North American grid operators assess impact of electric vehicles

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Rennselaer, N.Y., March 24, 2010 — As automakers ramp up production of plug-in electric vehicles, a group of U.S. and Canadian power grid operators who manage most of the North American bulk electric grid collectively studied the effect that PHEVs would have on the electric power grid.

“Assessment of Plug-in Electric Vehicle Integration with ISO/RTO Systems,” by the ISO/RTO Council, is a new study that examines the technical hurdles and tools needed to foster the potential benefits of widespread use of PHEVs.

Among the study’s conclusions:

* One million electric vehicles may be on U.S. roadways in a decade, with concentrations of the vehicles in the major metropolitan areas of the West Coast and the Northeast.

* Staggered charging of PHEVs would reduce the potential negative impact on electric load.

* Power companies will need new tools to manage growth in PHEV use.

“Plug-in electric vehicles represent a significant new set of power users that grid operators must prepare to serve. PHEVs also might lead to game-changing innovations in energy distribution and smart grid technology that could enhance grid management and electric system reliability,” said Stephen G. Whitley, 2010 IRC chairman and president and CEO of the New York Independent System Operator.

Of the one million PHEVs that may be deployed over the next 10 years, more than 684,000 are projected by the study to be located in regions of the U.S. served by ISOs and RTOs.

The PHEVs plugging into the grid in U.S. ISO/RTO regions could add electric load of 3,785 MW if every PHEV charged simultaneously. In contrast, electric load would increase by about one-fifth that total (819 MW) if charging were staggered over an eight-hour period and less than 546 MW over a 12-hour period.

The IRC study suggests that initial PHEV sales are likely to cluster on the West Coast and Northeast and be heavily concentrated in large urban areas.

For example, the Los Angeles metropolitan area is projected to experience the largest growth of PHEVs, a total 119,069 by 2019. PHEVs in the L.A. region could add electric load of 658 MW if every PHEV charged simultaneously. If PHEV charging were staggered over an eight-hour period, electric load would increase by 147 MW. Over a 12-hour period, PHEV charging would add 98 MW.

The New York City metropolitan area, with a forecasted 54,000 PHEVs by 2019, could see added electric load of 299 MW if every PHEV charged simultaneously.

Electric load would increase by 33 MW if charging were staggered over an eight-hour period and 22 MW over a 12-hour period. Projections of PHEV growth and additional electric load for other ISO and RTO regions are available in the report.

The IRC study promotes adoption of smart grid technologies and new pricing mechanisms in an effort to accommodate PHEV demands for electricity, avoid potential service disruptions and minimize wholesale electricity price impacts.

The IRC study also examines the feasibility of deploying various smart grid tools and services that would allow grid operators to use PHEV technology as an innovative energy storage and distribution resource to balance local energy needs.

For example, during peak demand periods, a power system operator could use smart-grid tools to remotely connect to PHEVs that are plugged in and have electricity stored in their batteries. The operator could utilize this power for the grid and then replace it when system conditions improve.


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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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