Gigawatts or Gallons? Energetics Helps California Utility Power Your Drive—The Green Way

14, Jun

Energetics recently completed a report on San Diego Gas & Electric Company’s (SDG&E’s) Power Your Drive (PYD) Program. SDG&E designed the program to increase adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), in response to California’s mission to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) and criteria pollutant emissions. To this end, the utility installed 3,040 charging ports at 254 locations, including multi-unit dwelling (MUD) communities and workplaces. The utility activity sought to include disadvantaged communities (DACs), which have higher-than-average levels of pollution, when selecting charger locations.

Energetics led a team that supported this effort with a full review of program activities and outcomes to identify which strategies were effective. For example, SDG&E sought to know whether changes in pricing could be used to motivate EV drivers to charge their vehicles at times beneficial to program goals. The utility implemented an innovative PYD rate program that involves day-ahead hourly pricing signals that allow customers (EV drivers) to make informed cost-based decisions about charging: whether to charge and, if so, how much and when. By lowering prices during off-peak times (when electricity use is low, such as on weekends), SDG&E attempted to influence vehicle charging activity away from times of heaviest electricity use, reducing stress on the grid. Similarly, lowering prices during times when renewable energy is available (e.g., during the sunniest hours, for solar) could encourage charging during times when the grid is significantly powered by renewable energy and producing the fewest emissions. Over 4,500 San Diego EV owners enrolled in the PYD rate offering during the initial four years of the program.

Our transportation technology experts and data analysts reviewed utility meter data, individual charging session data, historical hourly pricing, and electricity pricing for each site. Analysis of the data provided information about end-user charging patterns. Research was also conducted into EV charging impacts on the electricity grid.

The team also conducted a survey of EV owners to learn about driver characteristics, such as what motivates drivers to purchase or lease EVs, whether having a charging station available makes EVs more attractive, when EV chargers are most often used, and whether pricing strategies influence drivers’ charging habits. In addition, the team looked at program costs and energy savings through the program to determine the payback period for investments.

Jason Greenblatt led the study, with support from Energetics program managers Bryan Roy and Ziga Ivanic, as well as from project partner Davenergy Solutions. Tyler Evans, Yashvanth Pavuluri, and Ewan Pritchard led the data analytics using Power BI software.

The complete findings were included in a final report, which concluded that PYD successfully supports California’s zero-emission vehicle targets and specific goals directly related to charging installations at MUDs, workplaces, and DACs. In addition, PYD and other similar programs that rely on predicting EV charging load and curtailing electricity use can enhance grid resilience and mitigate carbon emissions from electricity generation. Analysts concluded that driver behavior shows the potential for flexibility in charging patterns; PYD overwhelmingly resulted in customers using low-cost energy to charge their EVs. Survey responses indicated appreciation for the PYD program, with a significant number of customers stating that access to PYD charging stations positively influenced their decisions to acquire EVs.

The Power Your Drive Research Report is now available on the SDG&E website.

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