Winter Storms Cut Power in California

We have previously reported on several occasions about power outages across California at the height of summer. By contrast today we report on outages in the midst of winter.

On Tuesday the United States’ National Weather Service’s San Francisco Bay area office issued a warning for high winds:

Note in particular the part about “damage to trees and power lines”. By Tuesday evening Pacific Gas and Electric had announced on their web site that:

As of 10 p.m., approximately 154,000 customers are without power in PG&E’s service area as heavy northwest winds impact electric equipment. More than 124,000 customers have been restored since 6 a.m.

PG&E crews will continue working through the night, safely and as quickly as possible to restore customers.

The NWS’s Weather Prediction Center also issued the following short term forecast for Wednesday:

A major winter storm is expected to deliver a large swath of heavy snow from the West Coast to the Northeast through Thursday…

The arrival of a large arctic air mass from Canada interacting with two energetic troughs/fronts forecast to move through the western half of the country will bring numerous weather hazards and highly anomalous temperatures coast-to-coast this week with almost all of the country experiencing some form of notable weather.

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Storm Otto Blacks Out Scotland

Yesterday morning the United Kingdom’s Met Office issued a press release about the impending arrival of a disruptive weather system:

A low-pressure system which will bring high winds and rain to parts of the UK has been named Storm Otto by the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

Storm Otto will move east across the far north of the UK from the early hours of Friday morning, likely bringing gusts in excess of 75mph to some northern areas.

Met Office Chief Meteorologist Andy Page said: “Storm Otto will bring high winds and rain to the UK, with some northern parts of Scotland and the northeast of England likely to get the strongest gusts of wind, possibly in excess of 75mph. Warnings have been issued and could be updated as Storm Otto develops.

“There’s a chance of travel disruption and high-sided vehicles could be particularly prone to disrupted plans in this set-up. There’s associated rain with Storm Otto, with 40-50 mm of rain likely to fall over parts of western Scotland.”

Potential impacts highlighted in the warning also the likelihood of large waves, especially in North Sea coasts, as well as a chance of some damage to buildings and infrastructure.

This was accompanied by a weather warning for high winds from Storm Otto:

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Enphase Announces V2G Charger

It has just been brought to my attention that at the beginning of this month Enphase Energy issued a press release announcing that:

Enphase Energy, Inc., a global energy technology company and the world’s leading supplier of microinverter-based solar and battery systems, announced today a successful demonstration of its bidirectional EV charger enabling vehicle-to-home (V2H) and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) functionality.

This product will leverage the power of grid-forming IQ8™ Microinverters and Ensemble™ energy management technology to seamlessly integrate into Enphase® home energy systems. In addition, Enphase’s bidirectional EV charger is expected to work with most EVs that support standards such as CCS (Combined Charging System) and CHAdeMO (a Japanese charging standard).

Here’s Enphase’s introductory V2G video:

Here too is a still image from the video, which once again looks remarkably reminiscent of the decade old V2G UK banner at the top of this article!

The press release continues:

In addition to charging an EV, Enphase’s bidirectional charger will support the following functionality:

Vehicle-to-home (V2H) –enables the EV battery to provide uninterrupted power to a home during a power outage.
Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) –allows the EV battery to share energy with the grid to help relieve the strain on electric utilities during times of peak energy demand.
Green charging –sends clean solar energy directly to the EV battery.

Raghu Belur, co-founder and chief products officer at Enphase Energy, said that:

The new bidirectional EV charger, along with Enphase’s solar and battery storage system, can be controlled from the Enphase App, empowering homeowners to make, use, save, and sell their own power. We are working with standards organizations, EV manufacturers, and regulators to bring this charger to market in 2024.”

Since I sit on numerous EV (dis)charging and energy management standard development committees it would be very interesting to discover precisely which “standards organizations, EV manufacturers, and regulators” Enphase is working with!

