The EVs Are Coming. Let’s Get Ready!

Image credit: Evatran

Image credit: Evatran

by James A. Bacon

The market for electric vehicles has not matured as rapidly as many proponents hoped, and the low price of gasoline in the past year hasn’t helped. But when EVs do attain mass-market status, as eventually they will, there is a good chance that a crucial innovation helping them get there will have come out of Virginia. Evatran Group, a six-year-old, Richmond-based startup, has emerged as the country’s leading maker of wireless recharging technology, addressing a big drawback to electric vehicles: the hassle of recharging.

The company’s website describes the value proposition this way: “Hands-Free, Hassle-Free.”

With the Plugless L2 System, you simply pull into your parking space and your EV starts charging automatically. No dirty cords to untangle and no chance of forgetting to charge. The wall-mounted Control Panel guides you as you approach the Parking Pad to ensure correct alignment. Most people get it on their first try!

Writing in Style Weekly, Peter Galuszka describes how 29-year-old Rebecca Hough co-founded Evatran with her father shortly after graduating from the McIntire School of Commerce in 2008. With early-stage financing from New Richmond Ventures, the company has grown to the point where its wireless charger can be installed in the automotive after-market for 60% of the EVs sold in the United States. Additionally, Evatran is raising $10 million in Series B financing to sell plugless units in China.

EV-forecastBacon’s bottom line: Like the quip about Brazil — it’s the country of the future, and always will be — electric vehicles have been touted as the cars of the future for 15 or 20 years now. But venture capitalists and automobile companies are committing serious money to EVs, the rate of technological innovation seems to be accelerating, and the price of gasoline won’t stay below $2 per gallon forever. Within the foreseeable future, there will be millions of EVs on the road.

While contemplating the inevitable rise of the EV, it’s worth thinking about the implications for the future of the electric grid. It seems prudent to draw at least two conclusions.

First, electric vehicles will boost the demand for electricity. In its 2015 Integrated Resource Plan, Dominion Virginia Power projected that there will be 334,000 electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the road in its service territory by 2030, which would translate into 369 megawatts of peak load and an annual energy usage of 1,462 gigawatts from charging.

Second, EVs will drive a shift in the electricity load. Assuming most recharging occurs while cars are parked at home, EVs are expected to boost demand in the evening and night-time hours. That could be either a blessing or a curse. During the summer, peak electricity loads occur in late afternoon when temperatures are still high and people come home from work and turn on appliances. If they plug in their cars at that time, EVs could seriously strain the electric grid. However, if people wait until late in the evening when electricity demand slackens, EVs could reduce the gap between peak and non-peak loads, making it easier for utilities to balance the load. Better yet, Night-time recharging of EVs would boost the market for clean wind power, which blows most reliably at night.

Virginia policy makers need to ensure that the load shift to later, off-peak hours takes place.

Dominion is more than four years into a pilot program to shave peak power load by offering EV users voluntary, experimental rates to charge their cars during off-peak hours. The program provides two options. A “whole house” rate provides a preferential off-peak rate for both premises and vehicle. An “EV only” rate provides the off-peak rate for just the vehicle. As of April 2015, 377 customers were enrolled in the whole-house program, and 119 in the EV-only rate. The pilot program extends to November 2018.

The number of participants falls far short of the 1,500 total allowed under the State Corporation Commission (SCC) order. Hopefully, Dominion will have learned enough from the trial that the SCC can seriously consider enacting a long-term, demand-shaving tariff. If not, the commission needs to identify ways to boost participation to the point where valid conclusions can be drawn.

As a bonus, EvaTran could be well positioned to benefit. If Evatrans’ automatic-recharging system can be programmed to recharge during certain hours and not during others, the product will eliminate another hassle factor: remembering when the lower tariff goes into effect and going to the garage late in the evening to manually insert the charger into the car. Such a synergy would be a boon both to consumers and to one of Richmond’s rising entrepreneurial stars.

Editor’s note: I have updated the article to incorporate more up-to-date data on the pilot program from Dominion. — JAB

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52 responses to “The EVs Are Coming. Let’s Get Ready!

