ENMAX launches electric fleet, battery storage and charging behaviour pilots
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Utilities & Grids
Sep 24, 2021
Emma Jarratt

Alberta’s utility wants to be a pioneer in a pivotal decade ahead that will see the company adopt a sustainable, low carbon and low emission philosophy in one of Canada’s most heavy emitting provinces

A mock up rendering of ENMAX’s new electric truck. Photo: ENMAX.

An Alberta utility says it wants to be a pioneer in adopting a sustainable, low-carbon and low-emission philosophy in one of Canada’s most heavy emitting provinces

Enmax is moving ahead in its goal to become a leading example of corporate sustainability and environmentally conscious planning in Alberta with the ordering of two all-electric trucks. These will be the first vehicles in its fleet to transition to zero emission according to a plan spelled out in the utility’s 2020 Environmental, Social and Governance Report.

In conjunction with that report, Enmax has made a suite of pledges with a goal of reducing or offsetting 70 per cent of its 2015 level greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The steps to do this include:

  • Hit a target of 35 per cent fleet electrification by 2025 and 100 per cent fleet electrification by 2030;
  • Offset 100 per cent of building emissions from 2021 onwards; and
  • Invest $60 million in a more resilient grid by 2030.
Jana Mosley, president of Enmax Power. Photo: Enmax.

“We believe this is the right thing to do and we need to be a leader,” says Enmax Power president Jana Mosley in an interview with Electric Autonomy Canada. “It’s a privilege that I get to do this. It’s quite a fun, challenging and steep learning curve…it’s a really neat time in our business.”

Step one: the electric fleet

Enmax has a mobile fleet of 333 vehicles in its Alberta operations (the utility also owns Maine-based Versant Power which it has an additional 260 vehicles). That mobile fleet — 39 per cent light duty, 39 per cent medium duty and 23 per cent heavy duty — services over 9,000 kilometres of transmission and distribution lines in the province.

Enmax is preparing to test the first two electric trucks in a pilot program beginning in the first quarter of 2022. In December, it will take delivery of two Class 6 medium-duty trucks with bodies from Alberta-based Glover International and Intercontinental Truck Body. The trucks will go into operation servicing the Greater Calgary Area.

ENMAX truck
A mock up rendering of ENMAX’s new electric truck. Photo: ENMAX.

“This pilot is going to be really key for us,” says Mosley. “We believe this is the right thing to do and we need to be a leader. When you look at your overall operating costs with an electric fleet, compared to our fleet today, we do see those overall maintenance and operating costs coming down — even with the additional EV charging infrastructure that draws electricity.”

The next step for Enmax’s electric fleet is building out that charging infrastructure. So far the company does not know yet what type of station it will purchase or which provider will support it, but Mosley says they are actively investigating several options.

In addition to the Alberta vehicles, Enmax inherited Versant Power’s two electric vehicles and charging stations when it bought Versant in 2020.

Paying it forward

Enmax is going to study the two electric trucks for a year, collecting data on charging, range and performance in different applications and with different weather conditions. And then, of course, there is the training that will need to happen for the workforce to understand how to optimize the truck’s duty cycle and habits for maximum range.

All these findings will then be available to share with other utilities looking to transition their fleets, says Mosley, which is a critical part of ensuring a whole-society transition.

“I think one of the things that utilities in Canada do incredibly well is compare notes, collaborate, share understandings, and learnings. And so we have chatted with industry peers, and understood their electrification commitments. That’s really helping us in terms of just understanding where the market might go as well, and where we also need to be,” says Mosley. “Each utility system is unique as well. So there’s certain things that are just going to have to be tested out in each jurisdiction.”

A more resilient grid

One of the most critical goals for Enmax over the next decade is to ensure Alberta’s grid is able to support and grow with EV adoption. With the federal government’s commitment to 100 per cent new zero-emission vehicle sales by 2035, Enmax — along with its fellow utilities in North America — is under enormous pressure to build resiliency.

In order to do that Enmax says it needs to understand what’s happening behind and in front of the meter. That has led the utility to invest deeply in two pilots: one studying EV charging behaviour and the other trying out behind-the-meter battery storage.

“Our EV charger pilot, the first phase ran for about a year and a half. We were able to partner with various customers throughout the city and learn about their charging behaviour. The second phase is going to focus on how do we influence charging behaviour,” explains Mosley.

The other side of building grid resiliency is managing peak load.

“We are looking at behind-the-meter battery storage as a way to offset the need for reinforcement to your home,” says Mosley, who confirms the pilot will be launching late 2021 or early 2022, just in time to coincide with the electric truck launch and the buildings emissions offsetting, and with only eight years to go to meet their core sustainability targets.

“We need all the tools in the toolkit,” says Mosley. “As we move through the next decade or two of this transformation it will take all of them — there’s no one solution.”

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