What is grid balancing? And how does it help the climate?

What is grid balancing? And how does it help the climate? The energy grid needs constant balancing of supply and demand. Renewable energy sources can increase grid balancing challenges, but electric vehicles and True Energy’s solutions can help and simultaneously support the climate.

True Energy’s smart charge and Big Battery are not only good for electric vehicle (EV) owners. They are also great for the environment and the energy grid.

You might be asking yourself why and how that is the case.

Part of the answer is grid balancing and the ongoing changes to our energy production.

Here, we explore the concept of grid balancing (also known as load balancing) at three levels. We also explore how the energy grid, energy production, electric vehicles and True Energy’s together point toward a greener future.

The short version:

What is grid balancing?

Grid balancing involves constantly matching electricity consumption to electricity production. 

What are the challenges?

Electricity remains challenging to store. So supply and demand must be constantly matched. Else we risk blackouts.

How do True Energy and EVs help?

True Energy’s solutions, like smart charge and Big Battery, make EVs an active part of grid balancing. The solutions automatically adjust EV charging to support the grid and to charge as cheap as possible. 

The medium version:

What is grid balancing?

Our electricity consumption changes all the time. Grid balancing is the process of maintaining balance in the grid by ensuring that supply always matches demand. Electricity producers and utilities use different strategies to help ensure this is the case, including:

  • Adjusting power production: The traditional way to ensure grid balance is to increase or decrease electricity production using gas, biomass or coal. Unlike renewable energy sources, these can be adjusted and controlled manually.
  • Adjusting energy consumption: Regulating the consumption of large-scale electricity users.
  • Adjusting electricity prices: Differentiating energy prices to encourage electricity use at off-peak times where supply is traditionally higher than demand (for example, at night).

What are the challenges?

The increase in renewable energy production leads to increased variance and unpredictability in supply and demand. That, in turn, increases the challenges associated with matching electricity production and the need for load balancing – both during peak use hours and off-peak hours.

Controlling and adjusting electricity production to smooth out the power supply and demand has traditionally used power plants and backup generators (using fossil fuels like coal or gas). However, ramping up production to meet demand changes with this method is expensive and not environmentally friendly.

Differentiating electricity prices can provide part of the solution. One example is encouraging users to delay electricity use by increasing peak-hour costs. However, consumers need to use electricity during off-peak hours, such as at night, to take advantage of the situation. 

How do True Energy and EVs help?

EVs are part of the broader electrification of our societies. This can stress energy grids more, especially if they are charged during peak hours – and contribute to even higher electricity prices.

True Energy can automate EV charging to coincide with a surplus of electricity in the grid, like during off-peak hours. This is when energy prices are lower, thereby saving consumers money. Simultaneously, True Energy’s solutions enable control of EV charging in ways that provide a buffer that grid operators and utilities can use for grid balancing without having to rely on expensive, polluting fossil fuel power plants.

The long version:

What is grid balancing?

Grid balancing ensures electricity consumption matches electricity production at any moment within an electrical grid. The equilibrium point for the European network, which operates on alternating current, is at a frequency of 50 Hertz. Grid operators ensure this frequency remains stable 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The frequency drops if too little electricity is fed into the grid to meet demand. Conversely, the electrical frequency increases if too much electricity is fed into the grid compared to the quantity consumed. Since power plants are designed to operate within a specific frequency range, both scenarios create a risk of failures, electricity cutting out, or blackouts in worst-case scenarios.

What are the challenges?

The green transition involves moving from fossil fuels to renewable sources across energy consumption, including transportation. This increases the need for electricity.

Simultaneously, integrating renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower has made grid balancing more complex. These sources are unpredictable, relying on weather conditions that can change rapidly, resulting in more under or oversupplies of electricity. Simultaneously the rapid changes can lead to a need for greater flexibility in the way that the grid is balanced.

Other challenges include the grid needing to be able to accommodate increased demand. Transmission constraints in this new reality require constructing new, expensive electricity infrastructure – or more sophisticated approaches to energy production, use, and management.

How do True Energy and EVs help?

EV owners can help balance the grid using True Energy’s intelligent EV charging technology. For example, our smart charge feature enables scheduling charging to when the demand – and therefore the prices – are lower. For instance, you can plug an EV into the charger at 3 PM and set that you need a full battery at 7 AM the next day. Charging the vehicle to the desired level only takes five hours, so our charging software automatically decides when the actual charging will occur. Then, at 7 AM the next day, your vehicle is ready at the lowest possible cost.

Since electricity prices are defined by supply and demand, times with low prices often coincide with high energy production (especially from renewable energy sources). In this way, smart charge helps increase the utilisation of available energy, minimising the use of polluting backup generators.

Through True Energy’s Big Battery solution, EVs are pooled, and their charging is controlled through True Energy’s systems. Through this control, True Energy can provide utilities and grid operators with a flexible buffer that increases their ability to respond to varying energy production and minimise the costs associated with integrating renewable energy into the grid.

This also helps to increase the demand for variable energy prices and minimises the costs associated with integrating renewable energy into the grid.

The result is that users save money, assist with grid balancing, and support the green transition.