  1. You addressed the time of day rates which can greatly help to push the recharging to off-peak times. I don’t know if the wireless chargers allow for two way transfer, but plug in chargers in other locations can actually allow car batteries to be drained to help serve the peak rather than make it worse. The high value of this on peak energy is credited to the car owners account.

    Although careful planning is needed, a higher percentage of electric vehicles (including public transportation and ride sharing) can contribute to greater reliability, resiliency and cost savings on the grid.

    • Batteries, batteries. Say it again, batteries, batteries. More research on batteries; more technological breakthroughs on batteries; lighter weight, highly-stable (don’t burst into flame!) batteries made from low cost, readily available materials and disposable in regular landfills. TomH, if we could have distributed battery storage throughout the electric grid (in the form of cars and trucks parked and connected overnight) it would indeed open the door wide to far greater use of solar power, greater efficiency in the use of all other generation, greater system stability, and a complete revolution in how we look at overall energy consumption and sources of air pollution and CO2 (all urban and intercity transportation would quickly shift to electricity from the grid, not hydrocarbons from wells and refineries). What a fantastic vision! And it’s not even a “pie in the sky” dream but real, within reach, ready to happen fast, if we can crack the battery technology nut.

      JB, the EV revolution is almost upon us in places like California despite the lack of a decent, cost-effective EV battery, but imagine how quickly things would change if we could go from grid-powered transportation dependent upon massive subsidies to the same because it beats the alternative hands-down on cost? I am convinced that most any electric utility executive would love to see such a day, and thrive in helping the transition, despite the disruption to “business as usual.”

      • Isn’t it a compelling vision. Our electrical grid becomes like the internet. People buy what they want and plug it in and it all works together. Loads are shifted, excess capacity is stored, much less total energy is used but results in much higher customer comfort and convenience. Rates might be higher but bills are lower. Innovation could be unleashed; businesses and people prosper.

        Battery technology is certainly an important contributor to this. Lithium ion may not be the long term future, but it is probably good enough for the cost to come down another 50% in the next few years. Life cycle, waste disposal, and upcycle uses are big with batteries.

        States such as NY are moving quickly in this direction. Utilities and third parties are excited about it and encouraging the regulators to move faster. I just heard an S&P analysts say today that utilities in states that are dragging their feet on making this transition will have a harder time attracting investors. He specifically mentioned the Southeast as his bad example. Utilities have an abundance of opportunities in this new world. The regulated portion will be central to building and operating the infrastructure and there is a good living to be made there. Their unregulated subsidiaries can also play in this space along side third-party providers. However, if they try and own it all and control it all it will never get off the ground and the innovative new businesses will go elsewhere. Just as Nevada lost thousands of solar jobs in a few weeks when the state utilities retroactively imposed an ill advised change in their net metering agreements.

        • I do appreciate what you’re getting at with “if they try and own it all and control it all it will never get off the ground.” This attitude, I am convinced, comes mainly from outside the typical utility, from Wall Street and other financial types, or executives brought in from another industry, who have a knee-jerk reaction to any threat to the utility’s “monopoly control”; and some senior utility executives who should know better nevertheless accept the fact that keeping Wall Street happy is the best way to serve shareholders even if Wall Street is fundamentally wrong.

          That said, as we’ve discussed here before, distributed generation and distributed batteries and night-charging vehicles do not mean the end of the grid. In fact the grid (along with some amount of central-station base-load generation) looks to me to be MORE important not less, in that environment. If something like the grid is necessary, the market (and hopefully utility regulators) will learn how to price it correctly, and the current public utility model will supply it at a regulated profit. Of course there is the potential for stranded costs during such an enormous transition, and that worries people whose lifetime has been devoted to building a grid with 50-year-life components, and to managing a company with such large amounts of capital tied up in the form of steel-in-the-ground. But there is also opportunity, and you can bet there is lots of attention being given to how to work that opportunity, and how to prepare for its coming, inside Dominion’s walls as well.

