Electric cars dangle the promise of earning money for their drivers
By Helen Massy-Beresford
While drivers considering an electric vehicle (EV) might imagine the main benefit being less air pollution from their own journeys, EV batteries could also make money for car owners – and help countries stabilise their power grids.
The whole idea is premised on a simple fact: cars are stationary far more often than they are in motion.
‘Cars are parked for 95% of the time, so they can offer flexibility by providing electricity when there is more demand and by storing it when there is less demand,’ said Joana Mundó Olivé, chief executive officer of consultancy Ecoserveis in Spain. ‘That can help balance the grid and, at the same time, the end user can make additional revenues.’
Ecoserveis is leading the EU-funded V2Market project exploring how EV batteries can be integrated into the electricity system. They would serve as storage capacity for national power grids, allowing electric-car owners to sell energy to the networks when it is needed.
Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology offers potential answers to two big challenges for society as it seeks to counter more frequent – and increasingly severe – heat waves, storms and floods resulting from climate change.
One is cutting emissions from transport, which accounts for around a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse-gas discharges. The second is increasing the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power, whose intermittent nature is a headache for power-grid operators.
The EU has given the auto industry a big regulatory prod to accelerate the development of electric vehicles by agreeing to ban the sale of new cars with a combustion engine as of 2035. Separate draft European legislation would increase the number of charging stations for EV drivers across the EU.
For consumers, being able to make money by selling energy to the grid should help encourage them to opt for electric cars.
Rules of the game
After initial market studies, V2Market is focusing on how the contracts governing the commercial relationships among energy suppliers, the power grid, charging-infrastructure providers and EV owners will look. This mix of actors also includes companies – known as aggregators – that negotiate with utilities on behalf of consumers.
V2Market, which runs until 2024, plans pilot tests in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, Spain later this year involving municipal-authority vehicles and individual EV owners.
Those trials will contribute to another major aim of the project: boosting public awareness and encouraging policymakers in more countries to put in place the rules needed for V2G to emerge on a broad scale. At present, few countries have passed legislation in this area.
‘You need laws that allow this commercial relationship of selling electricity or capacity to the grid,’ said Mundó Olivé. ‘You also have to regulate the taxes and the role of the aggregator. There are new relationships to be built between different market actors.’
V2Market will analyse data on electricity consumption and fluctuations in power prices at different times of day to help people predict the best hours to consume energy or feed it into the grid. Alerts sent to users via an app will prompt them to charge their car batteries when energy is cheaper and sell it back to the grid when it is more expensive.
The project also explores the possibility of an electric-vehicle owner paying to use the EV battery, which would belong to an aggregator, rather than buying it outright. This idea, known as “servitisation,” could reduce the initial outlay for an EV by around €10 000, according to Mundó Olivé.
Elsewhere in the EV sphere, researchers and start-ups are moving ahead with other important technological steps. One is automated battery charging, which maximises vehicles’ connection time with the grid.
Automated charging is a prerequisite for intelligent charging, whereby an EV and a charging device share a data connection. The link enables the car owner to monitor and manage the charging process, making the best use of electricity supply and demand. Intelligent charging in turn allows the vehicle’s battery to be used for V2G.
Automated charging was the focus of the EU-funded Matrix Charging project, which ended in 2020.
Led by Austrian high-tech startup Easelink, the project developed a technology that automatically charges the battery of a parked EV.
The EV parks over a special pad, a connector gets lowered from under the car and the two meet to charge the battery, communicating through a secure wifi-based connection.
The pad can be installed in a public place, used outdoors or fitted in a private garage, according to Hermann Stockinger, founder and CEO of Easelink. The company is now seeking to commercialise the product through technology licensing.
‘When it comes to making money out of battery storage, we have a key technology,’ said Stockinger, who has a background in mechanical engineering and worked for German carmaker BMW before founding Easelink in 2016.
He believes EU backing has helped foster industry interest in the charging system.
