My Electric Avenue is a three-year Ofgem-funded project that has been carrying out trials to discover the impact that charging clusters of electric vehicles (EVs) might have on local electricity networks at peak times.
As sales of plug-in cars continue to rise, and as EVs gain ever-larger battery capacities, the trial results show that collaborative action will be needed by the energy and automotive industries to support the growing demand for EV charging in some areas of the UK, and that some of the smart solutions that the industry is developing can help.
My Electric Avenue has been hosted by Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution and led by EA Technology. It has been funded through Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund, with in-kind contribution from key partners. The project has analysed the various kinds of low voltage networks in the UK and four types are expected to experience issues due to the uptake of EVs at differing penetration levels.
By recruiting clusters of neighbours around the country who drove Nissan LEAF electric cars for 18 months, the project teams aimed to mimic a future scenario where many people in an area choose to use a pure electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).
The results, which come at a time when sales of plug-in cars have increased by 716% over the past two years, show that across Britain 32% of low voltage (LV) feeders (312,000 circuits) will require intervention when 40% – 70% of customers have EVs, based on 3.5 kW (16 amp) charging. Susceptible networks are typically characterised by available capacity of less than 1.5 kW per customer.
Traditionally, these findings would mean the replacement of underground cables in the public highway, however My Electric Avenue has been trialling a lower cost solution to this in the form of ‘Esprit’. Esprit is an innovative piece of technology that can control the charging of EVs if the local electricity grid reaches a certain level of demand. By incorporating Esprit into networks, the project is the first real-life trial that has directly controlled domestic EV charging to prevent underground cables, overhead lines and substations being potentially overloaded.
Forecasts suggest that Esprit could save around £2.2 billion of reinforcement costs up to 2050. However, for this solution to work, car manufacturers and the energy industry will need to work together more closely.
My Electric Avenue is now coming to an end and it is disseminating its findings so that energy companies, car manufacturers and others can learn from the project.
My Electric Avenue Project Director, Dave Roberts from EA Technology, comments: “The automotive sector has well established and effective communication channels to discuss industry issues. However, historically there has not been much cross-sector communication between the automotive and energy industries. My Electric Avenue has brought these two sectors together and has started dialogue, and this needs to develop further as vehicle manufacturers announce plans for increasing numbers of higher performance plug-in vehicles.”
Stewart Reid, Head of Asset Management and Innovation at Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution adds: “The project has been invaluable in showing us what challenges we are likely to face in the near future as more and more customers adopt EVs. It’s also demonstrated that there is a solution which is capable of helping us overcome these challenges before they affect our customers. With new vehicles due to place even greater demands on our networks, we are conscious of the need for both ourselves and the automotive industry to share our learning, challenges and innovations with one another. We are excited at this prospect, which will allow the decarbonisation of our respective industries to continue at pace.”
Olivier Paturet, General Manager – Zero Emission Strategy, Nissan Europe said: “The all-electric Nissan LEAF is a pioneer in its own right and we’re delighted that it has played such a major role in My Electric Avenue’s ground-breaking research. Not only has My Electric Avenue provided us with a greater understanding of the impacts of electric vehicle charging on local grids, but it has also given us a clear vision of what the streets of the future may look like.
“EV sales are increasing at a phenomenal rate in the UK and wider Europe and it’s vital that automakers continue to work closely with the energy industry to progress the EV movement. Nissan is already heavily involved in the development of ‘smart grid’ technologies that will allow EV drivers to proactively manage their electricity use at home and we will be making further announcements on this during the coming months.”
There has been a wide variety of learning outcomes from My Electric Avenue, ranging from its successful customer engagement approach to assessing EV drivers’ acceptability of having their charging externally controlled. All the learning is published on the project’s website.
My Electric Avenue presented the results from the project, and facilitated a discussion about how the UK can deal with this issue going forward, at a ‘Finale’ event in partnership with the event’s host, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, in London on 3 December 2015.
For the latest and final My Electric Avenue project reports, click here.
Picture: My Electric Avenue participants in Marlow
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!