Six US utilities launch Electric Highway Coalition
Six major US utilities have announced a plan to ensure EV drivers have access to a seamless network of charging stations connecting major highways in the South, Midwest, Gulf and Central Plains regions.
The Electric Highway Coalition – comprising Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Dominion Energy, Entergy Corporation, Southern Co., and the Tennessee Valley Authority – will enable EV drivers seamless travel across a broad portion of the country through a network of DC fast chargers.
"The path to cleaner transportation is a robust charging infrastructure along the nation's major highways," said Lang Reynolds, director of Electrification Strategy for Duke Energy. "Range anxiety is a barrier to more EV adoption. This coalition can erase those obstacles and help deliver the benefits of EV ownership to consumers."
The companies are each taking steps to provide EV fast charging options within their service territories to facilitate interstate travel. This partnership represents an unprecedented effort to offer EV drivers convenient charging across different company boundaries and allow travel without interruptions.
The Edison Electric Institute estimates 18 million EVs will be on U.S. roads by 2030. While many drivers recognize the benefits of driving an EV, such as the ease of low-cost home charging, some are concerned with the availability of charging stations during long road trips. Coordinated efforts like this are demonstrating that EVs are a smart choice for driving around town as well as traveling long distances.
For Duke Energy, specific fast charging station locations will be determined through the course of existing and planned fast charging program deployments. This effort will provide drivers with effective, efficient, and convenient charging options that enable long-distance electric travel. Sites along major highway routes, with easy highway access and amenities for travelers are being considered first.
Charging stations will provide a high-powered fast charging experience as new EV models released on the market are capable of charging at faster and faster speeds.
Supporting the transition to EVs
Duke Energy has already launched ambitious programs to expand EV charging both internally at company locations and externally through several utility pilot programs. An internal "Electrify By Example" initiative is starting with an effort to install workplace chargers at all work locations to enable employees to drive electric.
In Florida, the company's Park and Plug pilot has installed more than 570 EV public charging stations throughout the state. Fifty of the 570 are fast charging stations connecting areas of Florida previously underserved by EV fast charging infrastructure. To date, drivers have used the Park and Plug network for over 60,000 charging sessions, displacing more than 90,000 gallons of gasoline.
Regulatory action in 2020 led to pilot programs being approved in both North Carolina and South Carolina. The pilots will lead to full fast charging for all types of EVs in about 20-30 minutes.
In North Carolina, a $25 million pilot program will lead to the installation of 200 public Level 2 and fast charging stations, additional stations at multifamily buildings and a school bus electrification pilot that will allow school districts to change out diesel buses with electric ones.
In South Carolina, the company will provide up to a total of $1,000 for 400 residential Duke Energy Carolinas customers who install a Level 2 charging station, provide access to their charging data, and manage EV charging load to occur during off-peak periods. The company will also deploy 60 fast chargers there to expand access to fast charging infrastructure in the state.
Assuming widespread EV adoption, McKinsey projects that commercial and passenger fleets in the US could include as many as eight million EVs by 2030 (compared with fewer than 5,000 in 2018), which would amount to between 10 and 15 percent of all fleet vehicles. Powering those EVs will require huge investment and infrastructure.
It estimates that the country will need some $11 billion of capital investment by 2030 to deploy the 13 million chargers needed for all of its EVs. Fleet EVs alone would consume up to 230TW-hours of power per year, which would be approximately 6 percent of current US power generation. Their batteries would offer roughly 30GW-hours of electricity-storage capacity, or 15 to 20 percent of projected capacity in 2030.
Technology revolution for water retailers
In April 2017, the UK’s water retail market in the world opened for business – the single biggest change to the water sector since privatisation. This development allowed businesses, charities and public sector organisations to shop around for the best deal.
However, like any industry, this change hasn’t been without its sticking points; here, Paul Williams, CTO at Everflow Tech (pictured far right), discusses how retailers can harness technology to their advantage
Quotations could take up to a week to produce, billing software had to be manually updated and brokers were unable to manage the complete customer journey in one place – all of which took time, cost money and allowed for human error.
The more complexity that was involved in billing or quoting, the more contact end customers needed to have with their retailers, pushing up the cost to serve for every SPID. This meant retailers – ourselves included – found themselves in a situation where profits were simply eaten up by service costs.
We also note that it can traditionally be hard for retailers to stay on top of balancing what they are charging their customers with what they are being charged by the market. To further exacerbate this, the longer a change goes unnoticed, the more trouble it can be to balance the issue.
It was these issues that Josh and his (at the time) small team wanted to ameliorate, creating their own technology in the absence of anything else.
This technology evolved into our award-winning retail sales, billing and customer management platform for the water retail market, and Everflow Tech was launched as a standalone venture in 2018, selling the software externally for other water retailers and their customers to benefit from.
What retailers want
As a relatively new entrant to the world of utilities competition, the water market could be seen to be lagging behind, particularly when it comes to innovation.
In fact, as recently as 2019, Ofwat said it expected the industry to be making technological advances and to be working with a culture of innovation, collaborating with companies both within and outside of the sector.
And with cost-savings for consumers traditionally lower than for other utilities, retailers need to be offering something more – whether that’s better support, energy-efficiency advice or more accurate data.
What’s more, consumers have had a taste of the power of technology, and they’ve come to expect nothing less from retailers across the board.
Another key issue – thrown into sharp relief during the past 12 months (and counting) of a pandemic – is rising levels of arrears, which are likely to increase bad debt beyond margins that retailers originally allowed for when the market was created.
In such a low-margin industry, there is a limit to the amount of debt retailers can take on, especially as recovering costs can be a very slow process. Ofwat has signalled that this issue could be addressed as early as this year, with a mechanism for recovering bad debt to be established during 2021/22.
The market needs simple solutions to better serve the end user, and we were perfectly placed to develop those solutions. At Everflow, our software is designed for the water retail market, by the water retail market.
As well as simple billing, clear-to-understand workflows, and a revenue assurance system to allow retailers to quickly compare market charges, Everflow has also introduced a complete debt solution, allowing missed payment dates to drive late payment charges and escalations automatically.
Retailers are able to design and put out their own bill and quotes, tailoring customer journey and overall experience – whatever the circumstances.
What does the future hold?
Automation is key to any industry; we’re heading into an age of driverless cars and smart homes, and this drive for tech will filter through to our industry, and we need to catch up.
The Internet of Things – a network of physical objects connected to each other – means human error (and effort) can effectively be removed from many everyday tasks, which goes for meter readings too. However, in the 21st century, the water market is still not leveraging previously emerged technology in the form of smart meters to provide accurate billing.
Consumers are also becoming more empowered, both to ask for information and change their preferences if they don’t like what they learn. Retailers need to be armed with this information, not next week, not tomorrow, but now – and, at Everflow Tech, we’re putting that information at their fingertips.
But the retailers themselves need to speak up too, and we will always work with them to get the best ideas on what needs to be developed and when.
Our strong bond with Everflow Water, along with other key customers, means we have a direct interest in making sure our systems serve the water market in the best way they can.
For us, the goal is to make sure retailers on our platform can grow as much as possible, leaving behind laborious daily processes to focus on their own strategic growth and, most importantly, helping their customers.