October 4, 2023

By Nadia Lopez | Bloomberg

PG&E Corp. Chief Government Officer Patti Poppe has an unconventional thought for California’s fragile energy grid as climate-related disasters, wildfires and warmth waves additional pressure it. She envisions a future the place electrical autos come to the rescue, feeding extra energy again throughout peak demand to stave off blackouts.

To attain this, she’ll want the auto trade’s assist to pioneer a know-how that has but to be scaled up.

RELATED: PG&E faces questions amid wildfire prevention technique shift from tree trimming to grid tech

PG&E, California’s largest utility, is pushing Normal Motors Co. to broaden on a pilot program from final yr and set up bi-directional charging software program throughout its present fleet of electrical autos. In the meantime, Ford Motor Co. has been selling its mighty F-150 Lightning electrical truck as a backup energy supply on wheels, able to re-energizing houses throughout an outage, and Tesla Inc. has plans to introduce two-way charging in its fashions within the coming years.

“We see nice potential,” Poppe mentioned in an interview. “The grid wants these electrical autos. We have to make it out there and it may be an enormous useful resource.”

Known as “automobile to grid,” two-way charging works by sending energy to the grid from an electrical automobile’s battery whereas the automotive is parked and plugged in. Although promising, the know-how stays in its nascent levels and comes with vital prices, which has partly stalled its widespread adoption.

The PG&E grid has confronted a barrage of challenges from excessive climate. An unprecedented collection of drenching atmospheric rivers this previous winter led to extended outages that left residents and metropolis officers pissed off. The utility has plans to speculate billions of {dollars} to fortify its grid towards wilder climate. To mitigate one other main threat — wildfires — PG&E can also be resorting to deliberate energy outages in excessive fire-risk zones, to stop its energy strains from sparking blazes.

Learn Extra: Tesla’s Megapack Batteries Are Serving to Remake the Energy Grid

Poppe says these EVs can play a major function in contributing to grid stability, significantly during times of excessive power demand and solar energy shortages. California, already residence to greater than a 3rd of all registered electrical autos within the US, is primed for additional progress because the state mandates that each one new autos offered should be electrical or plug-in hybrids by 2035.

In PG&E’s service space alone, which spans from Northern California to the Central Valley, Poppe mentioned there are sufficient electrical autos on the street to return roughly 9,000 megawatts of energy to the grid — almost the equal of 5 Diablo Canyon Nuclear Energy Vegetation.

With bidirectional charging, drivers can make the most of California’s plentiful photo voltaic power in the course of the day to cost their automobiles, subsequently returning energy to the grid throughout essential night durations when demand surges — particularly throughout summer season warmth waves when air conditioners are working full blast, functioning as an emergency backup energy supply.

Utilities might want to supply drivers incentives, equivalent to paying them for the kilowatt hours they contribute. One research estimates ratepayers may save as a lot as $1 billion a yr from utilizing the know-how.