Renewable Energy

The biggest challenge of electric driving solved with a Duck Curve?

Globally, by 2023, there will be 140-240 million electric vehicles on the road. There are more than 100.000 public charging stations across the Dutch country, and more are needed every day. The transition from driving on fossil fuels to electric vehicles is in full swing. Everything related to electric driving is becoming more intelligent. Charging stations help you save money, electricity companies are upgrading their infrastructure and the energy grid, even TotalEnergies has sold their gas stations in the Netherlands. All of this to enable the transition from fossil fuels to greener fuels. 🌱

Let’s take a look at the biggest challenge for green energy: the Duck curve.

Your electric car is (EV), essentially, just a big battery on wheels. When people get home at 6 p.m., they all plug in their car to let it charge. However, this is the busiest time for the electric grid. People are cooking using electric stoves, lights turn on as it gets dark, houses are being warmed, and the electric car is on the rise. In other words, the pressure on the electricity grid is highest around this time. Letting your car charge during these hours will only increase the stress on the electricity grid.

However, there is a solution. Meet the term of the electric future: Vehicle-To-Grid (V2G). This is a technology that enables energy to be pushed back to the power grid from the battery of an electric car.

But first, what is the exact problem?


The Duck Curve

Historically, the power consumption of Dutch households is reasonably predictable. We get up, have our breakfast with hagelslag, go to work and in the evening we sit on the sofa watching TV. For our grid managers, this is fantastic! A fixed and predictable pattern, with a peak in the morning and the evening with a flat line back in between. What does that do? This allows grid managers to generate energy all day, because people need it all day round.

However, with the green revolution, this is changing. From the traditional Camel Curve, the graph slowly turns into the Duck Curve. Solar energy can only be generated throughout the day, when the sun is shining (makes sense). Currently, this energy is difficult to store and is often used right away. Therefore, a valley develops in the curve during the day when solar energy is available. This is what experts call the Duck Curve.

Image source.

As we rely increasingly more on renewable energy sources, we can see that the belly of the duck deepens. The ramp (the increase in demand between 14.00 and 18.00) has increased tremendously. This means that grid managers have a huge challenge in managing this, making the energy transition more difficult. Simply put, the thousands of wind and solar power plants are changing the way our power grid works.

In other words, there is a paradox in the Dutch energy market: the demand for electricity decreases during the day, while the supply also increases.


How it works: From one-way traffic to two-way traffic

Fear not, there are solutions in place: the quiet revolution of the renewable engineering world: V2G.

V2G is charging a vehicle in both directions. Therefore, grid operators can use BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) as extra storage for generated power. The battery of the car then becomes a part of the electricity grid. For instance, while the sun is shining and the cars are not being used, they can store excess energy. Then, when the peaks of energy usage occur – around 7:00 and 18.00, they can bring energy back into the grid for immediate use.

This image illustrates it well. Without V2G technology, the two peaks are clearly visible. Due to the fact cars are charged right away when people get home, the peak in the evening increases. However, through smart-charging solutions, EVs are able to charge when it is most convenient for the grid. Additionally, they can provide energy when it’s most needed: during the peaks. Therefore, the height of the spikes in energy use get smaller and the electric grid becomes more stable.

Using V2G, grid operators can strategically store energy for when it is most demanded.


What are the benefits?

The most important benefits of the V2G technology are three-fold.

  1. It reduces your electricity bill. Through smart-charging (charging your EV when the electricity price is lowest), you can save a significant amount on your yearly electricity bill.
  2. Improves grid stability. V2G can help to balance the grid by providing additional electricity during periods of high demand, reducing the stress on traditional power plants.
  3. Increased use of renewable energy. V2G solves two problems here. Firstly, an increase in the number of EVs connected to the grid will increase energy storage capacity. Secondly, by storing excess renewable energy and supplying it back to the grid when it’s needed, using energy from renewable sources becomes easier and more efficient.

By relying on sustainably generated energy, such as solar or wind energy, stored in BEV battery packs, we become less dependent on coal power stations that cause more pollution and higher energy prices during peak hours. Bad news for the power plants, but good news for the planet.

Charging an electric vehicle.


Alright, sounds good! When is Vehicle-To-Grid available in the Netherlands?

Unfortunately, V2G remains an experiment in the Netherlands until further notice. Even though the development is crucial for sunny California, a lot of developments need to be made to make it work in our tiny, rainy country. Challenges are abundant for this new technology. Firstly, only very few cars that are currently produced incorporate V2G technology. Secondly, charging stations and wall boxes need to have the ability to return power to the grid. Another infrastructure problem to be resolved. Lastly, fears exist that V2G will degrade EV battery life. Although science is still inconclusive, this is a valid concern to be researched in future years. For these reasons, it will take a while before V2G is properly implemented across the country.


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