Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Smart Grid Meets the Electic Vehicle

Two topics with no shortage of buzz were paired together on Thursday morning at the Massachusetts Smart Grid Innovators Collaborative’s (MASGIC) second annual conference, held to discuss the Transition to Electric Vehicles. A packed room, which needed extra chairs brought in, listened to presentations from a range of technologists, regulators and thought-leaders all dedicated to making the smart grid a reality.

The topic for the morning focused around the challenges and opportunities that the introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) will bring to the grid – and how the grid and EVs are tied together in so many ways. Some interesting conversations were had about the importance of safe, reliable energy storage solutions in both EVs, and also to be implemented throughout the grid; the need for consumer utility incentives to encourage off-peak EV charging; and perhaps most interesting was the discussion around the impending reality of EVs in the driveways of Massachusetts residents.

With pre-orders of the Nissan Leaf filled and the car expected to be available this fall – thanks in part to an agreement signed by the Commonwealth and Nissan – there will be EVs charging on the grid in Mass. by the end of this year. It’s a great step in the right direction towards reducing our nation’s reliance on foreign oil and increasing energy efficiency, but it also means that regulators and businesses need to continue to collaborate now in order to ensure the progress continues. Solutions like helping lower the cost of EVs through tax credits and loan guarantees, upgrading and standardizing transformers and building codes to allow for maximized EV charging potential, and investing in smart meters and charging infrastructure will all help promote the adoption of grid-enabled vehicles.

Discussions like those had on Thursday play an important part in our movement towards a more sustainable future and I’m looking forward to the next conversation and the progress made as a result. A special nod to our friends at Boston-Power, and in particular Dr. John Warner – Boston-Power’s director of large format batteries – for his interesting perspective as a battery developer in the second panel on Thursday morning.

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