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Australia’s Energy Sector readies for Electric Car ‘tipping point’

The Electric Vehicles numbers are expected to rise very dramatically in the coming times.

The policy support by the federal government would drive this growth.

However, the rapid transition to Electric Vehicles could cause significant upheavals in the Energy sector too.

Presently, less than 1 percent of Australia’s cars are electric.

And falling battery cost could tip the scales fast, as per power giant Origin Energy.

“We feel like the tipping point for EV adoption will be when the upfront purchase prices start to be competitive with petrol vehicles,” said Origin’s head of e-mobility Chau Le.

“The magic number is when batteries get to $100 per kilowatt-hour, and we predict that will happen in the next couple of years.”

The rapid shift to Electric Cars could mean an additional load of 22 terawatt-hours of load on the power grid by 2040, as per Origin.

Can the Australian Power networks handle this massive load?

What are their preparations for handling this ??

Origin has received an $838,000 grant for rolling out 150 “smart chargers: to electric vehicles, from the federal government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The smart chargers will be co-ordinated to be charged with surplus solar energy avoiding periods when there is peak demand like during the middle of the day and evenings.

“If we left EV charging to just whatever people want to do, we expect that the majority of people will come home at 5 or 6 pm and charge, which will coincide with the evening peak,” Ms. Le said.

“Having millions of these vehicles plugin and draw power at the same time that it is the peak for the energy market, that is going to be a concern ... but if we can manage the charging to smooth that load, to push it into the middle of the day or the middle of the night and not create those peaks for the market and for the network, that itself creates value.”

The absence of strict petrol emissions standards and timebound targets to phase out combustion engines and consumer incentives has meant that Australia’s shift to electric vehicles has been slower than elsewhere.

However, CSIRO has forecast that electric cars could be at least 30 percent of sales by 2035; and the rising to potentially 90 percent.

Rapidly increasing demand for electric vehicles will have sweeping implications for the power suppliers and grid operators. Already, Companies are becoming increasingly “proactive” in their pursuit of charging strategies.

“Utilities and grid operators concerned with impacts on the local distribution grid are engaging fleets in pilots and offering EV-specific rates,” said Wood Mackenzie’s Kelly McCoy.

“Additionally, fleet operators are actively pursuing integrating EV charging with other on-site distributed energy resources and their building loads to minimize electricity demand.”

And with many companies already harnessing the rooftop solar energy potential, lower daytime price-earnings are affecting the revenues of the electrical companies.

The transition to EVs could offer an avenue for increasing their revenues appreciably. Power giants AGL and Origin are already looking at this opportunity while also developing on offering convenient charging solutions to the customers of EVs.

Origin has launched new offerings for Corporate Customers, for maintaining their fleet of electric vehicles, by launching a joint venture with Custom Fleet.

For households, where electric vehicles could be spending extended periods parked in home garages, Ms. Le said they would offer facilities that could work like “batteries on wheels”. When plugged in, car batteries would soak up excess power from rooftop solar panels and dispense it later into virtual power plants. The many groups of hundreds or thousands of homes with solar and batteries would be linked up to manage demand and energy flows while generating potential profits too for the customers.

“Learning how to create additional revenue and add value so we can share that back to our customers is the bit we are really focused on at the moment,” Ms. Le said.


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