Investing in the Grid for the EV Future

Many electricity providers see EVs as a key part of future grid resiliency.

Concerns about electricity providers’ ability to power millions of EVs tend to ignore the fact that providers are actively planning, making investments and have time to prepare for 100% EV sales.

Do EVs pose a risk to grid reliability?

The belief that widespread EV charging will cause significant impacts to the reliability of the electric grid is unfounded.

EVs used just 6.1 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity in 2021, accounting for only 0.15% of the total national energy generation

While there will certainly be infrastructure upgrades needed to accommodate widespread EV use, electricity providers are already planning out grid enhancements for a changing market—as they always have.  

They have begun including EV projections in their integrated resource planning processes and, over the next 10 to 15 years, many electricity providers expect to see a sharp increase in demand caused by economic development activity and EV growth. Increasing power generation and deploying new dispatchable generation sources will be key to meeting the expected increase in electricity demand, and electricity providers are gearing up to meet the challenge.

Building on decades of experience adapting to evolving demands, in the future, many experts predict that electricity providers will use EVs as tools for bolstering grid reliability and resiliency through bidirectional charging, managed charging, and demand response.

⚡️Pro Tip!

Key to meeting power generation demand is maintaining existing zero-emitting generation and the expansion of renewable energy resources, which already account for 20% of all electricity production in the US. Some electricity providers offer programs for drivers to opt-in to renewable energy sources for EV charging.

How much more electricity do we need for 100% EV sales?

As drivers transition away from gasoline and toward electricity to power their vehicles, more power generation will be needed. Estimates suggest that an additional 15-27 TWh (0.3%-0.6% capacity per year) of annual new power generation will be needed between now and 2050. Past precedent suggests that this is more than achievable, given that nearly 100 TWh of generation has been added in a single year.

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Electricity providers have a history of innovating to meet the United States’ growing appetite for energy consumption. In the past, as more homes became reliant on refrigerators, air conditioning, and other energy intensive appliances, electricity providers built more energy generating capacity, invested in high-voltage transmission lines, and even explored enhanced grid technologies that could shift power use to off-peak hours. EVs are an extension of this trend, and electricity providers have a good track record of managing demand growth locally and nationally.

How are electricity providers preparing for EVs?

Power generation is only part of the conversation when preparing for 100% EVs. Electricity providers are also looking at ways to manage demand in real time, as well as accurately predict when and where increases in demand will occur. Electricity providers are in a unique position to educate customers about the best time to charge an EV that will reduce strain on the grid.

This is because demand is not constant, but rather consists of regular peaks throughout the day with high demand consistently taking place between 5:00 PM-8:00 PM.

As one strategy, utilities are already offering programs to manage charging, incentivizing customers to charge their EVs outside of peak demand periods. Today, roughly 80 percent of EV drivers charge their vehicles at home and most charging occurs at night, when grid demand and costs are the lowest. Managed charging programs can offer additional static or dynamic price signals to customers to encourage charging during periods when overall grid demand is lower and more renewable energy may be available. Programs like these help electricity providers  serve their customers’ needs, while also shifting load to times that are most beneficial to the grid.

ZETA members PG&E, Vistra, Southern California Edison, Con Edison, SRP, Duke Energy, and Xcel Energy detailed some of their efforts in ZETA’s 2023 policy brief “Powering the EV Market: How Electricity Providers are Planning for the Future.”

Powering the EV Market: How Electricity Providers are Planning for the Future
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About ZETA

National policies to support 100% electric vehicle sales.

The Zero Emission Transportation Association (ZETA) is a federal coalition focused on advocating for 100% EV sales. Enacting policies that drive EV adoption will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, secure American global EV manufacturing dominance, drastically improve public health, and significantly reduce carbon pollution.