2 March 2023

EVs will have 'material impact' on ACT electricity network, Evoenergy tells inquiry

| James Coleman
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charging an EV

Around 31 per cent of Canberrans expect to transition to an EV in the next five years, according to an Evoenergy survey. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The ACT’s electricity operator has flagged that higher prices are on the way as more and more electric vehicles hit the road.

Evoenergy manages 2120 kilometres of electricity lines connecting substations with more than 204,000 customers across the ACT, in addition to supplying 160,000 customers with natural gas through 4720 km of gas mains. It’s a system about to be put under the pump as gas goes offline by 2045 and the ACT Government also makes good on a promise to ban the sale of new fossil-fuel-powered cars in 2035.

The company told a recent government inquiry into electric vehicle (EV) adoption to expect a “material impact on the ACT electricity network in the coming years”.

“Evoenergy is actively planning for increasing network peak demand that may result from coincident EV charging, which could put pressure on the grid,” the submission read.

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ACT Greens spokesperson for Transport, Active Travel and Road Safety Jo Clay announced the Inquiry into EV Vehicle Adoption in the ACT in May 2022 to hear from “a broad range of stakeholders to find out the challenges and opportunities for Canberrans who want to switch to EVs”.

The terms of reference for the inquiry focused on eight topics, ranging from charging infrastructure to assistance for people on low incomes.

“We look forward to hearing from as many people as possible about the barriers to uptake, possible incentives, ACT Government and private sector strategies, and guidance on transport infrastructure needs and planning for Canberra,” Ms Clay said.

The committee received a total of 73 submissions from different industry groups, peak bodies, think tanks, academics, economists, unions and members of the public. A public hearing was held on Wednesday, 1 March.

artist's impression of underground car park

An artist’s impression of the underground car park at The Markets, Canberra’s first residential complex to promise charging facilities in every car space. Image: The Markets Residences.

In their submission, the owners corporation of The Viridian apartments in Kingston cited the need to upgrade their car park with EV charging facilities that not only require an outlay of up to $500,000 to replace the building’s substation but also highlighted a wider problem.

“We know the [electricity] capacity question is not only about what is available to our complex, but what is available to all apartments complexes in the Kingston area,” they said.

That was echoed by the Forrest Apartment, whose owners corporation noted the “fundamental base load of Canberra’s electricity grid will increase considerably” as more EVs plugging in downstairs compete for electricity with fewer gas-powered appliances.

“Regardless of [the type of EV charger], one aspect … is that its usage is quite different from other appliances: by default, it uses its maximum demand for hours on end.”

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In other words, much of Canberra’s underground web of electricity lines will need to be upgraded to cope.

This can be seen on a ‘small’ scale at the new Woden bus depot.

At a cost of $26.3 million over three years, Evoenergy is laying 11.9 kilometres of new high-voltage cables from the Wanniassa Zone substation to the depot in preparation for 90 electric buses joining the Transport Canberra fleet later this year.

In their latest five-year plan – handed to the Australian Energy Regulator on 1 February 2023 – Evoenergy knows this and that the clock is ticking.

According to their survey, up to 31 per cent of Canberrans plan to transition to an EV and 32 per cent plan to move from gas to electricity in the next five years.

“Our modelling has found that by 2045, the daily peak demand on our electricity network will more than double,” the report reads.

“Evoenergy expects network augmentation will be required if mass EV charging occurs at times of the day when the ACT network typically experiences peaks in demand (ie, evening periods in residential areas). This network augmentation will result in higher network costs.”

Canberra's first grid-scale battery facility at the Beard substation

Canberra’s first grid-scale battery facility at the Beard substation opened last month. Photo: James Coleman.

This means investing $2.6 billion into network upgrades between now and 2045, with up to $521 million to be spent between 2024 and 2029. To do this, Evoenergy claims they need 7.3 per cent more revenue between 2024 and 2029 than in the current period.

New customers are expected to take some of the heat out of these costs on a per-household basis, as is a cleverer approach to the usage of power we already have. This includes vehicle-to-grid (v2G) two-way charging systems and billing solar panel owners for their excess power (at the moment, the owners of solar panels receive money from their electricity provider for any power they give back to the grid).

EV owners will also be encouraged to charge during off-peak times with revised tariffs as off-peak slots move to during the day (when the sun shines and the wind blows and power is plentiful).

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But Evoenergy still estimates the network component of power bills to increase by “about 1.3 per cent on average through the 2024–29 period”. This is an extra $7 a year for residential customers and $43 a year for commercial customers, excluding the impacts of inflation.

“Energy users in the ACT have a strong expectation that we invest in the electricity network to continue to integrate a growing number of solar, batteries and electric vehicles, and take action to begin the electrification of our gas use,” Evoenergy general manager Peter Billing said.

“The work we’re planning in the coming five years will be a crucial next step in what will be a transformational energy journey over the next two decades.”

The Australian Energy Regulator will review Evoenergy’s proposal, consult with stakeholders and release their draft decision in September 2023.

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The AEMO has forecast at most 1/3 energy demand increase from full transport electrification. Our EV uses around 16 KWh / 100 KMs. Many room heaters consume more than the average commute would.

EV demand is also flexible and can use off peak or cheaper periods.