The company is initially focusing on licensing the system to retrofit existing electric vehicles – an operation that would cost around €2 500 and take three to four hours – as the quickest way to scale up.
Taxis, municipal vehicles and premium users are expected to be the initial target groups.
Easelink is also putting the pad into operation at taxi stands in Vienna and Graz, Austria through an Austrian energy and climate initiative to electrify taxi fleets.
Starting in mid-2023, around 60 automatic-charging stations will be set up in the largest such project in Europe.
More generally, by ensuring the battery is charging whenever the car is parked, the pad can help owners maximise revenues from their batteries, according to Stockinger.
‘You don’t have the human factor of remembering to plug it in,’ he said. ‘You can set up a fully automated process.’
Ultimately, achieving a higher renewables share will require a widespread intelligent charging system that automated charging is bringing ever closer.
‘This is a key technology to deal with the volatility of renewable-energy sources,’ Stockinger said. ‘If vehicles are connected to the grid more often, they can be charged at the ideal time when green energy is available.’
Research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
The people power being harnessed for cleaner and cheaper energy
As Europe weans itself off fossil fuels, local energy networks are tapping renewable sources to fill the gap and cut consumer bills.
By ANDREW DUNNE
They might look like ordinary plugs, but hook up a heat pump or electric-vehicle charger using one of the smart widgets and the result could be big environmental gains and household savings.
In the northern Spanish city of Valladolid, Santiago Campos is testing a new technology that promises to change the way he and many others consume energy at home. Campos had a series of smart widgets installed in his house late last year and is now set to reap the benefits with more energy efficiency and lower heating bills.
‘I’m doing this for environmental reasons and also to save money at home, in particular to use my heat pump efficiently,’ said the 55-year-old Campos, who works for a local electricity cooperative called Energética Coop. ‘I also want to contribute to the development of a new service that I think could have a big impact for our members and for the environment.’
Welcome to the EU-funded REDREAM project. It is seeking to spur the use of cheaper sources of renewable power.
Deploying a data-based technological system that optimises how and when consumers use energy, the initiative is helping Europe wean itself off fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.
Months of headlines about soaring energy costs have highlighted the importance of Europe’s goal to green its energy. Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, the EU was preparing higher renewables targets for 2030 as part of the fight against climate change.
Renewables will account for at least 40% of EU energy consumption on average at the end of the decade, up from a previous 2030 goal of 32%, according to new draft European legislation.
Yet this goal poses challenges, not least because of the intermittent nature of renewables such as solar and wind power.
Peaks in energy demand rarely align with peaks in renewables production. Fire up a heat pump at home in the evening and chances are the electricity used will have been generated from fossil fuels.
Affordable and easy
‘Current options for consumers to change their energy usage are very limited,’ said Dr Álvaro Sánchez Miralles, an energy expert who coordinates REDREAM. The three-year initiative runs through September this year.
The project’s big idea is an ‘‘energy ecosystem’’ that can reduce peaks in demand by spreading energy usage more evenly throughout the day. The system can control devices remotely and take advantage of conditions when renewables are readily available.
For example, if it’s a bright sunny day and solar power is in abundance, the system knows to use the opportunity of cleaner, cheaper energy to charge things like electric vehicles.
All of which means being able to make more use of renewables and doing so in a way that is practical for households, according to Miralles, who is a senior associate professor at the Institute for Research in Technology (IIT) at the Comillas Pontificial University in the Spanish capital Madrid.
An app interface helps consumers better understand usage and an ‘‘energy assistant’’ advises on options.
One mode automatically switches on devices when renewables are abundant and cheaper. Another sends an alert about these moments to consumers and leaves it to them to decide whether or not to activate devices.
In Valladolid, Campos says he has let the technology make all the decisions about his heat pump and praised the whole system.
‘I set it to automatically control my heat pump,’ he said. ‘It’s been so easy to use and is already having a big effect.’
