Wall mounted car charging unit to supply power to electric vehicles with copy space on house wall
FortisAlberta has just launched an electric vehicle smart-charging pilot program in rural Alberta to understand what impact EV adoption will have on the province’s electrical grid.

The utility is seeking participants from rural communities in Alberta to take part in a pilot that will monitor the charging habits of 600 residential EV owners

FortisAlberta is running an electric vehicle smart-charging pilot program in rural Alberta to understand what impact EV adoption will have on the province’s electrical grid.

The Calgary-headquartered utility is looking for 600 residential EV owners across its service areas in central and southern Alberta to participate in the pilot. According to data from the Alberta Ministry of Transportation, there are currently more than 5,600 EVs registered in the province. That number could grow to as many as 1.5 million EVs by 2035, says the Alberta Electric System Operator.

“The goal of this pilot is to identify how the grid, as currently designed and resourced, may or may not support the increased loads associated with residential EV charging,” says a spokesperson for FortisAlberta in an email statement to Electric Autonomy.

“The insights garnered will inform how the existing grid may be further optimized to address new demands and clarify what new investments may be required to ensure power quality and reliability of distribution service.”

The smart charging pilot is the first to take place in rural Alberta. It is important for FortisAlberta to conduct the pilot in order to learn about charging in these lesser-studied areas in which the utility operates, says the spokesperson.

“We serve 240 communities outside of the urban centres. We deliver safe and reliable electricity service to more than 60 per cent of Alberta’s total electricity distribution network. That’s electricity to more than half a million residential, farm and business customers,” says the spokesperson.

Two-phased program

FortisAlberta will monitor participants’ charging habits by registering through Optiwatt, a dedicated phone app the utility is collaborating with.

The EV smart-changing pilot started earlier this month. It will run until the end of December.

There are two phases to the pilot. The first phase involves collecting data on how and when EV owners charge their vehicles.

“This will allow FortisAlberta to better understand where and when EV charging is placing new demands on the distribution system,” says the spokesperson.

For the second phase, FortisAlberta will experiment with ways to shift customers charging times through incentives in order to better manage the load associated with EV charging.

Through the app, participants can set their desired EV state of charge. The app is capable of postponing charging at times when the grid is under high stress while still making an effort to reach the participants desired targets. Though at any time, participants can override the app.

“The data collected will allow FortisAlberta to assess whether charging EVs at times other than during peak residential load periods would ultimately allow existing distribution assets to be further leveraged before new investments are made,” says the spokesperson.

Enrolling in the program

To take part in the pilot, participants must drive a battery electric car, have access to home charging, be a FortisAlberta customer and agree to connect their EV to the Optiwatt app.

FortisAlberta says it sees the pilot as an important opportunity to help educate customers about the grid and how their EVs interact with the system.

“The pilot will allow customers to take an active role in the energy transition and assist them in making informed choices as to how and when to consume energy more efficiently,” says the spokesperson.

Participants that complete the pilot will receive $150. Additional incentives including gift cards are available throughout the course of the pilot through the Optiwatt app.

More details on how to participate in the smart charging pilot program can be found here.

1 comment
  1. Well, much as it may look like the study is a “necessary” step in the evolution of the electricity grid, many of us will remain skeptical as to why any government money need be spent on such a study at all. The impact on the grid will not be any greater than the adoption of any other electrical appliance has meant in the past. But no one ever felt it necessary to launch a study on the use of cell phone chargers on the electricity grid, even though the percentage of the population who owned them went from 3% to 95% in just a decade. Ownership of tablet computers went from 3% to 53% of the population in only 8 years. But no one needed a study to of their impact on the grid. Ownership of electric washing machines in private homes went from 0 % to 95% in about one decade. But no study on the impact on the grid was needed. Utility operators promoted the use of electricity for many new purposes from 1910 up until the 1970-80s when energy conservation came to be important. Those who understand this history can be forgiven for being skeptical when they hear of a new “study” – grids have always responded to new growth and demand in the past, why would there be any difference in the future? Especially when you consider that there are now a greater variety of clean and cheap energy sources for electricity than there ever have been in the past. So why would anyone even see the need to debate whether the grid can respond to the needs? It really looks like money spent on a study meant to delay the day we actually take action and spend money on a real solution, to give more ammunition to those who want to prevent any change from happening.

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