Mohammad Alkuran, Ph.D., senior director of systems engineering at Enphase Energy, added that:

The Enphase bidirectional EV charger is the next step on our roadmap to building a solar-powered, all-in-one home energy system that further unlocks electrification, resilience, savings, and control for homeowners. This product will be a game changer for homeowners who want maximum control over their energy usage.

For those of us that are more technically inclined Enphase Energy has also published a white paper about their bidirectional EV charger. Here’s an extract:

The Enphase Bidirectional EV Charger is part of the Ensemble energy management technology, which is the heart of the Enphase® Energy System™. The Enphase Energy System is a complete solution that produces, stores, monitors, exports, controls, and analyzes the energy in your home.

To achieve this, Enphase Energy System brings solar, batteries, other energy resources like generators, fuel cells, connected appliances and software together in one complete package so that a homeowner can make, use, save, and sell their own power—all through the Enphase mobile app.

Enphase has pioneered power conversion devices called IQ8™ Microinverters. These microinverters are best-in class power electronics components that convert power and comply with standards like UL 1741 for grid reliability functions and IEEE 1547 for interconnection of distributed energy resources (DER). These microinverters can create their own grid, also known as microgrid. They can operate in on-grid mode (as grid-tied) and off-grid mode (creating a microgrid). Enphase microinverter technology is at the forefront of the grid interface for our solar microinverters, storage batteries, and EV chargers.

The Enphase Bidirectional EV Charger leverages Enphase’s IQ Microinverter technology and IQ™ Battery architecture. When the charger is used with a vehicle that supports bidirectional charging, it enables the transfer of power and communication between the Enphase Energy System and the EV. The combination of the EV and the bidirectional charger is similar to an Enphase IQ Battery and can be controlled in an equivalent fashion.

The use of the terms “grid-forming” and “microgrid” is of particular interest to yours truly, since not all V2x charging stations are so well endowed.

Roll on 2024!

PG&E Announce V2G Export Tariff for Commercial EVs

In a press release yesterday the Pacific Gas and Electric Company announced that:

PG&E has received approval to establish the nation’s first “vehicle-to-grid” export compensation mechanism for commercial electric vehicle charging customers in its California service area. The V2G export rate promotes EV adoption by providing upfront incentives to help commercial customers offset fleet costs and delivers an innovative solution for these vehicles to export power back to support the grid during peak energy demand periods.

The groundbreaking settlement agreement with the Vehicle-Grid Integration Council (VGIC), Electrify America LLC and the Public Advocates Office at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) was adopted by the CPUC on Oct. 20, 2022. The rate is expected to increase participation from V2G school buses and other electric vehicles in response to near-real-time grid conditions and will be available to charging equipment paired with stationary energy storage systems, which can support the grid and provide backup power to charge vehicles during grid outages.

More than 420,000 EVs have been sold in PG&E’s service area, representing one in six EVs in the country. As large vehicles like school buses and commercial fleets continue to electrify, the opportunity grows for these vehicles to serve as crucial, flexible grid resources to support a more reliable, affordable and efficient energy system. Greater volumes of these vehicles on the road comes at a critical time, as peak energy demand challenges California’s grid and novel solutions like V2G emerge…

As part of PG&E’s 2030 targets, the company is aiming to proactively prepare the grid for 12,000 GWh of EV-related electric load and improve processes to enable rapid, safe EV energization and interconnection. It’s also working to enable 2 million EVs to participate in vehicle-grid integration applications, allowing EVs to be a cornerstone of both reliability and resilience.

Arrival (Mostly) Leaves the UK

In a press release yesterday eVan/eBus manufacturer Arrival announced that:

Scaling production in the Bicester microfactory requires significant further investment in hard tooling and working capital and the Company has determined that the benefits of such an investment would be best directed to the US market.

As a result, today the Company announced a plan to restructure its business to focus resources on a family of Van products for the US market as well as its enabling technologies – including core components, composite materials, mobile robotics, and software-defined factories.
The Company will continue to produce a small number of Vans in Bicester to optimize microfactory processes and support trials with customers.

