You drive home and plug in your electric car, telling an app how many miles you need the next day. As you eat dinner, relax and sleep, your energy supplier takes control of your battery, using it to buy power when it’s cheap, selling it back later when high demand pushes prices up. The company offers national and local power grids services from your battery, making more money that it will later split with you, perhaps as “free miles” for your car. This sounds like a far-off vision of the future. But the scenario will be reality next year for British households able to afford a new Nissan Leaf electric car and willing to allow energy firm Ovo to fit a special charger in their home. “Electric vehicles, like all vehicles, are an under-utilised asset: cars are parked 92% of the time, doing nothing. So why not make some use of it, to allow us to deploy renewables on the grid, and to allow the owner of the car to benefit somehow?” It is not just medium-sized challenger companies like Ovo eyeing this emerging opportunity. Big-six firm E.ON launched a tariff last week targeting owners of electric cars, offering electricity at night – when most of the UK’s 100,000 plug-in cars are charged and when energy demand is usually at its lowest – at prices a third cheaper than in the daytime. This switch, from individuals potentially giving back power to their supplier, as well as taking it, marks the beginning of a whole new relationship between energy company and citizen. On the one hand, cheaper solar and energy storage at home could, as one researcher at Imperial College recently put it, “bleed revenues from the utilities sector”. “Our relationship with the grid will become quite different, from being utterly dependent on the grid for power, people may become a bit more interdependent, giving or taking,” said Dale Vince, founder of green electricity firm Ecotricity. Robert Llewellyn, the actor and writer, knows all about that changing relationship. An advocate for electric cars and renewable energy, he has had a battery-powered car and solar power for seven years, and the solar panels were upgraded this year. “It’s changed my relationship with my energy supplier – I give them much less money. Since May, I’ve been around 85% powered by solar,” said Llewellyn, best known for playing mechanoid Kryten in Red Dwarf. “My one house makes no difference, but if there were 5m homes with [solar and electric cars], it would really help the national grid and reduce the costs of generating power,” he said, referring to the £3bn annual cost to consumers of running the UK’s energy networks.
Guardian/Observer 7th Oct 2017 read more »