has both gas heating and one EV, would expect to consume 15,500kwh of electricity per year. If prosumers were equipped with a 3kw PV installation they could typically produce 3,000kwh per year – from this roughly 50% would be self-consumed without any smart charging and 70% if the car charging is smartly managed. This would represent limited yearly gains of £345 or £483 on electricity costs respectively, whilst V2H would enable up to 100% self-consumptions, with an average yearly gain of £690 (whilst maximising the usage of local renewables).
When taking into account EV charging costs versus average diesel pump prices, the overall PV and V2H combination offers a £2,605 gain on the average yearly consumer energy bill for home and transportation. Whilst there are set up costs required for this infrastructure as well as for the EV acquisition, new technologies are being introduced to significantly reduce installation of EV charging, PV and standalone storage – offering better integrated and easier to use solutions to prosumers, that provide monetary returns within five to seven years. These solutions furthermore turn all of us into friendly citizens to the grid, supporting it with flexibility during congested periods.
Ultimately, V2G could save the UK up to 60 tonnes of CO2/year for every EV. That’s a significant step forward in the net zero journey, which puts the power with the prosumer who can take advantage of when the sun is shining.
Whilst we’re yet to see the full benefits of this technology, the potential is clear. With V2H technology prosumers can charge their cars at night, use their EVs to power their homes, and store energy during grid emergency peak conditions. With V2H capabilities prosumers can also capture excess renewable energy and sell their surplus to the grid when the energy system is overloaded, as well as crowd-source missing renewables from their local communities. What’s needed is a combination of companies like dcbel leading the way, and grid operators helping to speed up this transition and properly facilitate this new decentralised sharing economy for renewable energy. Ultimately, this technology will then be able to reduce reliance on large grid infrastructures inherently exposed to extreme weather events, and energy supply and demand imbalances and, as a result, turn our homes into new net zero buildings by 2050.