The major factors in the Company’s decision to shift focus to developing its US business included the tax credit recently announced as part of the Inflation Reduction Act – expected to offer between $7,500 to $40,000 for commercial vehicles, the large addressable market size, and substantially better margins.

The business plans to raise capital to fund the commercialization of these vehicle programs in the US and is exploring all funding and strategic opportunities needed to bring the Vans designed for the US into production at the company’s second Microfactory in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In order to extend the company’s cash runway, Arrival plans to further right-size the organization and cut cash intensive activities while continuing to advance its core technologies. The result of these proposals is expected to have a sizable impact on the Company’s global workforce, predominantly in the UK.

By way of some additional explanation of Arrival’s announcement, here is a chart of their share price since listing on the NASDAQ exchange:

Another Great British automotive success story?

General Motors Announces “Energy Ecosystem”

Back in March General Motors announced a vehicle-to-home pilot project in partnership with Pacific Gas and Electric. According to Mary Barra:

Bi-directional charging will help when there’s a power outage or additional demand, to really help supply energy and keep everybody having the energy they need to live their lives.

Now the next phase of General Motors’ master plan to beat Tesla at the energy game has been announced, in a press release yesterday:

The introduction of Ultium Home and Ultium Commercial, which in combination with the existing Ultium Charge 360, create a holistic ecosystem of energy management products and services that will be housed under a new business unit called GM Energy.

GM Energy’s connected product and service offerings are designed to offer cohesive energy management for home, commercial and EV customers, with solutions ranging from bi-directional charging, vehicle-to-home (V2H) and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) applications, to stationary storage, solar products, software applications, cloud management tools, microgrid solutions, hydrogen fuel cells and more. GM Energy’s services will also enable the sale of energy from EV and stationary storage batteries back to utilities during peak, high energy consumption periods, unlocking even more potential value for customers and increasing resiliency for the electrical grid.

Several large-scale companies across the U.S. have already agreed to work with GM Energy to provide energy solutions to customers and receive product or service offerings.

Among them is an agreement with SunPower, one of the nation’s leading solar technology and energy services providers. Together, the two companies will develop and offer customers a home energy system which will consist of integrated EV and battery solutions, solar panels and home energy storage. A primary feature of the home energy system is expected to enable drivers to deliver power to their homes with the battery in their compatible electric vehicle, designed to give them the ability to power their home’s necessities in a blackout or draw from stored energy during peak rate times. SunPower will also become a preferred installer for the home energy system and offer customers the opportunity to add solar to their home. The home energy system will be available alongside the retail launch of the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV, expected to begin production in fall 2023.

Tesla have of course yet to announce any plans for “the sale of energy from EV batteries”, but Tesla Energy predates GM Energy by several years. Will General Motors be able to catch up and overtake Tesla? Perhaps V2x technology will give GM an edge? Alternatively perhaps Tesla will also be offering V2x on their EVs by the time the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV starts production?

Watch this space!

The Volvo EX90 Will Support V2G!

In a press release yesterday Volvo Cars announced that:

The upcoming, fully electric Volvo EX90, which will be revealed on November 9, will be the first Volvo car to be hardware-ready for bi-directional charging capabilities. Initially becoming available in selected markets, bi-directional charging has the potential to help you make your energy utilisation cheaper, more efficient and sustainable. Paired with smart-charging capabilities coming to the Volvo Cars smartphone app, the Volvo EX90 will allow you to charge your car when demand from the grid and prices are low – usually meaning there are more renewable sources in the energy mix – and save that stored energy to be used later.
Once available, bi-directional charging in the Volvo EX90 could enable you to power your home, as well as other electric devices.

The press release wasn’t accompanied by any images of the EX90. I suppose all will be revealed on November 9th. However there is this video, entitled “What if your car could power your life?”. A very good question, which has been on our minds here at V2G UK for over a decade:

The video doesn’t include any images of the EX90 either, but it does include Volvo’s
Head of Electrification Ecosystem, Olivier Loedel, saying things like:

With the Volvo EX90 you can power your life.

