Edison SVP: The grid is ready for EVs but long-term transformational planning is still necessary

As many as 250 new charging ports will be installed at 40 K-12 schools and another 130 ports at about two dozen parks or beach sites. Credit: Southern California Edison

Last week during the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) San Francisco Summit, Drew Murphy, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Corporate Development at Edison International offered his thoughts on where we are today with regard to EV adoption and the electricity grid and where we need to go. He said that whereas in past EV-focused BNEF summits, EV adoption progress was mostly just talking points and future scenarios, now we are finally starting to see real action.

The grid today is up to the challenge of managing the EVs already on the roads – the first ever ‘mobile load’ as Murphy pointed out – but utilities could quickly fall behind if they don’t start thinking further ahead.

J. Andrew (Drew) Murphy

“We got to be looking forward, we have to be 10 years ahead. Because it takes that long sometimes to develop the new technologies, and to install them, test them and make sure they’ll work and actually be there in time,” he said during the closing thoughts session of the summit.

Murphy believes that utilities need to beef up how much they are investing in modern grid controls. We need “much greater investment in technologies that are going to be the controls that actually make the grid work on a much more dynamic, real-time basis,” he said, adding

 “Because vehicles are going to show up at different times in different places on the grid.”

The utility’s job is to make sure that the grid can support whatever it needs to support and for now, that’s low-carbon and zero-carbon technologies, according to Murphy. Clean fuels for transportation play a major role.

“That’s the end game, right? That we actually are going to address climate change and all the other environmental issues by transforming the transportation sector into a clean fuel sector,” Murphy said.

A Fair and Equitable Transition

Ensuring that the transformation is just and equitable is another important tenet for Southern California Edison, added Murphy.

 “We have to make sure we move away from this being something that only people with a lot of money and access to technology, and wealth, can do,” he said. He wants to make sure that electric vehicles can be adopted by everyone in the U.S. And across the globe.

 “We really take that seriously,” he said.

A couple of SCE programs that promote equity in EV adoption that Murphy pointed to are incentives for the purchase of second-hand EVs and installing EV chargers in low-income neighborhoods, said Murphy.

Learn More: Edison International’s Charge Ready Program

“We’re essentially asking all of our customers across the utility rate base to help pay for charging infrastructure, until it gets to a point where it’s deployed enough that other people can install it to accelerate that,” he said.

Finally, Murphy added that training people to service the cars and the charging infrastructure is also important.

“They’re great jobs for people who may be looking to transition from an old economy to a new economy,” he said.

It Will Take a Village

Utilities obviously can’t go it alone for this transition.  They’ll need to partner with the auto manufactures and the charging infrastructure installers and study the behavior of customers who use EVs so they can understand where and when charging will take place.

“We have to all come together in a way that makes it work as a system as efficiently as possible,” he said.

“We have to convince our regulators and our customers, that it’s important. It’s worth paying for those things now. So they’ll be there in the future. So that’s the plan that we have in front of us,” he said.

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Jennifer Runyon is a Content Director at Clarion Energy, writing, editing and posting content on POWERGRID International and planning conference sessions for DISTRIBUTECH's live and virtual events. She as the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH International. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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