Electric utility companies largely unprepared for anticipated EV boom, report says

This story appeared in the Pacific Business News on Monday, March 26, 2018 

Energy stakeholders in Hawaii see electric vehicles as an important aspect of achieving the state's clean energy goals.

Though Hawaii has one of the highest EV adoption rates in the county, the total number of battery-powered cars represents less than 1 percent of all passenger vehicles in the state. According to data from the Hawaii State Energy Office, of the more than 1 million registered passenger vehicles, only 6,890 were EVs in February.

Experts believe that that adoption rate of EVs will rise exponentially in the coming years as car manufacturers invest billions in the development of fully-electric cars and battery-prices continue to decrease.

However, a new report from the Smart Electric Power Alliance has found that U.S. utility companies are largely unprepared for the acceleration of EVs on the country's roads.

SEPA's report, which is titled "Utilities and Electric Vehicles: Evolving to unlock grid value," said that almost 75 percent of utilities were either in the early stages of planning or had yet to start developing strategies or program for the growth of the EV market.

The report is based on a survey of 486 utilities, which, combined, provide power to about 70 percent of all residential, commercial and industrial customers in the U.S.

“Utilities have a key role to play in EV market growth, as providers of ‘fuel’ — electricity — as a platform for charging infrastructure, and as a leader in standards development and consumer education,” Erika Myers, SEPA’s director of research and lead author on the report, said in a statement. “Yet, our research shows that the situation right now is similar to what we saw with the growth of distributed solar. If predictions are correct, many utilities will be caught unprepared, with few ready to take full advantage of this new demand by leveraging EVs as a grid asset.”

According to the report, EV energy use could rise from a few terawatt-hours a year in 2017 to at 118TWh and as high as 733TWh by 2030. These forecasts are equivalent to the average annual power consumption of 9 million to 68 million U.S. homes, respectively.

Honolulu-based Hawaiian Electric has so far installed 12 public DC fast chargers across its service territory, with plans to increase the number to 25 in the coming years.

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