The shift to reduced carbon power will increase demand for electricity just as the grid will be changing from centralized power to distributed smaller sources of renewable energy for offshore wind and even hydropower from Canada.
Proponents say it makes economic sense to keep power generation local. It creates jobs and keeps more money flowing in a state. A fact brought up the Rhode Island AFL-CIO when it endorsed a key climate bill advancing in the General Assembly.
But is the grid ready? That’s the question New England governors asked ISO New England, the operator of the regional grid, in October when they demanded better planning to ensure “reliability and resiliency” in the power system to meet the changes in electricity use and handle the influx of renewable energy.
National Grid is installing 278 fast-charging ports across Rhode Island. The massive utility is also conducting a three-year study, called SmartCharge Rhode Island, of hundreds of current EV owners to understand charging habits and determine if incentives can prompt EV owners to help manage the grid by charging during off-peak hours.
Hank Webster, Rhode Island director and staff attorney for the Acadia Center, agrees with the strategy.
“The key to integrating EV charging into the grid in the near- and long-term is to incentivize off-peak charging to the fullest extent possible,” he said.
This strategy includes the use of battery storage and getting drivers to establish new habits such as charging at home when demand for power is low. So far, the pilot programs in Rhode Island and other state have shown that pricing incentives for charging during off-peak hours are working.
National Grid and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation are testing the concept of battery storage to supplant power from the grid during peak hours with a charging station plus battery-storage systems at park-and-ride lots in Warwick and Hopkinton.
“So by having battery storage that absorb excess energy at low-demand times and discharge it during high-demand times, we can better utilize all of that great clean, renewable energy and avoid calling upon unnecessary fossil power generation,” Webster said.
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