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This has to happen (energy)

27 Feb 2024

With winter fast approaching, we've been warned (as I've mentioned before in this column) that power cuts are a looming possibility.

However, there is a solution to our already-strained power generation and distribution infrastructure and it might be "just around the corner", quite literally.

In an era when we're being encouraged to switch to unreliable "renewables" for our energy, the most important part of the new paradigm may be the next car you buy.

Increasingly, one of the features turning up in modern EVs is the ability to back-feed electricity out of the charging port.

Even the EV of the moment, the new budget Renault 5 EV that has just been launched and is now all over social media, touts backfeed as one of its biggest features.

It would make sense that the NZ government (and perhaps all governments) should be promoting the adoption of EVs with backfeed capability as a priority and as a key method of reducing CO2 emissions.

How would that work?

Well by charging such an EV's battery during periods when renewable (wind/solar/etc) is producing at peak, that energy can later be returned to the grid at times when demand is high but generation is low.

While your EV is parked at work or in the garage during the day, it can soak up all that plentiful and cheap electricity being delivered by way of sun and wind then, when you get home and need to cook a meal, wash dishes, have a shower, heat your home and illuminate various rooms, your EV's battery can spit out that energy without burdening the grid.

This distributed storage model would dramatically reduce the need for fallback (ie: fossil-fueled) generators to be fired up at times of peak demand and would solve the problems that some countries (such as Australia and Germany) are already facing where peak daytime generation by renewables sometimes exceeds demand.

Here in New Zealand, the transition from ICE vehicles to EVs is perhaps even more important to the security of our electricity infrastructure than it is to transport -- given that we've skimped on adequately maintaining and expanding our generation and distribution capabilities for generations now.

As a consumer, this backfeed capability also stands to save you quite a bit of money and further reduce the total operating cost of your car.

Many electricity providers offer "off-peak" power rates after midnight, when demand is traditionally low. You may find that it is possible to buy power (to charge your EV) during the small (off peak) hours and then sell it back for a profit during times of high demand. Those profits would go some way towards paying for that shiny new EV in the garage.

The worst thing we can do is... nothing.

If we don't get our fingers out of our derrieres then the spectre of cold, dark evenings or mornings without any form of electricity are a very real possibility.

What a shame that government isn't taking a more holistic view of energy. Instead of killing the clean-car discount perhaps they should be increasing it and realising that subsidising EVs with back-feed capability may be cheaper than spending the billions that ought to have already been spent on shoring up key infrastructure.

In an era when we can't even turn over a sod of earth without filing a mountain of paperwork to analyse and mitigate any environmental impact, perhaps getting all Kiwis into EVs ASAP would kill many birds with one stone. It would reduce our reliance on imported transport fuels, reduce our CO2 emissions and compensate for the increasing inability of our electricity system to handle periods of peak demand.

Will this happen?

Of course not. There are far too few photo opportunities or boozy lunches associated with such mundane but essential ideas.

Carpe Diem folks!

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