          I know it’s too cute to say so but in truth the name of the game for a “public service company” is public service, and the public is the customer, and the public votes, too, and the GA (as well as the SCC) picks up on what they vote for. Win support in the GA and you will win over Dominion and the SCC too; influence flows in both directions. In fact I believe the hardest sell of all is to those financial savants on Wall Street.

  2. Jim,
    Thanks very much for the plug but it is Style Weekly, not “Magazine.”

  3. probably need to utilize smart metering – for everything – charge more for peak hour electricity –

    also supplemental transportation tax assessed on EV vehicles charged on the power bill

    and if you’re gonna buy power from car batteries why not solar/wind and other ?

    • Re: “if you’re gonna buy power from car batteries why not solar/wind and other ?” Not sure what you’re getting at. Distributed batteries of course give you the flexibility to store power. Distributed batteries used for transportation during the day would allow you to retrieve that power at home at night (when solar is off); but then you have to recharge them (from the grid while parked at work?). Distributed batteries permanently mounted at home would be the most flexible companions to home-based (distributed) solar and wind power, but then you have to pay for them as standalone equipment, not as part of your transportation device. Think about it; we’d have to come up with a whole lot of new ways of thinking about what a properly-outfitted home should have in it; but it would all make economic sense. If left up to the market, we’ll also have a new obstacle to getting ahead; all these devices and their installation will require up front investment in order to achieve later savings. Consider the implications for apartment-dwellers as opposed to suburban homeowners; who will own all this stuff and where will it be put and how will a renter pay for it? These are the fascinating issues already being confronted, for example, in Germany where heavily-subsidized distributed solar is commonplace.

      • Think about houses are built with batteries installed. You pay for the battery + installation through an interest-deductible mortgage with the payments spread out over 30 years. That could be a very attractive proposition — if you own an EV.

        • Even if you don’t have an EV a residential battery/solar combo can make sense. In states such as California where rates are higher (but bills are often lower than VA) they often have time of day charges with higher rates for peak hours. If your excess solar output could be stored during peak sunlight, then released in the evening during peak rates, the homeowner would come out ahead compared to just net metering, depending on the cost of the battery.

          Affordable storage provides so much flexibility to the grid and for distributed generation it opens so many different possibilities and cost saving opportunities.

        • Seems similar to the issue of buying a house with solar panels on the roof, all wired up and ready to go. Or to simply buying a more energy-efficient house with better insulation all around. Either way, it costs the builder extra up front and he won’t do it unless he’s figured he can recover that increment in the initial sales price. In the right market, with the right advertising, he will recover it.

          As for the batteries, I like TomH’s batteries that do double duty for transportation and for the home. A battery fixed in the basement of the house will only help power the house. We’re a ways from the typical homeowner valuing that feature enough to pay extra for it, whereas you need a car anyway and using it to power your home at night would be a freebie. If the price goes down enough, however, I think public attitudes would change very rapidly toward asking for such features in a new home.

      • re: “not sure “…

        well – the battery gets power from the grid to start with – then the grid buys it back…

        but you COULD charge that car with solar – and then sell it to the grid so why not get rid of the middle man?

        😉

  4. On their way? On March 18th I will have had mine for three years. Excellent for solar panel install and the new Tesla GigaBattery. Off the grid. Now, that really scares DVP.

    Tried to post photo, but your site wouldn’t let me. Oh, well.

  5. This sort of blows “the critical thing to do is raise the gas tax” argument into rather small pieces. Perhaps, a small sales tax on the discounted electric rates for re-charging electric vehicles, with the proceeds going to the transportation fund.

    Interestingly, I read an article that cold weather substantially degrades the performance of electric engines. Maybe, global warming is good for the growth of electric vehicles. 🙂

  6. re: mortgage deduction – isn’t that a subsidy?

    note – deductions reduce your taxable income and usually only work for people who have larger incomes. Same deal with non-refundable credits.

    Refundable credits – now that’s a whole different horse color – that’s free money!!!

    and to keep perspective – if we did not allow deductions – we’d not only erase the deficit – we’d be paying down the debt by 500 billion a year!!

