The federal government is keen to integrate battery electric vehicles into the electricity grid as part of its newly released EV strategy, but is also wary of shaping user behaviour and technology to avoid demand blowouts. 

Household smart charging was among four key infrastructure streams identified as eligible for funding this week through the new $250 million Future Fuels Fund.

Roughly 50,000 households are forecast to benefit from initial co-investment towards smart charging set ups, allowing for better-managed charging schedules and vehicle-to-grid storage. 

Shaping user behaviour is also part of the plan, with the government exploring “network tariff reform” to encourage charging behaviour that supports optimal grid operation.

By leveraging the flexibility offered by EVs, through smart charging infrastructure and working with energy market bodies, the government estimates it can save $224 million in electricity network upgrade costs.

What’s driving the government?

The government’s Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy assumes that around 75 per cent of EV charging will occur at home, with the other 25 per cent occurring at work or public chargers, based on research from 2018.

“This large proportion of at-home charging means the government must consider how this behaviour may impact the grid, including the impact on those who do not own an EV,” the strategy said. 

“For example, at a local level, if multiple EVs are charging at the same time in close proximity (in the same apartment complex or street), increased demand on the local grid may increase the risk of overloading the network.”

Applying lessons from Australia’s rooftop solar uptake, the plan proposes the use of bidirectional electric vehicle chargers, enabling electric vehicle-to-grid capability.

Smart charging technology also allows for coordination with what is happening on the electricity grid at any given time, allowing not just for reducing flow in times of high demand, but also taking advantage of reduced demand to achieve better rates or soak up excess renewable generation.

“Smart charging technology and pricing incentives can help address the emerging challenges of electric vehicle integration,” the strategy said.

First steps 

In conjunction with state governments and energy ministers, the government intends to explore three initial priority areas: 

  • network tariff reform to identify additional opportunities to encourage charging behaviour and infrastructure rollout 
  • incentivising the use of smart chargers in households, including assessing regulatory options 
  • tasking the energy market bodies to partner with governments on grid integration matters

Through the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources a study is also being conducted to explore different ways of encouraging motorists to charge at periods of low demand.

Separately it is also working on creating modelling to better understand the impact of increased EV ownership on electricity grids and help create a roadmap to rollout vital EV infrastructure.

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