You could use its battery in many ways, from topping up your electric bike when you’re out and about, to hooking up an outdoor cooking appliance for your weekend camping trip. It could even power your house during the expensive peak hours of the day.

The press release adds:

Depending on rules specific to each energy market, bi-directional charging could also allow customers to support the grid in different ways. This could include taking in more energy during times when there’s a surplus of renewable energy, or selling energy back during peak usage hours when there is more demand. If most cars have this functionality in the future, then the grid could be balanced more often. That could increase the overall sustainability of the grid by reducing potential energy waste from renewable sources at times when production outperforms demand.

and in the video Olivier adds:

Bi-directional charging will in the future become available through a customer offer including a wallbox and a Home Energy Management System that connects the car, wallbox and power meter of a house together…

Bi-directional charging could allow customers to sell electricity back to the power grid, for example during peak hours when demand is high:

Once again an EV OEM has come up with an infographic which bears a strange resemblance to the banner at the top of this page, which is now over ten years old. Apart from the cloud labelled “Volvo” that is! As Olivier puts it, “technical solutions to enable this are under way. We have done some research!”

All in all it sounds to me an awful lot like Volvo intend to deliver full blown vehicle-to-grid in the foreseeable future! However the press release does also include the following “small print”:

* Future technology and features are described, and capabilities may vary. Features may not be available in all markets and will not be standard in all markets or for all models.
* The bi-directional charging offer will initially be launched in selected markets. We are currently investigating which use cases we will be able to offer in different markets.
* We will equip the Volvo EX90 with the necessary hardware to support the grid, and we are currently assessing in which markets it would be possible to offer this to our customers.

Which does beget another few questions at the back of my mind. Such as:

  • “Will the Volvo EX90 and associated wallbox support AC or DC V2x?”,
  • “Will the UK be one of Volvo’s initial selected markets?”, and
  • “If so, when will this exciting technology finally become available to the (wo)man in the UK street?”

Watch this space!

Will There Be Blackouts in the UK This Winter?

According to an “exclusive” report in The Guardian:

Ministers are discussing launching a public information campaign to encourage households to reduce their energy use this winter as fears grow over winter blackouts.

Households could be asked to turn their thermostats down and use their dishwashers and washing machines during the night and at times when energy demand is lower, under plans being discussed between the business department, energy companies and the network operator National Grid.

No names are mentioned of course, but allegedly:

Sources close to the discussions said that government officials and industry executives were determined to avoid blackouts disrupting the supply of energy to Britons’ homes. A public information campaign could help ease pressure on energy supplies during the winter.
Ministers have so far resisted calls to tell consumers to cut their energy use, saying consumption of gas and electricity was a “decision for individuals”.

The article mentions the recent trial in Scotland run by Octopus Energy and SP Energy Networks, in which a financial incentive was offered to domestic consumers to shift the timing of their electricity demand.

Over 2,500 Octopus Energy customers across Dumfries and Galloway participated in the six-week trial*. Directed to power up their usage when green energy supply was highest, households used 20MWh more energy across the six two-hour trial windows.
Households who increased their usage by more than 10% were credited back all the energy they had used during the two-hour timeframe. Those who used more than 100% extra were credited double the amount they had used. Participating customers were rewarded with an average of £5 of free energy, with some saving up to £73.

According to The Guardian once again:

National Grid will lay out its outlook for winter energy supplies on Thursday, giving the first comprehensive assessment of the risk of blackouts this winter.

The eagerly awaited document should show how resilient Britain’s energy supplies are over the coming months. An early view, published in August, showed the UK should be able to meet its energy demand in the coming months. However, since then Norway has indicated it may prioritise supplying its domestic market over exporting power.

Here’s how things stacked up for the National Grid in August:

We eagerly await any changes revealed in tomorrow’s report!