Campos says it’s too early to calculate precise savings.
While only a handful of users in Spain, Croatia and the UK is so far testing the technology, when scaled up in the years to come it could have a significant impact in boosting renewables.
‘Our real ambition is to have millions of users so we can bring about these changes en masse,’ said Miralles.
Through local partners, REDREAM is also helping consumers to become renewable producers too – a role that has spawned the term ‘‘prosumers’’.
This can take different forms – from building a wind turbine in a community to installing solar panels on household roofs. The team sees another opportunity here to increase renewables and drive down energy costs.
In Valladolid, Campos is looking at how the REDREAM technology might enable him to make more direct use of the solar energy he’s generating on his roof in powering his own home.
Through the technology, local power generation and household energy consumption can be integrated.
Others too see benefits in greater local renewables production.
Kostas Galanakis is co-ordinator of the Smart-BEEjS project – a consortium of eight universities and research centres across Europe promoting the development of ‘‘positive energy districts’’, or PEDs.
The project complements EU plans to establish 100 such energy districts by 2025. It started in 2019 and runs through April this year.
PEDs are communities or neighbourhoods that, through generating their own renewables, produce more energy than they consume.
This energy can then be sold back to the grid and, when profits are reinvested, a virtuous circle is created: revenues from renewables are used to accelerate local green transitions and can help poorer households pay their energy bills.
Successful examples exist, but they are typically small-scale. Smart-BEEjS is using them to try to determine what works and what is needed for more PEDs to emerge.
Galanakis points to cases like Aardehuizen in the Netherlands and Denmark’s Samsø Island, where consumers are reaping economic and environmental rewards by producing their own energy.
Aardehuizen has just 23 homes. Each is heated with passive solar heat (large windows on the south), solar collectors, wood stoves and heat pumps. While the community is connected to the electricity grid, it is largely self-sufficient thanks to solar panels.
In 1997, Samsø won a government contract to become energy self-sufficient based on 100% renewables. More than a quarter of a century on, the island generates all its own electricity and heat with offshore and onshore wind turbines and solar panels.
While political support and new funding are crucial for PEDs to flourish elsewhere, the evidence that the Smart-BEEjS team produces can feed into future policy decisions, according to Galanakis, who is associate professor of innovation systems and entrepreneurship at Nottingham Trent University in the UK.
In the longer term, he sees a growing appetite and enormous potential for building energy systems from the bottom up so the most vulnerable people in society benefit.
‘We’re focused on decentralising the energy system to reduce fossil-fuel dependency and to make it socially just so that it doesn’t leave vulnerable people behind,’ Galanakis said.
Research in this article was funded via the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).
The article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.
Chad nationalized all assets and rights of Esso Chad
The President of the Transition of Chad, Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, by decree N°0465/PT/PM/MHE/2023 of March 23, 2023, nationalized all the assets and all the rights of any kind arising from the Conventions, Exploration permits, Exploitation Authorizations and Hydrocarbon Transport Authorizations of ESSO Exploration and Production Chad Inc, informs Le Tchad Info.
The company held concessions in a number of productive fields, as well as rights over oil extracted there and a share in a pipeline transporting crude to neighbouring Cameroon for export via the port of Kribi.
Oil Minister Djerassem Le Bemadjiel did not immediately respond to AFP questions as to the reasons for the nationalisation.
In December, his ministry said the government was concerned about the “vital and sovereign assets” of the Doba oil fields and the pipeline in the event of any “irregular operation”.
The vast semi-desert country, lying at the crossroads of eastern and western Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world.
It became an oil producer and exporter in 2003 and has since become heavily dependent on the sector. Sales account for more than 11 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to the World Bank.
European Green Deal: EU agrees stronger rules to boost energy efficiency
The Commission welcomes the provisional agreement reached this morning with the European Parliament and the Council to reform and strengthen the EU Energy Efficiency Directive. This deal marks a further step in the completion of the ‘Fit for 55′ package to deliver the European Green Deal and the REPowerEU Plan. It shows once again the EU’s determination to become climate neutral by 2050.
