Electric Cars hooking up to the electric grid equals more demand for Uranium the fuel used in Nuclear powered plants. Lithium is used in the rechargable battery for the electric vehicles.
Electric Car Sales Could Create Big Opportunities – If Utilities Get Their Act Together!
A number of U.S. electric utilities are both concerned and excited over predicted electric vehicle sales and their impact on the electric distribution system. Electric cars will be marketed in mass starting this spring. That effort, $7,500 tax credits and a recovering economy releasing a pent-up consumer spending urge could result in big sales. In turn, neighborhood distribution systems could see dramatic load increases. (See Associated Press article)
On the other hand, a utility can take advantage of this opportunity to upgrade its energy delivery system while expanding its rate base, thereby increasing revenues. And all this fits in with smart grid deployment strategies (and potentially, lest we forget, federal stimulus dollars).
All depends on whether a utility can get its distribution budgeting/planning act together in time. Historically, the record is not great. Here’s an example:
It was the summer of my discontent, and also that of most of my neighbors. We had relocated from California and loved our new home, our neighbors, and the culture – almost everything except the lousy electric reliability. Several times during the week our lights would go out. Sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours. At times the whole area would be blacked out, looking like a set from The Twilight Zone under the soft starlight.
Being a so-called industry "expert", I was asked by a major newspaper to comment on the problems and so I explained that the outages were mostly due to exploding transformers, overheated by air conditioning demands. Blah, Blah. Standard stuff. But in my head I kept thinking “What the heck is wrong with the power company!”
Then a utility executive was interviewed on TV (fortunately our power stayed on during the interview long enough for us to watch). She said that the local load growth had been higher than expected, the summer was hotter than usual, and a lot of the transformers were old. Also, she explained, the utility had a transformer replacement program that minimized costs to its ratepayers (apparently by allowing the transformers to reach full, doddering maturity).
In other words - “Not the utility’s fault, period.”
The interviewer seemed satisfied. Smiles all around. But…to those that know something about the industry, she was in effect admitting that the planning methodology was seriously flawed. And so were the assumptions about customer preferences. After all, area population and business growths were certainly predictable and, in any case, change slowly enough to allow adequate time for corrections. And as far as saving the ratepayers money, our family would much prefer paying a few cents or even a few dollars more on our monthly bill rather than sitting in the dark playing cribbage with flashlights!
Apparently the state public utilities commission didn’t buy the utility’s story either. After some heavy fines, new planning processes were put in place. We now have excellent service. And I don’t think our electric bill has changed much, if at all.
For some reason, utilities are slow to upgrade their distribution systems, even when the capital upgrades are reasonable and would provide additional revenue through the allowed rate of return, just as would generation and transmission additions and upgrades.
I need to add that electric distribution engineers and field workers are some of the hardest workers in the industry. Under-appreciated, under-budgeted and often under-paid, they manage to keep the lights on almost all of the time. Amazingly, in many companies executive management acts as though it doesn’t realize that the electric distribution system has moved from being the enterprise stepchild, to becoming the biggest strategic business asset.
Hopefully it will begin to be managed as such. During the next decade, electric vehicles and smart grid could be the acid test.