[Edit – October 6th]

The National Grid Electricity System Operator has now published its “Winter Outlook Report” for 2022/23. Here is the executive summary in full:

Our first illustrative scenario examines what would happen if there were no electricity imports from continental Europe . In this scenario we would deploy our mitigation strategies – dispatching the retained coal units and our Demand Flexibility Service. By securing 4GW through these actions, we would maintain adequate margins and mitigate impacts on customers.

Our Demand Flexibility Service is new and innovative, and we have worked with suppliers, aggregators, industry, Ofgem and BEIS on the design to ensure it is ready for the winter and capable of delivering the required level of participation and response (2 GW+). It will launch on 1 November, and we are encouraging suppliers and aggregators to work with their customers to ensure the highest levels of engagement and participation. We see particular potential from commercial organisations who can shift their load from peak hours and have had positive feedback from British companies on this.

Without the Demand Flexibility Service, we would expect to see a reduction in margins. In this scenario on days when it was cold (therefore likely high demand), with low levels of wind (reduced available generation), there is the potential to need to interrupt supply to some customers for limited periods of time in a managed and controlled manner. However, we expect the mitigations outlined above to be effective.

A second, more extreme scenario, looks at a hypothetical escalation of the energy crisis in Europe such that there is insufficient gas supply available in Great Britain (in addition to no electricity available to import from continental Europe as per above scenario). In the unlikely event that escalation of the situation in Europe means that insufficient gas supply were to be available in Great Britain this would further erode electricity supply margins6 potentially leading to interruptions to customers for periods. All possible mitigating strategies, including our new measures, would be deployed to minimise the disruption.

Overall, this is likely to be a challenging winter for energy supply throughout Europe. We have taken extensive measures to try to mitigate the impacts for British consumers and expect that, under our base case, margins will be adequate. Nevertheless, there remain scenarios, driven principally by factors outside of Great Britain which could impact upon British electricity supplies. Plans are in place to ensure the impact is minimised and the overall security and integrity of Britain’s energy systems are protected.

Here too is the updated version of the “base case” supply margin chart shown above:

The chart is accompanied by these two provisos, amongst others:

Our base case assumes electricity imports from Europe are available at times when we need them to meet demand, delivering in line with their Capacity Market agreements, and that there is no disruption to gas supplies.

Our base case does not assume any material reduction of consumer demand due to high energy prices. It does not include any of our mitigation measures such as coal contracts or the Demand Flexibility Service as we would not expect to deploy them here.

The winter outlook also considers “Scenario 1” in which there are “reduced electricity imports from Europe”:

The bar chart is accompanied by a graph of “operational surplus”:

That shows National Grid’s “90% confidence” that the surplus will not turn negative over the winter. However now let’s take a look at “Scenario 2” in which there is in addition “insufficient gas supply in Great Britain”:

Note that according to Ofgem a few days ago:

Due to the war in Ukraine and gas shortages in Europe, there is a significant risk that gas shortages could occur during the winter 2022/23 in Great Britain. As a result, there is a possibility that GB could enter into a Gas Supply Emergency.

Perhaps it would be prudent at this juncture for us all to cross our fingers and hope that the gas keeps arriving at Great British shores over the coming months, whether via pipeline or LNG tankers?

[Edit – October 7th]

The Energy Networks Association has published an article entitled “How planned emergency power cuts would work if they are needed this winter“. They state, in part, that:

Though no power cuts are currently planned, in their winter outlook National Grid ESO raised the possibility of the need for planned national power cuts, in order to manage the possibility of energy demand outstripping the supply available.

Firstly, it’s important to know that before any emergency planned power cut instruction is given, National Grid ESO takes several steps to protect customers. These include:

* Encouraging additional generation through the supply market.
* Asking heavy industrial users to limit their demand during peak periods.
* Reducing domestic power demand – this could include paying customers to change how and when they use appliances like washing machines and dishwashers or reducing voltage across the country by a small percentage, which would be undetectable.

Procedures for emergency planned power cuts like this have existed for decades and are simulated in emergency exercises by the energy sector each year ahead of the winter.