Reaching higher targets with better instruments
For the first time, the energy efficiency first principle is given legal strength with a clear requirement for EU countries to take energy efficiency into consideration in policy, planning and major investment decisions in the energy sector and beyond.
The agreement establishes an EU energy efficiency target of 11.7% for 2030, exceeding the Commission’s original ‘Fit for 55′ proposal. It requires EU Member States to collectively ensure an additional reduction of final and primary energy consumption, compared with energy consumption forecasts made in 2020.
Under the provisional deal, the annual energy savings obligation nearly doubles to ensure continual progress. EU countries will be required to achieve new savings each year of 1.49% of final energy consumption on average, from 2024 to 2030, up from the current level of 0.8%. They will gradually have to reach 1.9% by the end of 2030. This is an important instrument to drive energy savings in end-use sectors such as buildings, industry and transport.
The revised rules also give a greater responsibility to the public sector to increase energy efficiency. Public bodies will need to systematically take into account energy efficiency requirements in their public procurement of products, services, buildings and works. A new annual energy consumption reduction target of 1.9% is introduced for the public sector. EU countries’ obligation to renovate each year at least 3% of the total floor area of buildings owned by the public administration now also covers the regional and local levels.
Companies will be encouraged to be more energy-efficient under the revised Directive. First, energy management systems will become a default obligation for large energy consumers. All enterprises, including SMEs that exceed 85TJ of annual energy consumption, will have to implement an energy management system. Otherwise, they will be subject to an energy audit (if their annual consumption exceeds 10TJ). For the first time, a reporting scheme for energy performance of large data centres is also introduced.
Under the agreed rules, EU countries will also have to promote local heating and cooling plans in large municipalities having populations above 45,000. Also, with the revised definition of efficient district heating and cooling, minimum requirements will be gradually changed to ensure a fully decarbonised district heating and cooling supply by 2050. Support to new high-efficiency cogeneration units using natural gas and connected to district heating in efficient district heating and cooling systems will only be possible until 2030, whereas any other fossil fuel use will be banned for new heat generation capacities in such systems.
The deal further strengthens provisions on energy efficiency financing to facilitate the mobilisation of investments. Under the new provisions, EU countries will be required to promote innovative financing scheme and green lending products for energy efficiency, by ensuring their wide and non-discriminatory offer by financial institutions. EU countries will have to report on the volume of energy efficiency investments.
Alleviating energy poverty and empowering consumers
The agreement includes the first ever EU definition of energy poverty. Member States will now have to implement energy efficiency improvement measures as a priority among people affected by energy poverty, vulnerable customers, low-income households, and where applicable, people living in social housing. The revised rules put a stronger focus on alleviating energy poverty and empowering consumers, including the creation of one-stop-shops for, technical and financial assistance and out-of-court mechanisms for the settlement of disputes.
Today’s provisional agreement now requires formal adoption by the European Parliament and the Council. Once this process is completed, the new legislation will be published in the Official Journal of the Union and enter into force.
The European Green Deal is the EU’s long-term growth strategy to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050. The revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive is one of the ‘Fit for 55′ proposals presented by the Commission in July 2021 to make the EU’s climate, energy, land use, transport and taxation policies fit for reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. Achieving these emission reductions in the next decade is crucial to Europe becoming the world’s first climate neutral continent by 2050 and making the European Green Deal a reality.
Energy efficiency is also a key pillar of the REPowerEU plan, which is the EU’s strategy to get rid of Russian fossil fuel imports as soon as possible. In May 2022, the Commission proposed as part of the REPowerEU Plan to enhance long-term energy efficiency measures, including an increase of the binding Energy Efficiency Target under the ‘Fit for 55′ package of European Green Deal legislation.
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