Will there be Enough Electricity for the Electric Cars in the Future?

Climate and environment blog

The ongoing conversion from fossil fuels to electricity in the automotive sector is one of the factors that has affected electricity demand. At the same time, vehicle operators are seeing an increasing demand for electric cars. Now many are wondering if the electricity will suffice if everyone is going to drive electric cars in the future.

Our increased electricity needs are affected by the focus on sustainability issues and the shift from fossil fuels to electricity where the transport system’s electrification is the focus. It is not only passenger cars that move from fossil fuel to electricity, but also buses, boats, heavy transport, and construction machinery.

The price trend for, for example, electric cars has gone faster than expected. Prices are now at a more reasonable level than before and consumption rates have increased. Basically, it is positive that consumers are choosing more environmentally friendly, non-fossil alternatives, but this creates a challenge for the industry. But even if everyone switches to an electric car, things will go well.

What does “electricity shortage” really mean?

Electricity shortages can mean several different things which can lead to confusion. Electricity deficiencies can occur for three different reasons or combinations of these:

  • Lack of electricity
  • Lack of effect
  • Lack of network capacity

The main factor that has created our increased need for electricity in cities is urbanization. More people are moving into the cities from the countryside. Urbanization is proceeding faster than expected and some cities have had problems supplying companies and residents with electricity.

More people have moved into the cities than the electricity network is designed for. Therefore, local problems have arisen with the supply of electricity in some parts of the world.

In addition, some electricity companies have chosen to replace cogeneration plants that produced both electricity and heat to heat plants that only produce heat. Just producing heat is cheaper, but it also means that municipalities lose local electricity production and are forced to import electricity into the city.

Universal problem

Having problems with the electricity supply is a problem that exists in several places in the world, and the issue exists worldwide. Urbanization, where people move into urban areas and electrification where one wants to replace fossil fuels with electricity, affects electricity supply worldwide.

However, with that said, today there is no shortage of electrical energy in most parts of the world. During many days of the year, some countries actually have a surplus of energy that they export to other countries.

However, the risk of both local and national power shortages has increased in recent years. At the national level, this is partly due to the fact that our electricity generation mix has changed so that the proportion of planned power generation (electricity generation that can be controlled independently of weather, for example) has decreased, while the proportion of unplanned power generation has increased (for example wind power). This increases the risk that the effect will not suffice in all situations, for example during dark and cold winter days when it is not windy.

Electricity shortages can also be caused by a network capacity shortage, ie there is not enough capacity in the electricity grid to transmit the desired power to the customers. Available grid capacity varies between different electricity grids.

In recent years, however, rapid establishments of the electricity-intensive industry, such as server halls, have resulted in a considerable increase in load in certain local electricity networks, which affects the possibility of connecting new major electricity users.

When it comes to the new installation, one or even several individual charging stations load the electricity grid so little that the risk of capacity failure in the electricity grid due to them is in principle non-existent. On the other hand, local capacity shortages can occur if many installations take place simultaneously in an existing electricity grid and then perhaps also in combination with increased local production of solar or other technology that loads the electricity grid. This may require power grid reinforcements that may take time to implement, partly due to permit processes.

If you are planning to install charging stations for electric car charging, we recommend having a close dialogue with your electrician in good time before. Your electrical installer, in turn, has contact with your local power grid company who can inform you about the current capacity situation for the area you plan to install your charging stations. Early contact also facilitates the power grid’s planning of any reinforcements of the electricity grid. This is especially true if you are a major property owner who plans extensive installation of charging infrastructure in several areas.

For the electricity grid to work, there must always be a balance between the production and consumption of electricity.
The frequency is regulated by raising or lowering the electricity supply from, for example, nuclear and hydroelectric power stations. Elevated input gives higher frequency and vice versa.
In the event of a major power failure, a type of load failure, overcapacity in the electricity grid occurs and the frequency goes up. When the frequency rises above the upper limit, parts of the electricity grid are automatically switched off so that electrical equipment is not damaged. However, it has the consequence that the frequency increases further.

Investment in new charging infrastructure and smart systems

International collaborations are carried out in which researchers from several countries participate. Among other things, we try to find solutions for, for example, flexibility in the systems where we strive to level the peaks and thus obtain a more even supply of electricity.

We do not yet know what the aggregate effect will be but regardless, not everyone will charge simultaneously. Locally, more electricity generation or grid reinforcements may be required. And in some cities, this may pose a certain problem, but at a national level, it should not be a problem.

However, the charging infrastructure will need to be expanded and connected to so-called smart systems that distribute power.

Today, there is a lack of standardized cost-effective products for, for example, homeowners or tenant-owner associations to install charging stations at home. There are also no regulations that regulate how much or when you can charge, or if you need to lower the effect on something else for the property, such as the heat pump.

Shared focus makes it difficult

There are ambitious investment plans for electricity networks with extra plans for the cities. Unfortunately, the electricity grid needs to be strengthened both here and now while it needs to be expanded, which means a shared focus. The different time perspectives make work difficult. While you need to strengthen where there are holes today, you need to make the large infrastructure investments that will provide our country for around fifty years to come.

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