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Utilities

How to Use Demand Response With Electric Vehicles and OCPP Backends

By

Won Moon Joo

February 8, 2022

The widespread adoption of electric cars has led to the introduction of one of the biggest consumers of electricity since the invention of air conditioning units.

Electric vehicles are rapidly exacerbating problems like grid strain and peak power demand.

Such problems have always been present in our modern-day electric grid, but the recent focus on renewable energy, which is intermittent by nature, requires more flexibility when addressing peak demand.

For example, utilities faced with high demand during hot summer days use something called demand response to balance the supply and demand of electricity.

During a time period of anticipated peak power consumption, utilities signal requests to reduce the demand for electricity. This is because, in most cases, changing the supply of electricity production at power plants is something that cannot be easily changed.

In this article, we will focus on demand response and how consumers and utilities actively respond to signals to reduce the amount of electricity they consume during certain times.

What is Demand Response?

Overall, the simplest way to understand demand response is that it is a technology-enabled economic rationing system for electric power supply.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that by 2050, as much as 15% of average annual electricity demand can be shifted by applying demand response methods.

Demand response includes a wide variety of actions that reduce the demand for electricity (peak demand) and help to avoid a system outage. It involves action from both the utility companies and consumers, both commercial and private.

  • Utility companies can provide smart meters and smart grid technology to improve consumption monitoring and flag up peak demand times.
  • Consumers can take action by reducing the use of services during peak demand times — switching off lights, air conditioning, and other unnecessary electrical items and machinery.

Demand response provides a cost-effective alternative than adding more generation capabilities to meet the occasional demand spike. The IEA recommends the adoption of new business models and the establishment of equipment and appliance controllability standards to reduce demand.


How to implement demand response with electric vehicles

The adoption of electric cars (which consume more electricity than all other appliances in a household combined) and the expansion of renewable energy (which delivers intermittent power) have added to the challenges of grid management.

This means that when the weather changes unexpectedly and solar panels or wind turbines are generating less power than expected, demand response will help to control vehicle charging and can balance the grid.

Consequently, while charging electric cars can be a strain to the grid, when charged properly they could prove to be a useful asset to grid reliability through OCPP.

OCPP is an IoT protocol, connecting EV chargers and software backend systems using bilateral communication. 60-70% of all public charging stations apply this protocol to enable payment systems, user access, or to simply monitor the chargers. Moreover, the OCPP standard gives charging stations the ability to implement demand response.

To implement demand response, the charging point operator has to use the smart charging module in the OCPP protocol. The OCPP smart charging module allows the central software backend to send charging commands (charging profiles) to the charging stations. This includes throttling charging during periods of peak demand, or increasing vehicle charging when the supply of wind or solar power is high.

Demand response for electric fleets

The car batteries of EVs could prove to be a valuable asset in balancing the grid. Multiple utility programs exist today that offer incentives such as covering EV charging installation costs, and requiring a certain “demand response readiness”.

However, we don’t think that demand response is only valuable for utilities. Large charging site owners like airports, large employee parking sites, and fleet depots, can benefit from demand response.

If a charging station owner joins a demand response program, the owner can generate additional revenue. By offering the utility the option to change your charging behavior a few times per year, the utility will offer compensation in return.

Large fleet depots with several hundreds of vehicles can benefit from this. At Ampcontrol, we’ve created several approaches that integrate demand response, without risking late departure or any other negative impact on business operations.

What does a demand response event actually look like?

During a demand response event, the utility provides information about what has changed and on what schedule, such as start and stop times.
There are several ways in which a utility or a utility service provider can send a demand response event to a charging point operator.
A typical change would specify one or more of the following:

  • PRICE_ABSOLUTE – The price per kilowatt‐hour
  • PRICE_RELATIVE – A change in the price per kilowatt‐hour
  • PRICE_MULTIPLE – A multiple of a basic rate per kilowatt‐hour
  • LOAD_AMOUNT – A fixed amount of load to shed or shift
  • LOAD_PERCENTAGE – The percentage of load to shed or shift

This means that the utility can either send a price signal or a load signal. The load signal is typically in Kilowatts (kW), while the price signal is usually in USD/kWh, EUR/kWh, or similar.


As one example, the charging point operator receives some load amount information (see below) that indicates a fixed amount of load (in kW) that they need to shed or shift. This will then be executed by the smart charging software together with other objectives (e.g., on-time departure).
This load amount can be split into chargers at a location and each charger receives a smart charging profile through OCPP.

Demand response message load amount
demand response profile load amount

Conclusion

The recent development of smart grids has created opportunities to enhance demand response. Real-time data and IoT-connected devices enable more effective and rapid responses to events.

Electric vehicles are seen as an important resource for managing demand responses. Indeed, the integration of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) with smart grids has been shown to help achieve sustainable energy systems.

A parking lot of EVs can be a source of aggregated energy and has huge potential to be utilized to alleviate the challenges of peak demand. A charging point operator can use OCPP to implement smart charging and control the charging speeds of EVs in response to demand events.

Software such as Ampcontrol enables OCPP smart charging, which helps to improve efficiency for electric vehicle owners and fleet operators, as well as allowing utility service providers to improve grid management.

Learn more about OCPP in smart charging here.

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