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Electric Vehicle (EV) drivers in Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT are participating in a 12-month EV Grid Trial looking at how home fast-charging technology can potentially reduce energy costs and electricity grid demands.

Five electricity network businesses – Jemena, AusNet, United Energy, TasNetworks and EVOEnergy – together with charging infrastructure company, JET Charge, are partnering in the trial, co-funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

United Energy Manager Network Strategy, Jimmy Stojkovski, said, “We’re excited to learn more about how EV charging at home impacts the network and this data will be crucial to how we plan and prepare for the mass uptake of EVs in coming years.”

The numbers of EVs are rapidly increasing on Australian roads, and electricity network businesses are planning ahead to support the additional demand on the grid.

EVOenergy General Manager, Peter Billing, said, “We know Canberrans want innovative, sustainable and low-cost energy solutions so we’re focusing on a more proactive, responsive and flexible approach to balancing electricity supply and demand, while we continue to enable more distributed energy resources like electric vehicles.”

With more Australians seriously considering shifting to an EV, electricity networks are also considering what they need to do to get ready for increased demand on the grid, with a $3.4 million ‘smart charger’ trial that kicked off 1 April 2022.

As part of the 12-month trial, ‘smart chargers’ have been installed at the homes of more than 160 EV owners in Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT. These smart chargers not only charge EVs up to three times faster than the chargers that usually come with the vehicle, but also allow electricity network operators to dynamically adjust when the vehicle charges.

This means participants’ EVs can be plugged in when it’s convenient, but charged at times when the electricity grid has more capacity, whether that’s after midnight, or during the day when excess solar energy is being fed back into the grid – ideally leading to lower electricity bills for all consumers.

Information about EV charging habits so far shows most owners plug in their vehicles to charge at around 6pm, already a time of high demand on the electricity grid.

Through the trial, participants will have more visibility of their EV charging data, as well as being able to charge their cars faster, and electricity network operators will gain a better understanding of how to work with EV owners to manage the increasing demand on the grid.

‘Solar soak’ events on forecast sunny days will be a key feature of the trial. During these events, participants will be notified ahead of time to have their cars plugged in during a day when there is an abundance of solar energy being exported into the grid, to better understand the impact of EV charging in absorbing surplus electricity and helping manage grid voltage.

According to figures from the Electric Vehicle Council, EV sales are rapidly increasing, jumping from 6,900 sold in 2020 to 20,665 in 2021. 

Federal Government projections indicate EVs will be up to 30 per cent of all new cars sold by 2030, which would mean about 1.7 million electric cars on our roads – all of which will need charging and place demands on the grid.

The EV Grid trial is being led by Jemena, which delivers electricity to homes and businesses across north and western Melbourne. Jemena has partnered with Victorian electricity distribution network businesses AusNet Services and United Energy, TasNetworks in Tasmania and EVOEnergy in the ACT.

Jemena Networks Executive General Manager, Shaun Reardon, said, “It’s clear that energy network businesses need to be ready for an influx of EVs. 

“Through this trial, we’re looking at how we can best work with customers to coordinate charging their vehicles at times when there’s more capacity in the grid.

“With more Australians buying electric vehicles, we’re keen to create a sustainable solution with communities that support that choice, without needing to build extra energy infrastructure, which in turn could increase electricity costs for customers.”

Leading EV charging infrastructure business JET Charge is the trial’s technology partner, responsible for providing and installing the smart chargers across all locations.

JET Charge Founder and CEO, Tim Washington, said, “The EV Grid trial demonstrates one of the key paradigms of our time: the convergence of transport and energy. 

“By harnessing the power of smart charging, we will work with our project partners to ensure that EVs offer a tangible benefit to the efficient operation of our electricity grid.”

The trial has been co-funded by ARENA under the Advancing Renewables Program.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said, “As we see the uptake of electric vehicles increase, it’s vital that we better understand the impacts of EV charging from a network perspective and manage the optimum time for consumers to charge their vehicles.”

Trial outcomes will be shared with electricity retailers, electric vehicle manufacturers, governments and other energy industry stakeholders. In total, 123 Victorian, 22 Tasmanian and 22 ACT households have had smart chargers installed to participate in the trial.

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