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LO3 Energy and eMotorWerks Combine EVs with Renewable Microgrids


lo3 energy emotorwerks partnership

LO3 Energy and eMotorWerks are joining forces on a new project that would allow electric vehicles (EVs) to connect to energy microgrids and utilities to use EVs as a collective energy resource during times of peak energy demand. This partnership comes at a time when utilities are increasingly wondering how they can use EVs as a new resource to meet energy needs.

Both LO3 Energy and eMotorWerks are already working with utilities and consumers in their respective fields. LO3 Energy is a Brooklyn-based startup that uses smart meters and blockchains to create energy microgrids in which homeowners and businesses can buy and sell locally-produced clean energy directly from neighbors.

LO3 uses smart meters to measure the energy production and blockchains, an online decentralized ledger originally designed for Bitcoin that uses private computers to verify transactions, to facilitate the transactions. Finally, all actual electricity is transmitted through the existing utility infrastructure.

LO3 Energy says their transaction platform, which it calls Exergy, can be used for peer-to-peer transactions, purchasing unused EV storage, and as a tool for system operators to help match electricity use and demand.

eMotorWerks is an EV charging infrastructure company that manufactures both charging equipment for EV owners as well as Juicenet, a virtual platform that allows EV owners to remotely monitor and schedule their charging at lowest-price times (at night, for example) and utilities to manage EV charging demand, if the EV owner is enrolled in a utility program.

By combining forces, the program allows EV owners to trade stored energy with a local microgrid. The companies see the project as one piece of a larger portfolio for utilities that allows customers to choose when and what type of energy they want to consume. By tapping into EV energy storage during peak demand or shifting EV charging to non-peak times, it also allows utilities to leverage participating EVs as resources to better meet energy needs.

As Lawrence Orsini, CEO of LO3 Energy, put it:

“EV charging adds another option to efficiently match local energy supply and demand, and such project’s results could open the door to more transactions among other microgrid participants and EV drivers.”

EVs Are Already an Energy Resource

As mentioned, utilities are already trying to figure out how to most intelligently incorporate EV charging into their list of resources.

While EVs now are a small drop in the large automotive bucket, experts expect that to change quickly. In their 2018 Electric Vehicle Outlook, Bloomberg estimates that as prices continue to drop, EVs will jump from just 1.1 million in 2017 to 30 million in 2030, and 60 million by 2040 – equivalent to 55% of all new car sales and 33% of all existing vehicles.

Photo source: Graph from Solar Tribune, Data from Bloomberg

With utilities providing the fuel for all these vehicles, they’re planning for this future now. Across the U.S., utilities are testing different incentive programs and rate structures that offer EV drivers lower rates for charging at off-peak times. These rates ensure that EVs are as cost-effective as possible for customers, but also folded into utilities’ energy mix intelligently.

In August 2018, for example, two large Michigan utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, proposed a joint $20.5 million investment in EV infrastructure and a pilot program that offers incentives for EV owners who charge at night during off-peak hours, between 11PM and 6AM. It’s not just a one-way street though. Utilities are also seeing EVs as a demand response resource, wherein they can remotely or automatically turn off or delay charging during times of peak demand. Consumers Energy predicts a give-and-take relationship between EVs and utilities. As spokesperson Katelyn Carey noted:

“In addition to a lower daily rate, electric and autonomous vehicles can be equipped to choose to be interrupted during charging and save even more on the days when energy use is expected to be extremely high thereby allowing customers to receive a bill credit.”

eMotorWerks is already in the market of EVs as a demand response resource. In September 2018, it actually collected a group of 10,000 connected EVs, representing 30 megawatts of capacity, and is now participating in California’s day-ahead energy markets. In other words, eMotorWerks has created a ‘virtual’ power plant, but instead of selling electricity to utilities, eMotorWerks is actually paid when they shed demand, by remotely delaying charging for a certain number of participating EVs.

It’s all part of California’s proxy demand resource market, wherein companies are compensated for decreasing electricity demand. EV drivers are compensated based on their own flexibility and can opt out of any demand response event if they choose.

In September, Xcel Energy also chose eMotorWerks for their own EV demand response program. eMotorWerks will provide their JuiceBox Pro 40 chargers to 100 participating EV drivers as part of a two-year pilot program in Minnesota.

Xcel will own the chargers and monitor and control them with eMotorWerk’s Juicenet platform. The chargers will automatically respond to grid conditions, shedding demand during peak times.

LO3 Energy Already Working on Solar Microgrid in Brooklyn

While eMotorWerks is working with utilities to incorporate EVs as grid resources, LO3 Energy is working on peer-to-peer microgrids, wherein a homeowner can buy local, renewable energy from a neighbor next door.

LO3’s pilot project, Brooklyn Microgrid, began in 2017 and revolves around their Exergy platform and an online marketplace to allow residential consumers, businesses, energy companies, and community solar to both produce and consume locally-sourced, clean energy. LO3 Energy plans to launch a ‘simulated’ program in early 2019, before launching the real-world version.

While we use the term microgrid, in reality LO3 Energy’s marketplace is a ‘virtual’ microgrid. All electricity is still transmitted via the local utility’s existing grid and participants must still pay the utility for upkeep of the grid.

While both companies have created and are using vastly different platforms, with one focused on EV chargers and the other on microgrids transactions, they’re actually working towards similar goals. Both see a near-future in which electricity generation and storage is distributed across households and businesses, and an energy industry where we can intelligently use EVs and renewable energy to meet our energy needs.

Image Source: CC license via Flickr

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