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7 December 2018

eMotorWerks and LO3 launch EV-charging microgrid project

Enel subsidiary eMotorWerks has partnered with blockchain specialist, and Siemens darling, LO3 Energy, in a project to combine electric vehicle charging stations with microgrids, to facilitate local energy trading. While there is a definite whiff of buzzwords, there’s a lot of substance here, as two of the most prominent companies in their respective fields team up.

LO3 has cropped up frequently in our coverage, and it is one of the more advanced blockchain-based energy trading systems. Blockchain makes sense here, as LO3 is essentially trading energy rather than cryptocurrencies, but there’s still an awful lot of skepticism in the market, whenever the b-word gets mentioned.

The company will be linking its Exergy trading platform with eMotorWerks’ JuiceNet platform, which is a system of EV chargers and the required backend services that allow eMotorWerks to dynamically control the rate at which a plugged-in vehicle charges. This allows the company to aggregate cars as a grid resource, either as a battery that surplus energy can be dumped into or drawn from when needed. For cars that plug in, eMotorWerks can pay them for their services or charge them for the energy they fill their batteries with.

Consequently, we’re very interested in seeing how this test project pans out. Topping up EVs with local solar power, and paying the producers for the energy supplied, sounds like an environmentalist’s dream outcome. The JuiceNet chargers can be both public and privately owned, meaning that home-owners can install these and get access to that monetization opportunity.

The test project is targeting ‘price-responsive consumers with a flexible charging schedule who would like to leverage EV flexibility to save on their energy bills, or EV fleet managers who want to ensure predictable charging costs.’ For now at least, there isn’t a direct smart city angle.

For the home owners, they are able to fill their EVs with the cheapest or greenest energy available, which is typically from rooftop solar panels in their proximity. In addition, keeping the EV plugged in and allowing the recharge rate to be flexible (rather than A.S.A.P.), the home can be recompensed by the utility for its use as a demand-response asset.

This means that a utility can use the JuiceNet and Exergy platforms to ask the EVs to pause their recharging, should the utility need to reduce demand to avoid having to fire up reserve generation capacity. These reserves are much more expensive than baseline load or renewables, and so the demand-response capacity can save the utility a lot in costs in the long run.

These kind of flexible systems are easiest to implement at smaller microgrid scales, rather than as a national or top-down project. There will be a plethora of companies selling such services to utilities, who will handle the intricacies of the proposition themselves, and simply sell a service on to a utility that might be facing both profit and regulatory pressure.

As EVs are such a potential headache for utilities, having them integrated into such a platform should be a godsend. We are not yet at the scale where a working population returning home in the evening and plugging their cars in to charge could cause excessive grid load and potential blackouts, but that scenario is a real fear for the utilities. Such systems could mitigate this potential problem.

“Beyond offering JuiceNet technology as a way for residents to manage charging more efficiently, projects such as our virtual battery in California, and now this partnership with LO3, showcase how powerful smart charging can be for grid services at scales ranging from hyper-local to state and national levels,” said Vincent Schachter, SVP Energy Services of eMotorWerks. “We are looking forward to showcasing how JuiceNet can integrate with LO3’s platform to make local transactions smarter, quicker and more useful for future services.”