Oct

06

Posted by : Allison Eckelkamp | On : October 6, 2011

I was once entirely convinced that electric vehicles (EVs) might just be the “killer app” for smart grid.  But, for EVs to create a demand for smart grid technologies and applications, there first needs to be a demand for EVs.

The previous EV forecasts for electric vehicles have been good, and with President Obama’s stated goal of 1 million EVs on US roads by 2015, the concept is at least part of the American consciousness (probably more so than the concept of “smart grid”).

Additionally, EVs like the Tesla have appealed to car enthusiasts all over the world.

Why wouldn’t people like a car they can simply “plug in” at home? The benefits are clear: EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are predicted to have lower “fueling” costs (possibly equivalent to 75 cents per gallon), lessen our demand for foreign oil (by more than half with wide-scale adoption), and slash emissions (close to 30 percent) – especially if we can charge them up on wind or other renewable energies.

With smart meters, other smart grid technologies, and variable pricing plans in place, consumers could get an even better bargain if they charged during off-peak hours – like, when they’re sleeping, which is when they’re apt to plug in anyway.

Unfortunately, some EVs still leave a lot to be desired, according to consumer survey results published in a report this week by Deloitte. The survey of 13,000 people in 17 countries found that “no more than four percent of global consumers [are] likely to be satisfied with today’s electric vehicles.”

Why? To summarize Deloitte’s findings:

  • Vehicle range is an issue – Americans have the highest expectations, and only 63 percent would be satisfied with a 300-mile range. The kicker – most mass-market EVs will get about 100 miles to the charge, or twice the 50-mile-per-day (or less) commute that 77 percent of Americans now have.
  • Charging takes way too long – As a society that demands instant gratification, most American consumers (58 percent) want a two-hour charge, and 23 percent want their cars to charge in less than 30 minutes. According to Deloitte’s press release, “in all countries, only a minority viewed up to eight hours (the normal time it takes to recharge the typical batter in today’s vehicles) as acceptable.“
  • The price premium on EVs is not gonna fly – People don’t want to pay any premium on EVs;  in fact, more than 50 percent of consumers worldwide are opposed to any price premium (65 percent in the U.S.).

Why would people buy an EV? According to the survey, if fuel prices continue to rise. More than half of Americans surveyed said a price point of $4 per gallon on gas would make them more likely to consider an electric vehicle. But, if traditional cars can achieve 50 miles per gallon, the majority of consumers around the world would be less likely to consider an EV purchase.

The challenges are certainly clear. Craig Giffi, vice chairman and automotive practice leader, Deloitte LLP, stated in press release: “For the time being, the mass adoption of electric vehicles is more likely to occur in countries that are willing and able to take an aggressive policy approach that encourages and subsidizes the market. And in today’s world, with so many sovereign debt challenges, that is very likely to be a road less traveled.”

In more hopeful news …

Other announcements this week hold promise for EVs and most certainly will help us learn more about the likelihood of EV adoption, including a pilot announced by Dominion Virginia Power and a research collaboration announced between GE and Nissan.

….

Click here to download entire Deloitte study.

Image provided by: Paul Martin Eldridge:

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=751.

 

Oct

05

Posted by : Allison Eckelkamp | On : October 5, 2011

Yesterday I blogged about diminishing venture capital investment in the grid, electric vehicle and storage sectors. Today, Jesse Berst at Smart Grid News delivered word on smart grid forecasts that’s potentially even more distressing to smart grid companies: “Leading analyst slashes smart grid forecasts.”

Industry analyst Andrew Weisel, who covers the utility and smart grid market for Macquarie Group Limited, predicts that the economic downturn will slow demand for smart grid, that demand for smart meters will decrease due to consumer “pushback” over rate hikes in France and the UK, and that DR is really struggling.  Read the piece, it’s a good one.

What does this all mean for smart grid? Historically, electrical demand has closely tracked GDP. It seems with slow economic growth, and the subsequent slow growth in energy demand, that at least some smart grid solutions are not as urgent — namely, the need for demand response. That said, other benefits of smart grid — including improved efficiency, integration of “home-grown” renewable energy, enhanced grid reliability, the potential for more consumer control, and the like — have positive implications for our global economy.

At this point in time, does the cost outweigh the benefit?

Sep

30

Posted by : Allison Eckelkamp | On : September 30, 2011

As my introductory post, I wanted to take a moment to identify myself, define “grid” and give some general context on why I’ve created this blog in the first place.

  • Who’s Allison?  I am an under-30 female in the power industry — which, by itself, is a rarity. I am relatively new to it, but quite steeped in it. My foray into the space was with one of the global Smart Grid giants, which manufactures everything from smart meters to wind turbines. After spending time helping that company build its Smart Grid brand presence, I opted to venture off on my own, realizing (1) very few people know how to talk about this stuff and make it understandable to the masses; and (2) I do … well mostly. It’s almost impossible to understand the entire industry, given it’s scale and sheer number of stakeholders. Currently consulting in the space,  I work with one of the largest investor-owned utilities in the U.S., a home-energy-management vendor, a global energy conference organization, an energy news & analysis organization, an energy services company, and a handful of other energy-industry clients. So, I guess you could say I have some “street cred.” I spend most of my time trying to simplify energy jargon and make the stuff interesting to the “common (wo)man” — consumers, politicians, regulators, etc. On a more personal level, I am not an “environmentalist,” per se, but I do believe in protecting our Earth’s natural resources, treating the environment with respect and ensuring we leave the planet in the best shape possible for future generations. I am more of a “pragmatist” when it comes to Smart Grid — interested in the benefits of Smart Grid to society as a whole; interested in the business case behind it; interested in the economics of it.
  • So, what’s the “grid?”  I’m referring to the energy grid, or the electricity grid.  Essentially, the poles, wires, and other devices connecting a power plant to the end-consuming device. Why does it need to be smart? Oh, where to begin?! I guess you should read this blog.
  • What’s this blog about? — Mainly, I’m interested in sharing what I’m learning in the course of my day-to-day about the modernization and evolution of our electrical infrastructure. I’m not interested in the technical side, necessarily, but in the benefit side of Smart Grid — particularly to end users.

With that, I’d like to leave you with the text  from a cartoon one of my Facebook friends recently posted. This points to how important electricity is.

“Wikipedia: I know everything!
Google: I have everything!
Facebook: I know everybody!
Electricity: Without me, you all nothing.

Electricity: The boss!”

Until next time …

The image used is courtesy of Simon Howden on freedigitalphotos.net: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=404