Pairing Electric Vehicles with Renewable Energy in India

Given the scale of potential EV penetration in the country, we need to figure out how can India make use of clean renewable energy to power its transport.

India is embracing electric mobility. 

In FY 2019-20, more than 1.5 lakh EVs were sold in India in 2W, 4W and buses segment. Though no official data is available on largely unorganised electric 3W market, their total number is estimated upwards of 20 lakh units comprising of both passenger and cargo vehicles. 

Foremost takers are the fleet operators across vehicle segments (2W, 3W, 4W, Buses), individual electric 3W drivers, as well as 2Ws for personal mobility. The central government is incentivising e-mobility and ecosystem development in a big way through policy push and economic incentives. FAME II scheme (started in April 2019 for a time period of 3 years) has also allocated INR 1,000 crores to establish a countrywide charging infrastructure to enable the transition to electric mobility. More than 12 states have come up with state EV policies to guide efforts towards demand incentives, infrastructure building and local manufacturing support.

As a part of the Paris agreement, India committed to lowering its GHG emissions by 33% of 2005 levels by 2030 and have 40% of installed power capacity based on non-fossil fuel sources. India imports over $100 Billion worth of fossil fuels every year. EV push can be attributed to the government’s efforts towards building energy security, reducing vehicular pollution and strengthening the currency.

Clean energy takes precedence in India’s energy mix

Renewable Energy (RE) has seen tremendous growth in India in recent times.

In terms of installed power generation capacity, thermal sources account for approx 62% (out of which coal is 53.6%) and non-thermal sources make for the rest ~ 38%. In terms of electricity generation mix for the year 2019-20, source-wise contribution was coal – 72%, Gas – 4%, Hydro – 11%, Nuclear – 3% and RE – 10%. In a recent statement, power minister Raj Kumar Singh said that retiring coal plants in the country will be replaced with RE.

It must be noted that RE accounts for more than 50% (51.25 GW) of capacity addition since March 2015[1].

India currently has 89 GW of RE capacity that is expected to expand to 175 GW by 2022, and 450 GW by 2030. Progress towards these targets will require a focus on unlocking the flexibility needed for effective system integration of RE. 

Though RE has done well in India in recent times, the problem is that it is not very well integrated. 

As of today, neither do we have a robust transmission network to evacuate and transfer RE, nor enough energy storage technology to capture surplus power. This leads to forced RE curtailments i.e. a reduction in the power output possible from available resources, and this is already an issue with high RE capacity states.

State (estimated installed RE capacity in 2022)Annual wind and solar curtailmentsAvg projected daily peak curtailment (July)
Andhra Pradesh (19 GW)5.6%4.7 GW
Gujarat (21 GW)2.4%0.8 GW
Karnataka (17 GW)6.6%3.5 GW
Maharashtra (14 GW)0.4%0.08 GW
Tamil Nadu (24 GW)4.3%3.7 GW
Rajasthan (20 GW)5.6%2.25 GW
RE integration analysis of High-RE capacity states by Vasudha Foundation report shows % annual wind and solar curtailments mainly due to transmission bottlenecks and trade barriers. 

India is building dedicated transmission infrastructure for RE through Green Energy Corridors (for transmission from surplus regions to demand centres). However, the project has seen some setbacks in meeting targets and fund allocation. According to a CEA report on Optimum Generation Capacity Mix, India would also require about 136 GWh of grid-connected battery storage by 2030 to support the target of 450 GW of RE. Without storage, India’s growing RE (especially targeted solar capacity of 100 GW by 2022) will not be able to contribute to managing its evening peak demand or overnight EV charging.

Renewable energy and EVs – the clean transport mix

Although EVs are more efficient than ICE vehicles and have no tailpipe emissions, the reduction in overall pollution levels depends on the choice of energy sources for charging their batteries.

India is in the initial stages of regulation design for EV as an energy consumer and has a great opportunity to ensure that EV charging is not a burden on the grid, but is used as a tool to help DISCOMs balance demand and enable greater use of renewable energy.

As we go about greening the grid, it’s about time we start working on the following aspects to combine new age mobility with efficiency and clean energy.