  7. The new Plug-In Prius version #2 (late 2016) is expected to have the plugless inductive charging option shown in the article. I might consider getting one of those – in 4 to 5 years – as a used car. Presumably it’ll be quite expensive as a new car.

    The electric car sales are mainly happening in states with large state financial incentives, which in combination with generous Federal tax credits, helps sales. About 60% of 2015 Plug-in sales were in California, where Plug_ins are given free HOV access as well as state and Federal rebates. In particular it’s the free HOV access in California that really seems to help sales. I am not particularly a fan of free HOV access for green cars, even though Virginia pretty much invented the idea.

  8. My understanding is that the battery alone in the Prius cost an ungodly amount… and I wonder if such cars are actually being sold at a loss …

    HOV for “green” was a co-opted and cynically corrupted concept by mega SOLO commuters who have calculated it as a way to “buy” a better SOLO commute – absolutely ZIP to do with actually being “green”!!!

    and electric cars in general are not particularly “green” if they are charged with coal power and ESPECIALLY so if they are charging during peak load times… as peak load power actually costs several times what base load traditionally has… but everyone pays for it when utilities do not have variable (think of congestion pricing) rates tied to peak demand. Even peaker plants add costs.

    AND – I DO wonder how many who question “subsidies” for wind and solar – consistently feel that way about similar incentives for electric cars?

    the most “righteous” and genuine in my view are those who charge batteries with solar!!!!! green car parked in a carport with a solar panel roof – GOOGLE Style! Google : ” In California, Carports That Can Generate Electricity” and ” The best idea in a long time: Covering parking lots with solar panels”. THAT’s …HOW we should be charging electric cars – NOT from COAL or peak load power!

    I’m not so sure Dominion has it right with respect to electric cars putting an extra “load” on the grid AT ALL! Beyond solar charging, It is clearly one of the best opportunities for demand-side management – i.e. don’t be charging those cars until 12 am or later – let those cars “communicate” with the grid and only draw power when the grid can provide it from baseload and not peak generation!

    In fact, if a house has “connected” appliances that also can “talk” to the grid – and deduce when to defer power draw (when it can) – then in the end – demand-side technology has the potential to make the variability of solar/wind – child’s play.

    with a large number of homes “wired” to adjust their demand according to grid status – AND weather – Dominion may find that the grid is actually being automatically adapted to – in spite of what Dominion is trying to accomplish in their control rooms ….

    we’ll see – but “smart” homes/businesses are going to define what “smart” grid means – to a certain extent – and Dominion needs to replace the old-dog utility thinkers with some folks more tuned to demand-side disruptive change.

    with a LOT of change – people totally underestimate the ability of technology to much more dramatically change things than we initially thought.

    People thought cell phones would revolutionize how they were able to voice communicate – .. how many realized all the other things that phones are now used for?

    similarly – great change is upon the world of electricity – and the utility companies are a bit “kodak” slow about their acceptance of and adaptation to (embrace?) what are going to be a wave of unstoppable changes…

    strap on your seat belts!

    • Larry, you’ve got it exactly right. Forward thinking utilities are shifting their thinking to ways of making demand match supply rather than building a bunch of new plants to be sure that supply can meet demand.

    • Not exactly correct Larry re: Prius. Prius hybrid battery is only 1 KWhr (small size) and it costs about $2500 to buy a new one from Toyota (with labor $3500 to replace). Although many if not most are replaced for free under 8-10 year warranty and sometimes Toyota gives owners a break on the replacement cost if out of warranty.

      The cost issue comes more from Electric Vehicle and plug-in lithium batteries up to 60 KWhr in GM’s new Bolt to be released later this year. GM plans to sell the Bolt for $30000 (after tax credits cost) which implies battery have come down precipitously. This is where former GM CEO Bob Lutz is a skeptic (and I agree with him) suggesting GM must be selling the Bolt at a loss.

      Seems like if Electric Vehicles are going to succeed, then automakers must “subsidize” the cost of these vehicles. This is potentially a money making solution since states like California mandate EV sales, thus without EV’s, GM would have to pay big $$$ to California as a Cap and Trade penalty for failure to meet their quotas. The Federal 54 MPG mandate may be the same idea, forcing EV sales. So the batteries are less costly with the new cap and trade math.

