VGI is an acronym you will hear more as an electric customer. It is coming and you are part of it.

VGI is short for Vehicle Grid Integration. It is seen as an opportunity to add flexibility and a new power resource in the electric grid.

The shortest explanation is that individual electric vehicles can be aggregated into a significant power resource. Your vehicle will be one source of electricity for the grid. Think of the way an Impressionist painting uses many small brushstrokes to create a whole image. Each brushstroke is an electric vehicle (EV), and together they make a painting, or in this case, a major power source.

Volumes have already been written about the elements of technology, regulation and customer behavior that must align to make this happen.

Customers: There must be a critical mass of EVs to tap, enough vehicles out there to bulk up power. Consumers may have the chance to save money on power as vehicles are charged at off-peak (cheaper) hours, and maybe even get some revenue by allowing their vehicles to be used for grid power.

EV sales penetration in 2018 for North Carolina was 5 percent, for South Carolina, less than one. (Source) A 10 percent market share of vehicles that are EVs is enough to create a virtual power plant and change the way power is delivered says one source.

Technology: Two-way technology. Utilities will need to have control of power flow to and from the vehicles. Managed charging is the technical capability to adjust the charging of each vehicle through a delay, adjusting electricity, or switching electric load on or off. Two-way interaction controls the charge and discharge of power between the grid and a vehicle battery.

Regulation: This idea is new in the scheme of the grid. Policymakers need to establish standards to facilitate these kinds of grid services. Regulation also means there needs to be consideration of price. How much can a consumer get for allowing a vehicle battery to be tapped? How much can a consumer save if that person allows a utility to control charging?

Electric consumers are part of the VGI equation, but others are in the driver’s seat. The Smart Electric Power Alliance, in October 2019, showed how the VGI concept is emblematic of the kinds of changes happening in the energy industry. The report is Preparing for an Electric Vehicle Future: How Utilities Can Succeed: “If readers take one message from this report, it is that EV adoption is happening today and will accelerate in the future. Utilities will play a major role in the planning and deployment of EV charging infrastructure. This is a massive opportunity for utilities to become more customer-focused by streamlining processes and organizational structures, to exploit new business opportunities, and be seen as a champion of positive change. It also presents significant risk for utility planning, operations, and financial health, which must be managed. While each utility’s strategy for an electric vehicle future will be unique, each utility should begin preparing today to ensure they can succeed.”