Co-ops that want to encourage members to drive electric vehicles – and charge them during off-peak hours – should consider launching small pilot projects before adopting EV incentive programs, a new NRECA report recommends.
It’s important to study how co-op members react to efforts to persuade them to charge their cars at off-peak times, says the report, which was prepared for NRECA by Xergy Consulting and released this month. It’s also crucial to test the effectiveness of the internet-connected charging equipment that co-ops want members to use, the study says.
“It is important to test and understand how the marketing messages and the technical communication messages work with the consumer-member and the equipment. This is the key to a successful program that creates benefits for the car’s owner and the cooperative,” said Brian Sloboda, NRECA’s director of consumer solutions.
The most common strategy among co-ops is to provide EV owners with incentives to use Level 2 chargers, which can communicate with co-ops, while also offering special rates for middle-of-the-night charging. But the charging behavior that co-ops want to manage “varies from member to member and co-op to co-op.”
“Understanding how members charge and the degree to which they can shift their charging to beneficial periods of the day will help a co-op develop programs that ensure the adoption of EVs is good for both the co-op and the member,” the report says.
The study looks at lessons learned from EV pilot projects in South Carolina and Delaware.
Central Electric Power Cooperative Inc., a generation and transmission co-op in Columbia, South Carolina, worked with their distribution co-ops last year to install chargers at seven homes and one condo building.
Most of the participating members charged their vehicles as soon as they returned home for the evening, typically during the peak energy use hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Simply asking participants to charge overnight to keep co-op costs low didn’t work. The co-ops either had to take direct control of the charging equipment or schedule voluntary events on specific days. Only one participant ignored all requests to voluntarily charge during off-peak hours.
All of the consumer-members in the study expressed interest in future programs, including taking advantage of special low rates for EV owners who charge their vehicles in the middle of the night.
At Delaware Electric Cooperative, a distribution co-op with about 84,000 members, a pilot project launched in 2018 led to an EV incentive program for its entire service area last year.
The co-op chose eight members with EVs and gave them free charging equipment, plus installation. Each participant used a mobile app to schedule charging times and track real-time energy consumption.
DEC sent text or email alerts to participants prior to a peak demand event. The co-op then used its control platform to reduce or cut power to the EV charger during the event. Members could choose to opt-out, but few did.
Based on the results, DEC now offers all of its EV users a $200 credit on their bills for installing Level 2 chargers. They also give them a $5 monthly credit for participating in the load control program.
Co-ops that need help starting or expanding an EV pilot project are encouraged to contact Sloboda at email@example.com