Communication through the night

Moritz Fehlow, Project Manager in Business Development at eeMobility, on the peculiarities of the German energy supply, the difficult path towards smart grids and the advantages they bring, not only for electromobility.

Date:

31.03.2021

Reading time:

3 min

Text:

eeMobility GmbH

Photo:

eeMobility GmbH

Moritz, soon there will be many more electric cars charging in Germany every day than before due to the electric car boom. Do you expect problems due to the increase in charging?

No. The capacity of the energy supply is still far from being exhausted by electromobility. In addition, simulations show that with grid-optimized charging, as we are enabling, we can make nationwide electromobility possible even without grid expansion. Nevertheless, we will of course need an intelligent power grid in the future. After all, every electric vehicle is not just a rigid consumer, but also a flexible load or even an energy storage device. We can only fully exploit the energy opportunities that this opens up with an intelligent power grid. 

What is a smart grid? 

A smart grid enables more accurate communication between the grid operator, the generator and the consumer. Right now, when the power grid is overloaded, a transformer house somewhere blows up. Where exactly? You don't know at first. The grid operator has to look for it. With an intelligent power grid, this is no longer the case thanks to intelligent metering systems. Smart meter gateways are the interface for improved communication. However, their distribution in Germany still leaves a lot to be desired.

Why is this so? In Sweden, Spain or the Netherlands, these smart metering systems are already fully implemented in some cases. In 2018, 28 million smart metering points had already been installed in Spain. In Germany, not a single smart metering point was in use at that time.

There are several reasons for this. On the one hand, the network operators are taking advantage of the leeway for the timeframe of implementation within the legal requirements. In addition, we have the special situation in Germany that there are over 800 network operators instead of a few large players. This small-scale nature inevitably means that the expansion is less coordinated.  

However, in Germany we are not "only" dealing with a rollout of smart electricity meters for digital remote reading. We are talking here about smart metering systems, consisting of an electricity meter (modern metering device) and a smart meter gateway. The latter serves as a highly secure communication interface that can transmit more than just meter readings. It is also used to transmit network status data, regulate decentralized generation plants and, in the future, control charging processes for electric cars. On a large scale, this regulation and control of prosumers is not to be regarded as entirely uncritical. Taken on its own, the photovoltaic system on the neighbor's carport is a negligible instance in the large electricity landscape. Taken together, however, all these systems have the potential to collapse the entire European interconnected grid through manipulation. (As an aside, they allow electricity suppliers, such as eeMobility, to offer variable electricity supply, including ¼ hour billing).

What can accelerate the intelligent expansion and conversion of the power grid in Germany?

Two factors will play a special role here. Firstly, network operators must now meet quotas with regard to the conversion from conventional meters to smart metering systems. Secondly, since 2020, the Metering Point Operation Act provides for mandatory installation for end consumers who consume more than 6,000 kWh per year. A single-family house occupied by 4 people consumes approx. 4,000 kWh per year. If there is still an electric car in the garage for charging in the future, this family will not be able to avoid a conversion. By 2032, all electricity consumers in Germany are to be equipped with smart meter gateways, regardless of the amount of electricity they consume each year. By then at the latest, the smart grid will be a reality. 

What other benefits does a smart grid have?

In a smart grid, energy consumption becomes much more transparent and energy more mobile. For example, we can already record and balance consumption on a quarter-hourly basis.

Quarter sharp?

This means that a meter is automatically read every 15 minutes. On this basis, customers could now be offered tariffs that reward electricity use outside of peak consumption times. With our smart charging solutions, for example, we make it possible to shift charging solutions to precisely those periods when the grid is not at capacity.

Speak into the night?

Yes. This then also means that we can fundamentally increase the consumption of renewable energies. Wind turbines that now have to be switched off or throttled back at night because there are not enough consumers for the electricity could in future be used to charge our electric vehicles, which are seldom moved at that time but instead are left in the garage to recharge. Incidentally, electricity consumption can also be optimized during the day. Here we have fluctuating generation due to PV, among other things, to which a flexible consumer can react accordingly. 

In such an intelligent power grid, could electric vehicles also become power suppliers when they are not in motion and feed energy back into the grid?

Technically, this is possible. Especially since a car battery does not exactly store little energy. Fully charged, the energy is sufficient to supply a four-person household with electricity for about a week. The possibility of using electric vehicles as energy suppliers would further increase the efficiency of our power supply and be a stabilizing element in the complete switch to renewable energies. However, widespread application is still a long way off. 

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