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Utility will pay customers to install electric vehicle smart chargers as it moves to incorporate visibility, more capacity and lower costs into the province’s grid

Nova Scotia Power is launching an electric vehicle smart-charging pilot program for household customers with the promise that it will put participants in the green in more ways than one. In return, for two years, the utility gets full control of the charger.

For the tidy profit of $150, approximately 100 homeowners across Nova Scotia can be part of the province’s first smart-charging initiative — a program that brings together renewable energy generation, EV charging and integrated monitoring technology.

“We hear time and again how electric vehicle owners wished they could charge up their EV when the wind is blowing or when the sun is shining with clean, carbon-free electrons,” says Jérémie Bernardin, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Atlantic Canada. “The data collected from smart-grid pilot programs like these have the potential to set the stage for those exact ideas.”

“The objective of the program is to demonstrate the benefits that distributed energy sources can offer the utility and the customers”

Sanjeev Pushkarna, Senior Program Manager, Smart Grid Nova Scotia

EV owners compensated

The Smart Grid Nova Scotia program is one of several pilots that have been rolled out across Canada to test how EV charging may be leveraged to encourage more efficient energy consumption and clean energy generation. What makes it unique is that it also compensates EV owners for their valuable data.

“The objective of the program really is to demonstrate the benefits that distributed energy sources can offer the utility and the customers,” says Sanjeev Pushkarna, senior program manager of Smart Grid Nova Scotia in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada.

“Our role is to support our customers in the way they would like to use energy. We’ve surveyed our customers and they say they are interested in electric vehicle charging and they say they are interested in batteries, so that’s one thing we are trying to do: make these technologies more accessible.”

The program works in two stages. To start, customers pay $350 for the purchase and installation of a ChargePoint Home Flex EV smart charging system. Next, they have the option to enrol in a two-year pilot, during which Nova Scotia Power controls when the EV is charged, with the guarantee that the vehicle will always be fully powered in the morning. In exchange for pilot participation, the homeowner will get a $500 incentive, meaning they are ultimately paid $150 on top of getting the charger.

Lessons for the utility

The pilot “enables the utility to see how much more renewable energy can be integrated onto our electrical grid by managing when electricity is used up or not, and could synchronize itself with the sun and wind patterns,” says a Nova Scotia Power press release.

In the utility’s funding proposal submitted to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, which was approved in May, it discussed other arms of its smart-grid program: the installation of a 2-megawatt rooftop solar garden in the community of Amherst; onsite solar panel and battery storage at up to four commercial locations; up to 150 energy storage batteries in homes and businesses, and 20 vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging points.

The goal of adding energy storage and green generation capabilities to smart EV charging is to offset the increased consumption demand and actually lower overall energy costs. Battery storage units will add to savings by powering homes during peak times.

“Our hope is that all of these technologies will help support our transition to cleaner energy,” says Pushkarna. “We’ve got some ambitious goals and have made a lot of progress to date. We have plans to be upwards of 60 per cent non-emitting by 2022, but we don’t want to stop there. These technologies will help us to continue to integrate additional renewable energy into the system.”

Grid of the future

Nova Scotia Power’s plan, while somewhat experimental, brings to life the broad elements of a smart grid and previews what grids will look like in the future, says Pushkarna. By demonstrating the benefits of more proven load management strategies like visible EV charging (i.e., chargers are networked and can be monitored), battery storage and renewable generation, and facilitating crucial data gathering for technologies like V2G that could lead to more widespread adoption, the utility is building a case to bring to regulators about why and how the grid of tomorrow should be optimized and adapted today.

“We are very excited about this smart-grid pilot,” says Bernardin. “[This] is the type of innovation needed to ensure our utilities are modernizing and adapting to the transformation of our transportation sector and the need to reduce the carbon intensity of our grid.”