Yes fast charging can pull quite a lot however this is generally unnecessary or can be deferred to off peak periods.

It would be simple to mandate all EV chargers come with ToU billing which would cheaply and easily influence demand.

The Evo Energy proposal is merely calling out additional capital expense for the next round of electrification which benefits everyone, it’s called progress.

Air-conditioning and electric heating caused far more demand growth which EV objectors are curiously quiet about.

Government will cap how much you can charge your EV. 15 minute cities by stealth.

Capital Retro3:10 pm 05 Mar 23

Smart meters will be in overdrive.

Tom Worthington8:45 am 04 Mar 23

If you want to charge your car at peak times, that will adversely affect the network. But if you are happy to charge off peak, then it will not. Similarly if you want to charge quickly at a high rate, the cabling, charger and network provision, will be expensive. But if you are happy to charge slowly, as you can do when parked at home, it will be much cheaper.

Off peak charging can use power which would otherwise go to waste, and so is cheap. If you are willing to plug the car in each day, then you don’t need an expensive installation. For example, an apartment car park could have an ordinary power point for each parking space, providing off peak charging. Instead of metering, the resident could be charged a flat annual fee. This would provide enough charging for about 130 km driving per day, which would be more than enough for an ordinary commuter.

So we are screwed either way. Forced to buy overpriced EVs and then having to pay more to run them. Makes any claims that in the longer term, EVs will be cheaper overall compared with fossil fueled vehicles a joke.

EVs *are* cheaper to run. Much cheaper.

You may have noticed impoeted fuel and gas prices are literally our biggest inflation drivers.

And unlike oil we can create all the electricity we need on softer. We will be fine.

Never fear – Snowy 2.0 will fix it! Just have to work on a solution to extract that machinery which has currently stalled the $2b, sorry, $10b, sorry, $20b+ project. The good ideas fairy, Malcom Turnbull will let us know of the final cost

Not The Mama4:55 pm 03 Mar 23

I am no petrol head, and I agree fervently with the push for net zero carbon emissions as soon as possible. Suggestions that we should do as China is and increase our Coal and Gas use are non-sensical.

But I also believe fervently that Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) battery EVs are not the solution.

So… I will say again for the benefit of anyone who cares to listen:

As the Li-ion battery EV fleet grows it will get us **all** into trouble – economically (for the reasons mentioned in the article), environmentally (because Li-ion batteries have a short lifespan and are not easily recycled, and the impact of mining for the raw materials on the environment), socially (the mines are largely in the third world in places where already disadvantaged workers are exploited to provide cheap labor), and due to increased incidence of battery related fires which are almost impossible to extinguish.

Compare and contrast the shortcomings of **Green** Hydrogen Fuel Cell powered electric vehicles. There are very few, and I have every faith that the shortcomings of Green Hydrogen have scientific and engineering solutions that have yet to be properly explored because all of our eggs are in the Li-Ion basket.

Hydrogen has been a complex flop. 70% round trip energy loss.

Meanwhile Australia is the world leading Lithium producer, second largest cobalt and rare earth deposits.

Reputable brand EV batteries now outlast engines.

And Lithium is not the only option with other chemistries already appearing on the market.

You may want to update your information.

Trevor Willis2:06 pm 03 Mar 23

With all these billions of dollars being spent on the new Woden Bus Depot and rewiring, etc., for the barrage of expected electric vehicles, why is Mr Barr wasting multi-millions of dollars on the ridiculous Woden tramway??
The Gungahlin to Civic tram has already desecrated the Northbourne Avenue entrance to Canberra with the destruction of hundreds of trees and the planting of dying weeds along the tram line.
Now, Civic to the lake is a mess of closed roads and confusing traffic lights and signs all the way to the lake. How many more disasters are we going to see before common sense reigns and some reasonable people are put in charge of our transportation system?

Not The Mama5:07 pm 03 Mar 23

Effective public transport options would without doubt decrease the environmental and socio-economic costs associated with the use of cars whether they are EVs or petrol powered. I don’t see how stopping the TRAM would alleviate any problem.

Once you concede that (and I suspect that you won’t) then you must also concede that you have to break a few eggs to make an omellette, so I will never admit that temporary disruptions to traffic etc are a valid reason not to have a tram.

The opposition is unelectable and determined to remain so.

The best option is a rise of centrist independent to at least drive governance improvements.

Vinson1Bernie1:55 pm 03 Mar 23

When will this madness end – at least the ACT doesnt have a large manufacturing base using high amounts of electricity which should be a lesson to other states but unfortunately non ACT green zealots use the ACT as an (imperfect) example for the rest of Australia who have different density, lower average incomes, greater distances etc…

Daniel O'CONNELL1:51 pm 03 Mar 23

This article on the increased electricity costs to everyone gives me a sense the world is going mad in the face of emissions apocalysm.

Government mandated increasing demand meets government mandated decreasing supply. Of course there is going to be a material impact on electricity availability and prices.

So much for Mr Albanese’s promised $275 annual reduction in electricity bills

Just wait for the politicians giving themselves pay rises later on this year

This will cripple Australia economically, meanwhile China are building new coal power plants every week and building a space station. Just goes to show how out of touch our weak leaders are, unless this is all down by design to cripple Australia?

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