      • I dunno… a Toyota Highlander Hybrid costs 6K more than a non-hybrid Highlander.

        ditto with many other companies hybrid vs non-hybrid variants.

        so how much would a Bolt cost if a non-electric? I strongly suspect way less than 30K.

        • Well a hybrid like Highlander has 2 entire sub-systems, a gasoline engine, and electric motor system, regen brakes, high voltage battery. So yes there is a $4000-$6000 hybrid cost penalty but that is not just a battery issue. At today’s gasoline prices, it will be harder to make a hybrid version pay off. My guess is we don’t sell too many HiHy’s in Virginia.

          • doesn’t the Prius also have a gasoline engine?

            aren’t most of the hybrids offered by auto companies – the Highlander type and not the Prius type?

            why are the car companies not building Prius type cars?

          • Yes Prius has a gasoline engine+electric motor like all hybrids: all the same basic idea: Prius=Highlander=Camry=FORD Fusion=etc…. Toyota hybrids seem to be superior 10-15 MPG better than the nearest competitor, and Toyota has locked up 75% of the U.S. hybrid market. I think that is part of the reason that the U.S. preferred subsidized approach is plug-ins and electric cars, since nobody can beat Toyota on hybrids. Surprisingly, Toyota does not like plug-ins, feeling hybrids are better. So that gives U.S. companies a clearer shot at being successful at plug-ins.

          • My guess is that Toyota sees the hybrid as the best way to get higher gas mileage and maintain a reasonable price point, without range anxiety (running out of electric charge). Although, they do produce a plug-in version of the Prius I think. Tesla provides 250-300 miles per charge and a nationwide free highway charging system, but with a big battery and a high price point. The popular Nissan Leaf has expanded its range to about 80-100 miles per charge I believe, but with that range it remains a commuter car not an all-purpose one.

          • I’ve been driving a HiHy since 2005 and swear by it; and it gives me the 4WD capability I need (electric in back, powered only when needed). But it’s tuned for acceleration power, not efficiency, and I wish it were possible to adjust that. Nowhere near the mpg of the Prius. Moreover it’s gas only, not a plug-in.

            As for TomH’s point about matching demand to supply, absolutely yes, and this is where instantaneous grid pricing at retail can help. One way to get people to charge their cars when only base-load generation is running is to let the retail customer see/pay the actual grid price (plus a wires charge), which will be at its lowest in those hours. Business loads in particular will find ways to shift other loads to off-peak times if the price signal to do so is large enough. But, the utility can achieve some of that load shift by simpler “time-of-day” rates: two or three fixed retail price periods daily with averaged prices for those times periods.

          • Yes there is a limited edition Plug-in Prius currently out of production but expected back as improved version in early 2017

    • Re: ‘electric cars in general are not particularly “green” if they are charged with coal power’ –

      Here’s a dandy DOE tool you can check out based on your local energy supply:

      Compare Electricity Sources and Annual Vehicle Emissions
      http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.php

  9. we looked at the Highlander Hybrid but the 6K premium nixed it and the smaller Rav4 looked like a better buy even in gas version for a vehicle 99% solo driven.

    and a Hybrid that doesn’t kill it on fuel economy… not as appealing.

    I see now that the RAV4s come in hybrid versions but they’re not great at fuel economy either..

    I suspect that Prius owners prefer the Prius over other hybrids and ….vice versa…non-Prius hybrid owners do not find the Prius as appealing.

    even more skeptical of the plug-ins.

    when they first came out – there was a too simplistic understanding of their capability especially range but once folks started to understand that you can’t drive til they’re empty then stop and fill them up again and be on your way -many no longer were as interested. They became niche.

    but the plug-ins have the same problem as home batteries .. unless or until some basic physics breakthrough is achieved – we’re probably at a dead end except for the well heeled Telsa folk.

    my prediction – when they produce a long-range hybrid that costs 20-30K – affordable home batteries are next and the issue with variability of wind/solar – collapses and at that point it won’t matter if the utility wants to buy solar/wind or not.

    by 2020? 2030? 2050? place your bets!

