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Electric Cars Could Balance 10% of U.K. Power Needs, Report Says

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May 10 (Bloomberg) -- Electric cars and trucks may help the U.K. cope with erratic renewable power generation by recharging when demand is low and supplying the network when demand is high, the country’s grid operator said.

Electric vehicles may be able to balance 6 to 10 percent of the nation’s power needs by 2020 and lower demand on fossil fuels as backup, National Grid Plc said in a report released today in partnership with Ricardo Plc, a U.K. maker of fuel-efficient cars. The annual return to the car owner would be around 50 pounds ($82), the companies said.

Britain, aiming to get 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, is planning $120 billion of offshore wind projects as well as gas and nuclear plants to replace aging generators. A surge in renewable energy projects, which is more variable than traditional power sources, will boost the need for back-up generators and management of energy usage, authors including Neil Downing and Ben Smith said in the report.

“Great Britain’s electricity grid is a highly meshed network,” the authors said. “The overriding principle of operation of the Great Britain electricity network -- and any other large scale network -- is to match electricity supply precisely to consumer demand on a second-by-second basis.”

In fiscal year 2010, National Grid spent 270 million pounds on so-called reserve services, the report said. These services, which can supply energy within 2 seconds and 20 minutes depending on how long they are required, are needed to manage variations in usage and to handle unplanned events like power plant failures.

Reverse Charging

Grid operators use demand-side management to trim usage when there is a surge in energy use or a sudden drop in supply. Electric car owners could be paid a fee if they are willing to refrain from charging at times of high usage. In the future, cars may supply power stored in their batteries to the grid when they’re not in use.

“Plug-in vehicles may be able to work in synergy with the electricity market to smooth the daily demand profile,” the author said. This may help reduce “the need to meet additional balancing requirements by simply running more ‘conventional’ generation and potentially incurring additional carbon dioxide emissions.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at

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