18 Jun 19

Europe’s first ‘zero carbon island’ puts electric vehicles at the heart of a smart energy grid

One of the biggest barriers to mass adoption of EVs is being overcome thanks to the introduction of affordable two-way charging systems which allow electric vehicles to become part of a smart power grid.

Renault has been running a 20-vehicle testbed project on the sunny Portuguese island of Porto Santo for the last 15 months. Since February 2018, islanders have been driving a fleet of Renault Zoes and Kangoo vans with access to a network of 40 chargepoints around the island. 

Using two-way Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) charging technology, the vehicles recharge when plugged in with cheap, abundant electricity, but at times of peak demand, the EVs release electricity back into the grid. 

The scheme is part of the Sustainable Porto Santo project, initiated by the island's autonomous government with the aim to turn the 42 km2 island into Europe’s first zero-carbon territory. Currently, 15% of Porto Santo’s electricity comes from solar and wind generation because there has been no easy way to store excess energy generated on the sunniest and windiest days. It is hoped that the project will help increase this to 19%. 

Smart grid

As more and more of Europe’s energy is generated from renewable sources like wind, solar, wave and tidal power, the case for a smart energy distribution grid becomes more urgent.

For example, Germany’s Energiewende programme has increased renewable power generation to 35% of the energy mix. That figure is set to rise to 45% by 2025 and 80% by 2050.

A smart grid will also make it easier to balance and distribute power generated from southern Europe, where solar energy is likely to be more prevalent and Northern Europe, where wind and tidal energy systems are the primary means of generation.

Two-way charging

Electric vehicle batteries are increasingly being seen as a devolved energy storage system to balance the grid across the entire continent and the introduction of two-way charging is pivotal to this transformation.

Tesla, Renault and Nissan have been working towards this objective for a number of years. The technology is also being trialled in Amsterdam by a consortium of energy and tech companies.

Nissan has already launched a V2G option in Germany and this month, innovative UK alternative energy investor Octopus teamed up with Nissan and Wallbox to offer a one-stop two-way charging solution for consumers.

Octopus’s V2G solution gives customers access to a cheap renewable energy tariff with which they can charge their vehicles with cheap energy overnight and then sell it back to the grid for a premium at times of peak demand.

Part-funded by the UK Energy Saving Trust’s Powerloop initiative, Octopus’s V2G package can be bundled with an electric vehicle for a single monthly payment.

Europe’s emerging smart energy grid will allow energy to be stored and moved to where it is needed across the entire continent and far from overwhelming this grid, electric vehicles are set to become an intrinsic part of it.

Image © Renault

Author: Mark Sutcliffe