  10. re: ” … “time-of-day” rates: two or three fixed retail price periods daily with averaged prices for those times periods.”

    why not have a simple LED in the house that tells what the price of power is – at any point in time – and people – just as they do with dynamic gasoline prices, toll roads, and Uber – will develop short term and longer term strategies to lower their costs?

    I think the problem with electricity is precisely the “all you can eat for one price” pricing mechanism that not only does not appropriately assign costs for use – but also embeds in regulation – a business model that allows DVP to continue to plan and get rewarded to sell more and more electricity when a simple market-based pricing mechanism would cap and probably reduce demand so as more and more efficient automobiles – and consumer preference trends towards less consumption…

    DVP has a business plan that relies on increasing consumption of electricity – that DVP as a company – provides and consumer conservation as well as competition from other providers is a threat to be walled off by Va law and regulation.

    and that, in turn, is why we see opposition to CPP – it’s all about a monopoly protecting it’s turf – by using surrogates including folks in the GA to essentially oppose a real market in electricity and the real ability of consumers to affect their consumption and costs.

    • What you are suggesting is the dynamic transactional pricing model that Acbar was recommending. It is the most transparent method of sending accurate price signals to end users. The pieces are beginning to come together. Accurate and rapid two way data exchange is required. Unfortunately, the cellular or radio based mesh networks used to collect usage information from smart meters have substantial dropout rates so a customer might not get feedback for a long period about their usage and smart meters are installed for only a portion of customers. Home energy networks are becoming more affordable and easier to use. Google paid over a billion dollars to buy the smart thermostat maker NEST but surprisingly the user interface is not highly rated. Most customers want an easy to understand smart phone app to control everything. So far the companies that have the best hardware have ordinary apps and the best apps are tied to ordinary hardware. This will be sorted out soon as more people demand good overall solutions. The grid also needs to be upgraded to handle more rapid and accurate data exchange, with appropriate attention to privacy and cybersecurity.

      Eventually we will see this evolve to almost invisible control with little need for customer input (if that is what the customer wants). Imagine if a trusted third party aggregator or the utility can signal at peak times for your thermostat to be temporarily adjusted or your water heater to be shut off for a bit. This is the demand side management market that the recent Supreme Court ruling allowed to continue. Since the third party aggregator or the utility can bid this demand reduction into the wholesale market they can earn money for it, which creates a lower price for the service to the customer. These same adjustments could be made in response to the variability of solar input, which could reduce the need for batteries. The future is full of possibilities for the states willing to embrace it.

      In other states, utilities are recognizing that changes are coming and that modifications must be made in their business models. They are excited about it and see many new opportunities. They will still have a central role in developing the 21st century grid that makes this all possible and the regulator sees that new rate structures will be needed to pay the utility appropriately for their role. The end result will be healthier utilities, lower overall bills for customers (even if some rates are higher), and a great deal of new economic activity. But most people operate more from fear of loss (it appears some utilities do too) rather than desire for gain. We need to create an encouraging environment for Virginia utilities so that they are more willing to move in this direction.

  11. why do you need cell or radio? that info can go over the power lines just as the metering info does…

    right?

    a short line from the meter to a place in the house that tells you what the price is … at any given time.. ..use multiple additional methods.. phone, text, internet… people who want to save money will find a way to get the info …

    I do not believe people operate out of fear – when they use GasBuddy or Consumer Reports or Google Shopping… or countless other ways to ascertain price and value.

    this is the 21st century -… information flows unless it is purposely inhibited.

    • I’m not an expert, but I believe most smart meters use a cellular or radio frequency based mesh network to transmit data to collection devices which then transmit the data to the central utility for billing etc. As far as I know the data is not currently sent over the electric wires. Tests of the types of applications that we have been discussing showed that quite often the data sent from smart meters was too slow or spotty to be of full value in supporting an effective real-time transactional pricing system. These issues can all be solved, but it is not all here just yet.

      The other point I was trying to make is that Dominion appears to be concerned about losing revenues and its role as the primary voice in shaping Virginia’s energy future. Utilities in other states see the host of new opportunities created by a 21st century system and are willing to allow for more third party participation and collaboration.

