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With California’s grid facing an era of rapid change as access to renewable energy grows, three new reports from the nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank Next 10 examine key issues involving the state’s power system.

The reports take a deep dive into how the grid might be challenged or helped by the rise of electric vehicles; the increase in distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar panels; and the growth of community choice aggregation, which allows cities and counties to join together to purchase electricity on behalf of their community members.

“These innovations are all key elements in California’s efforts to transition to clean, renewable energy that is both reliable and affordable,” said F. Noel Perry, businessman and founder of Next 10.

“As the state adds more variable renewable energy to the grid, these resources – electric vehicles, distributed energy resources and community choice aggregators – represent a challenge to the traditional energy management system, but also provide opportunities for us to manage a more efficient and cleaner grid. There are a lot of complex issues for Californians — especially policymakers — to consider as we work toward a clean energy future.”

Key report takeaways

  • Energy demand is only modestly increasing as PEV sales surge
  • Transportation trends towards automation and increased usage of mobility services like ride-hailing could rapidly expand the share of electric vehicles on the road, further increasing electricity demand.
  • The growth of electric vehicles in California will require upgrades to the energy system, but the costs are likely to be low compared to the benefits.
  • New management strategies can help optimise potential benefits and minimise potential risks of more PEVs needing more electricity, but are challenging to implement.

If California wants to meet its zero-emission vehicle goals while keeping electricity affordable and reliable, it’s worth considering some policy levers that can help, Anand Gopal, author to the brief, said.

“In addition to encouraging further electrification of the transportation sector and supporting the development of associated charging infrastructure, policymakers can look at ensuring that autonomous vehicles and mobility-on-demand services don’t increase GHG emissions. Other potential strategies include expanding time-of-use rate programmes and supporting smart charging to optimise benefits that electric vehicles can provide to the grid.”

Click here for report details.