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What we heard: NRCan’s request for information on grid readiness for electric vehicles


NRCan’s Office of Energy Research and Development (OERD) issued a Request for Information (RFI) (Nov 2021 – Jan 2022) to identify challenges and opportunities for the electricity sector when it comes to electric vehicles, including anticipated disproportionate impacts, and requirements to enable accelerated adoption. The questions asked were:

  • What are the implications of accelerated targets for requiring the sale of all new vehicles be zero-emission on the electricity grid? What challenges do they pose to the electricity system or electricity sector generally, what opportunities do they present?
  • Do you anticipate disproportionate impacts of challenges or opportunities for some electricity customer demographics more than others?
  • How can the Federal government support electricity sector efforts to enable adoption of EVs at an accelerated rate?

Out of 44 respondents, most responses came from utilities (36%), technology industries (25%), regulators (7%), and industry associations (7%). Canadian responses were received from nine Provinces and one Territory (YK), with most responses from Ontario (17), Alberta (7), and Quebec (4).

Overall, respondents underscored the importance of investing in, and ultimately ensuring Grid Readiness to support efforts for accelerated EV adoption. Submissions identified four themes and areas for government support.

What do we mean by grid readiness for ZEVs?

A large part of preparing the grid for ZEVs is ensuring capability to support vehicle-grid integration. Electric Vehicle-Grid Integration (VGI) can be categorized into three main types, listed here in order of increasing technical complexity and decreasing commercial readiness:

  1. Passive V1G: A very simple form of integration, this involves unidirectional power flow (for charging EV batteries only), with no load control by the utility. Passive V1G is also known as “unmanaged” or “dumb” charging. Although simple to implement at first, in practice, and with scale-up, grid congestion quickly becomes a concern, as the cumulative load growth approaches limits that the feeders, transformers, and protection equipment were likely not originally designed for, especially in older neighborhoods or rural contexts. Left unchecked, passive V1G is likely to lead to inefficient investments in new grid infrastructure to manage the significant load growth resulting from high ZEV adoption.
  2. Active V1G (or V1G+): This type of integration involves unidirectional power flow (for charging EV batteries only), with communications connectivity to allow load control, and is also known as “managed” or “smart” charging. This form of Vehicle Grid Integration (VGI) can be used to mitigate grid congestion by responding to load control signals either directly between the utility and charging unit, through an aggregator, or via another third party which could include the vehicle manufacturer, or EV Supply Equipment (EVSE, or charger in the unidirectional case). Standardization around capabilities, and communications for control of those capabilities, is still emerging; much of this is currently bespoke and often vendor-specific currently.
  3. V2X: Standing for “Vehicle-to-Everything”, this type of integration implies bidirectional power flows, capable of charging and discharging energy to or from the vehicle battery, allowing it to supply power into the grid (V2G), vehicle (V2V), home (V2H), or building (V2B). Even more so than Active V1G, V2X remains an emerging technology, with innovation needs related to standardization and integration with existing systems, markets, regulations, and practices, before it can be considered ready for mass deployment and adoption.

Themes from the RFI

The following sections summarize the four themes from the RFI responses.

Theme 1: Need for coordinated approaches and knowledge sharing

Respondents said that it is important to ensure coordinated codes, standards, and policies are in place. This encourages interoperability and helps with building out required infrastructure and capabilities. Respondents also spoke about the value of data and knowledge sharing. The shared data will allow system stakeholders to better predict loads and manage EV infrastructure demands as well as ensure interoperability across the grid.

Respondents indicated several areas that could benefit from government action and support, including:

  • Support for developing and adopting modern codes and standards.
  • Establishing open-innovation approaches to facilitate interoperability and increase knowledge dissemination.
  • Conduct impact studies to understand critical infrastructure needs.

Theme 2: Concerns about infrastructure readiness and availability

Respondents said that the current grid infrastructure will be unable to meet higher loads. This is a concern for both electricity grid customers and distribution utilities as they anticipate increasing investment needs in grid readiness measures in order to reliably meet the increase in EV-related load.

Respondents indicated several areas that could benefit from government action and support, including:

  • Support utilities and grid operators to develop new tools for meeting infrastructure needs.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the role that Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) plays in ensuring Grid Readiness.
  • Create programming for necessary infrastructure investments (e.g., electrical panels, service equipment).
  • Support appropriate technical and market policies development through initiatives such as programming to facilitate Vehicle to Grid (V2G) transactional capabilities while ensuring safety and grid reliability.

Theme 3: Importance of innovation in regulatory frameworks and rate designs

Respondents highlighted concerns that the cost of accelerated EV adoption will be borne by the end consumer through increased rates. It is important to develop supporting mechanisms for new market development at the distribution level.

Respondents indicated several areas that could benefit from government action and support, including:

  • Support innovative rate designs.
  • Support regulatory filings to enable Canada’s innovation ecosystem and the scaling and deployment of Grid Readiness technology.
  • Support activities to verify and validate solutions within risk-controlled environments.

Theme 4: Risks of disproportionate impacts

Most respondents raised concerns of uneven impacts on certain consumers. These can stem from rate design, increased prices, lack of access, stranded assets, and energy poverty. Consumers at increased risk include low-income consumers, Indigenous communities, those unable to afford ZEVs, those with aged electrical infrastructure, those unable to connect to the grid, residents of multi-unit residential buildings, some rural communities, and residents of Northern and remote communities.

Respondents indicated that government action and support in R&D in community-centered program design and technological innovation was needed in this area.

RFI Timeline

Initial engagement and question design took place from November 2021 to December 2021. The RFI was posted and accepted responses from December 2021 to early January 2022. Response analysis took place during the second half of January 2022.

This RFI did not represent a formal consultation for a current or future funding opportunity, and there was no requirement from NRCan to respond to the submissions.

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