  12. I think you might be a little behind on the tech – this is my cooperative:

    ” Smart Meters
    REC’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) sends signals carried across the power lines to provide meter readings used for billing, to identify power outages and to even provide personalized energy data for members.

    By using AMI to read meters remotely from the office, REC has avoided $1.8 million in on-site meter reading costs, as well as reduced employee exposure to hazards associated with physically visiting each meter each month. The ability to read meters from the office has also eliminated the need to estimate usage, which used to be necessary when severe weather or bad road conditions prevented traveling to each meter location.”

    https://www.myrec.coop/share/reliability/advanced-metering-technology.cfm

    we agree about DVP… they see their business as selling electricity – as much as they can…. for as cheaply as they can – and still make a good profit… but that is threatened by people finding ways to reduce their use and others being able to generate power for resale…through the grid.

    DVP has convinced the SCC and the GA that they (DVP) have the right approach… apparently…

  13. Good news on better smart meters. That makes more sense to me. I was using info I think from Dominion’s plan several years ago for smart meter deployment in the Charlottesville area.

  14. Pingback: Solar panel maker set on Tennessee for new plant | Southeast Energy News

  15. Excellent summary of last week’s SCOTUS FERC decision on demand management, very relevant here:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/01/26/the-supreme-court-just-gave-a-great-explanation-of-our-baffling-electricity-system/

    There will be opportunities for businesses and vendors (if I can have a timer for my porch light seems like I could have one to charge my [future] EV); and individuals and businesses to make choices such as solar carports*.

    But utilities cannot be counted on to get on board to make some pretty sophisticated grid adaptions. IOU utilities have cheap rates and shareholder value as their primary mission. Some states (and their PUCs/SCCs), such as NY, may be more forward-thinking, but in regulated monopoly utility states like VA it is more of a challenge.

    *Solar carports: This is an expensive way to do solar, but in hot climates, the shading provides a real amenity – and, helps EVs run better. Remember that where it is grid-tied (99%), the little sun-drops aren’t actually powering your car; it is an offset – the solar flows to the grid when it is generating, and the load (plug-in car or whatever) pulls from the grid when it is using power. Sometimes it’s at the same time, sometimes not. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It is great imagery and branding and helps people think about where and how they get their electricity.

    • I like the idea of the Plug-In Prius which has a smaller battery…the new version should be good for 20 or so elec miles (which would cover many local trips). If I get one I would consider putting a few solar panels on the roof to charge it up…would need a set of 12v batteries to hold the solar. I would do this cheaply by among other things, waiting for a used car so we’re taking at least 3 years from now.

      • TBill, assuming you live on the grid, it’s unnecessarily complicated and costly to think you need batteries to store the solar for your EV/hybrid. (I’m also trying to break my female-habit of self-deprecating – I actually know a LOT about this!)

        I posted in a reply to another comment re solar carports, but it’s true of solar on your existing garage, as well (slightly paraphrased) –

        …where it is grid-tied (99%), the little sun-drops aren’t actually powering your car; it is an offset – the solar flows to the grid when it is generating, and the load (plug-in car or whatever) pulls from the grid when it is using power. Sometimes it’s at the same time, sometimes not. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

        Solar on garages/carports is great imagery and branding and helps people think about where and how they get their electricity.

        • I am on the grid (in the Matrix) but probably less enthusiastic about net metering, feeling solar is best if you use it in your house and be less dependent on getting credits for selling back to the grid.

          • Net metering is just netting out what’s generated with what’s used. All the solar generated while you’re using it is used onsite, but when there is “excess”, it pushes to the grid.

            It doesn’t make sense to store it in batteries–assuming your goal is environmental (and not just a principled hatred of monoply utilities ;)), there are a lot better environmental places for your dollars (like maxing out efficiency)!

            (“Excess” solar is a word I shy away from, because it is also used–for example, in MD–for properties which are designed to generate more energy than they use after netting, say on an annual basis, and the utility actually pays you cash for being a power generator.)

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