AGL, ARENA in $8m electric vehicle charging study

AGL and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) are launching an $8 million trial to test the impact of electric vehicle (EV) charging on the electricity grid.

Three hundred AGL customers who sign up to AGL's Electric Vehicle Plan will participate in the three-year trial, with 250 of them receiving vehicle chargers.

AGL is contributing $5.3 million and ARENA $2.9 million to the trial, which involves distribution networks United Energy, Jemena, Ausnet Services, Ausgrid, Energy Queensland, Endeavour Energy, and SA Power Networks, and project partners JET Charge, Chargefox and FlexCharging.

The trial will test when and how customers charge EVs, said Dominique Van Den Berg, AGL general manager decentralised energy resources.

"AGL's Virtual Power Plant, which consists of household batteries providing energy when the grid needs it, such as on hot summer days, is being expanded with this trial to include EVs, which are essentially batteries on wheels," Van Den Berg said. "This is consistent with our commitment to have 350 megawatts (MW) of distributed assets like batteries under orchestration by FY24, compared with 72 MW now."

The trial is being run through AGL Next, AGL's innovation hub, and it will help to determine when to avoid congestion on the grid during times of peak demand by switching EV charging to other times.

Trials such as this would allow EVs to benefit the wider electricity system and would support the integration of EVs into the system as uptake increased, said ARENA CEO Darren Miller.

"As the penetration of EVs increases it will be important to manage and orchestrate the charging of vehicles, to avoid potentially costly impacts on peak demand, associated network charges and grid security issues," he said. ""EVs also provide economic opportunities for consumers through the potential of reduced electricity costs through higher network utilisation and the potential to generate revenues that would reduce the cost of car ownership."

The trial will also be the first time in Australia that people could use their EVs to power their houses and export excess energy to the grid, Van Den Berg said.

"This trial will demonstrate how we create value using customers' distributed energy assets like batteries and share the value with customers," she said.

Customers who participate in the trial will receive regular bills credits, offsets for their household emissions through AGL's new Carbon Neutral product, and access to an app which would allow them to set their charging preferences and be notified of charging 'events'.

In the trial, AGL will manage smart chargers (provided free to 200 customers), as well as bi-directional chargers, provided at a reduced price to 50 customers with Nissan Leaf vehicles), which also allow customers to power their homes and export electricity to the grid from their vehicles, as well as charging via the vehicles directly for 50 internet-connected Tesla vehicles owned by customers who already have their own chargers.

"AGL is investing in renewable and flexible generation supported by storage technology including residential batteries and grid-scale batteries that provide firm capacity for our transition from coal to renewable energy," Van Den Berg said. "As part of our Climate Statement we have said we will continue to support the decarbonisation of the economy, which is what are customers want and the community expects."

AGL aims to accelerate the commercialisation of the orchestration of EV charging by examining the key sources of uncertainty and investment risk such as the commercial model, technology approaches, customer behaviour and market structure, ARENA said.

ARENA has previously supported the rollout of two fast charging EV networks across Australia by Chargefox and Evie Networks. This year, ARENA has also supported Origin and ActewAGL to trial different technologies and approaches to accelerate the commercialisation of managed EV charging and V2G services respectively.

Read more: ARENAAustralian Renewable Energy AgencyAGL NextDarren MillerDominique Van Den Bergelectric vehicles
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