1. Integration between DISCOMs and EV charging infrastructure – To prevent unmanaged EV charging from destabilising the grid and to ensure optimised use of grid resources

2. Building solutions and recognising systemic changes required to help align the bulk of EV charging with the availability of renewable energy

The relationship between DISCOMs and EV charging infrastructure

The utilities can influence EV charging behaviour through tariff design. They will need the tools to monitor and forecast load patterns, have real-time visibility of RE coming into the grid and incentivise charging during valleys in power demand or availability of RE. At the consumer side, smart charging can allow them to respond to pricing signals through intelligent scheduling, load management and real-time control of max power drawn for charging. Though charger manufacturers do provide EVSEs capable of such smart features, these are left unused as the prerequisite for V1G (uni-directional vehicle grid integration) i.e. ‘price signalling at utility end’ is not usually available.

A recent AEEE report on vehicle-grid integration notes that the treatment of EVs as a consumer category and tariff design vary across states. Out of 18 states and 5 UTs that have specified rates for EV charging, some have introduced a separate consumer category for Public EV Charging Stations while others have specified EV tariffs under the existing categories. Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, and Maharashtra have introduced ToD (Time of Day) rates for EV charging.

Existing ToD rates can be used for V1G for a start. However, static ToD rates can become less effective in overall peak shaving with an increase in EV penetration, leading to the creation of new peaks. As of now, there are no real-time or dynamic electricity tariffs in India but this might just be the right time to start working on programs capable of dynamic tariffs that also take variable RE into consideration.

Requisites to leveraging RE for EV charging | Expert-speak

Arun Anand is running an EV energy aggregation start-up called Electric Miles in the UK. The start-up is developing an Internet of Energy (IoE) solution to help reduce the cost and environmental impact of EV charging. We requested Arun’s inputs to understand if we can draw any lessons for India.

What all data does your solution require to manage the environmental footprint of EV charging?

Our AI platform integrates the UK National Grid’s real-time API for Carbon Intensity of the Grid to understand the actual and forecast of the Grid’s output which is measured in Low, Moderate or High. We also bring in some real-time generation forecast data for Solar generation, Wind Outputs and Hydro to see what % of the overall Energy mix is coming from Renewables. 

We understand the user’s drive when they register, to see if they are keener on reducing the cost or they care about being green or both, and accordingly, we model their charging needs to the energy renewable output. If a driver tells us she only wants green energy, then we only match their charging to Low intensity and during high renewable outputs. 

Do you have any plans to come to the Indian market?

Electric Miles are very keen to launch in India but we are busy launching our product for the UK & European market. We want to build AI models and train our models to India’s need and structure. We want to integrate with DISCOM and decentralised Power Grid to pull APIs onto our platform to understand the energy mixes. We can also look at their past history of generation data especially for their renewables to see how we can build a process and model.

How can you help the Indian ecosystem with respect to using RE for EV charging?

Our approach will be to make data-driven decisions and allow technology to optimise on what we have at the moment. EVs can and should use RE as much as possible. If we can avoid charging at evening peak times, then I feel the transition will be quicker. I did read it that India wastes enough RE that can supply the entire city of Mumbai for an entire year, due to lack of battery storing and demand-side response technology. 

Time of use tariffs which is now heavily deployed in Europe and the US have been quite effective to stop drivers charging at the wrong time for the Grid. Our software will automatically schedule charging for you for the cheapest and lowest carbon point for the Grid. 

We would love to invite the right parties in India to perform a PoC, where we need an Energy Utility, DISCOM, Fleet operators like BluSmart or Lithium Urban and our proprietary software to integrate and be the charging nervous system to control the EV charging assets. This will ensure you will always have the right charge in your vehicle at the right time at the right cost and at the right carbon impact. 

About Electric Miles

Founded in 2018 in London, Electric Miles is a cleantech company developing the world’s most intelligent Internet of Energy (IoE) electric vehicle charging solution. Electric Miles’ mission is for the world to achieve Net Zero Target, put clean energy into vehicles and bring the goalpost back to why we started to Electrify in the first place. Their domestic app is now going live on the App Store for UK drivers with Project EV chargers, where drivers can save up to 40% on their charging bills. You can follow their updates on the official LinkedIn page.

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References and useful reads

  1. http://www.vasudha-foundation.org/wp-content/uploads/Indias-Power-Outlook_Volume-2_The-Road-to-Clean-Electricity_13.07.20.pdf
  2. https://aeee.in/our_publications/vehicle-grid-integration/
  3. https://files.wri.org/s3fs-public/renewables-for-ev-demand.pdf
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