If needed, the emergency procedures are designed to minimise the impact on customers as far as possible, by limiting power cuts to shorter periods in order to manage overall electricity demand. However, while the winter is expected to be challenging, there is no guarantee emergency measures will be necessary.

If an emergency power cut is implemented, customers in certain parts of the country would typically be without power for around three hours per day during the emergency.

Distribution network operators, which run the local power networks, would be legally instructed by National Grid ESO, which controls the flow of energy around the country, to disconnect power supplies using established procedures. These procedures are set out by the government in a document known as the Electricity Supply Emergency Code, sometimes referred to as ESEC. The procedures ensure that power is shared fairly across all customers during a national energy emergency…

If emergency power cuts are needed customers will be able to find their rota and what it means for them at by entering their postcode. The rota will only be published once emergency power cuts have been approved to take place.

[Edit – October 17th]

In an article in today’s Financial Times, energy correspondent Nathalie Thomas writes that:

National Grid’s chief executive has warned British households to prepare for blackouts between 4pm and 7pm on “really, really cold” weekdays in January and February in the event of reduced gas imports from Europe.

John Pettigrew said the company would have to impose rolling power cuts on “those deepest darkest evenings in January and February” if generators failed to secure enough gas from the continent to meet demand, particularly if the country suffers a cold snap.

Pettigrew’s comments at the Financial Times’s Energy Transition Summit came after National Grid, which oversees Britain’s electricity and gas systems, this month took the unusual step of setting out various “unlikely” scenarios in which Britain might not have sufficient energy supplies this winter.

[Edit – November 4th]

National Grid ESO’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Jake Rigg explained their
Demand Flexibility Service on BBC Breakfast this morning. · According to a BBC article:

Households will be offered discounts on their electricity bills if they cut peak-time use on a handful of days over the winter, as part of National Grid’s efforts to avoid blackouts.

The network operator has announced details of the scheme, which it said could save households up to £100.

There will be 12 “test” days initially, designed to see how customers respond, between November and March.

But only homes with smart meters will be able to take part.

Only 14 million, less than half, of households in England, Scotland and Wales, where the scheme is being tested, have a smart electricity meter installed.

Customers taking part will be given 24 hours’ notice of a “test” day where they will be asked to reduce their peak-time electricity use if they can during a one-hour period identified by National Grid, likely to be between 16:00 and 19:00.

That could include delaying use of a tumble-dryer or washing machine, or cooking dinner in the microwave rather than the oven.

National Grid said it will pay energy suppliers, which will be required to sign up to the scheme to operate it for customers, £3 for every kilowatt-hour during the test periods.

Individual suppliers will decide how much customers will receive and whether the money is taken off bills, credited to accounts, or if there’s an option to withdraw the cash…

Watch this space!

California is keen on V2G!

Take a look at this recording of California Governor Gavin Newsom‘s closing remarks at the Climate Week NYC plenary session earlier this week:

By all means watch the whole thing, but make sure not to miss the part at 4:20 where Gavin says that:

We talk about grids and reliability? Give me a break!

The opportunity now with electric vehicles, and the vehicle-to-grid technology, and the bi-directional opportunity of two way charging creates opportunities for million and millions of batteries on wheels.

Then up on your home, in your phone, selling back electricity to the grid. Taking money not out of your pocket, but putting it now in your pocket.

Low carbon green growth!

In other recent news from the Golden State, Queen Máxima of the Netherlands met with Gavin’s wife Jennifer:

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More March Power Cuts in Cornwall

The UK’s Met Office has issued a yellow warning for wind and rain across South West England this afternoon:

As the Met Office point out:

Some short term loss of power and other services is possible.

We would go somewhat further, and suggest that some power cuts are likely here in Cornwall. Not least because 1,702 properties near Marazion suffered a power cut yesterday afternoon:

[Edit – 14:00 on March 12th]

Would you believe that this afternoon’s first Cornish power cut was in Marazion?

Watch this space!