There’s no guarantee our energy bills won’t increase dramatically to accommodate increased pressures on the electricity grid due to the charging of electric vehicles (EVs).
A second committee inquiry hearing into EV adoption in the ACT was held on Thursday (18 May), with Evoenergy representatives appearing to explain how the Territory’s electricity network and infrastructure will need to adapt as more Canberrans move away from petrol or diesel-reliant vehicles.
Evoenergy has previously submitted it expected EV charging would have a “material impact” on the grid and so residential electricity bills would only rise on average by about $7 to help absorb the cost of upgrades needed, as estimated for the period 2024 to 2029.
However, that’s not the full picture.
“That’s purely what will happen from our side of the bill,” Evoenergy general manager Peter Billing explained.
“Currently, our [side of] the bill is 25 to 30 per cent of the total electricity bill.
“What we obviously don’t control are the costs outside of that, which is the broader generation cost, the use of the transmission network and so on.”
The modelled average $7 increase for residents also doesn’t take into account the consumer price index (CPI) and has made assumptions on how much the need for energy will increase.
However, Mr Billing was confident any increase on top of the $7 wouldn’t be huge.
“We do feel that over time, during that period to 2045, that bills relatively won’t rise greatly because the utilisation of the network will significantly increase,” he said.
“[Also by that stage] you won’t have a gas bill anymore, so your gas load is now, in some form or other, in your electricity bill, you won’t have a fuel bill, necessarily … so utilisation of the network goes up which actually helps to moderate what might happen to bills.”
Evoenergy has asked the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) for total capital funding for the 2024 to 2029 period of $521 million, of which $90 million would be used to specifically augment the network for the expected increase in EV uptake.
This doesn’t mean they get funding from the AER but ensures the money Evoenergy recuperates from consumers through our bills matches the level of money needed.
The money would be used to prepare the ACT’s network on Evoenergy’s end for an expected increase in energy demand for people to charge their EVs, such as new or upgraded wires, cables, transformers and substations.
Not everything will need to be changed or upgraded as it depends on where peak demand is and the make-up of each substation zone, such as residential compared with commercial.
“We’ve got 14 zoned substations [in the ACT] at the moment – most of those zoned substations won’t need any work,” Mr Billing told the inquiry.
It’s also expected some demand would be tempered by people using their own solar and batteries.
But not everything to prepare for added pressure on the network can be provided by Evoenergy either.
Places such as apartment buildings will need to upgrade switchboards and the like to allow more electricity into their system.
“There may be additional capital that that facility may need to put towards that, which isn’t part of the $90 million,” Mr Billing said.
Evoenergy has also tried to predict when peak demand periods for charging EVs would occur and how they would differ from other appliances.
Data currently isn’t available to factor in how vehicle-to-grid (or vehicle-to-building) contributions would adjust any modelling, and assumptions have also been made about the impact of community batteries.
Mr Billing said they expected stronger demand in the middle of the day for people with solar charging their cars, while there would also be ‘convenience chargers’ who juice up their vehicles overnight.
But given it’s not an exact science, they want to prepare for anything.
“It doesn’t matter what time of the day the peak occurs, the peak is the peak. That’s what we’ve got to build for,” Evoenergy strategy and group operations manager Leylann Hinch told the inquiry.
Overall, Mr Billing said all they could do was make sure the network was prepared enough to deliver the services that customers wanted.
“The reality is we don’t know for sure how people will respond, when they will charge. We’ve got to estimate when we think the majority of that charging will happen, but nobody kind of knows that until it happens,” he said.
“[The community has told us] ‘you need to manage the impact, particularly on those that are least able to afford increases, but you must ensure you invest to meet the demand that’s likely to come’.
“Nobody wants to see their bill go up, of course, but the reality is there is investment [that’s going to happen].”