eLab Accelerator 2015

Seattle Electric Vehicle Strategy

Project Objective

Seattle City Light, one of the nation’s largest municipal utilities, seeks to enable an electric vehicle charging program that drives customer EV adoption, manages EV charge loads on the distribution system, and provides benefits directly to customers, the utility and project partners.

Project Team Members

Jeff Bishop, Chief Financial Officer, Seattle City Light
Gustavo Collantes, Assistant Director, Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy – University of California, Davis
Jeannie Lam, Electric Vehicle Business Development Manager, Nissan North America
Michael Pesin,Chief Technology Advisor, Seattle City Light
Andrea Pratt, Green Fleet Coordinator, City of Seattle
Jerry Weiland, Managing Director Transportation, Rocky Mountain Institute

Project Description

The Seattle region boasts one of the highest adoption rates of electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States. Vehicle electrification presents many opportunities for both customers and the utility, including lower-cost transportation, reduced carbon emissions and local air pollution, the integration of greater amounts of renewable electricity sources, and lower electricity costs. Seattle City Light wishes to increase adoption of EVs in the area, while harnessing the benefits EVs stand to offer customers and the larger energy system. To do so will require addressing several infrastructure, policy and behavioral challenges preventing the large-scale adoption of EVs. At eLab Accelerator a team from Seattle’s municipal utility, city government representatives, and industry experts will begin planning for the following elements of a utility EV charging program: Infrastructure deployment: the team will assess infrastructure needs for the city of Seattle at certain rates of adoption and use, and think through how they would impact their distribution system and integrated resource planning. Utility business models and enabling policies: several sources of value exist when integrating electric vehicles into a smart grid system. These include 1) load leveling – offsetting the need for building new peak power plants, 2) offsetting renewable energy resource variability – enabling larger capture of renewable energy generation, and 3) offering EV charge timing services for green energy programs – maximizing the carbon offset potential for electric vehicles. Identifying how to appropriately structure utility programs, and their enabling policies, to best capture these indirect benefits will be critical to EV uptake and EV programs’ viability. Customer engagement: Various market segments will be interested in different services an EV program could offer, these could vary from ease of use, to the ability to nano-grid, to maximizing the fuel cost savings for commercial and governmental fleets. Identifying market segments, the value proposition for each and an optimal means of engagement will be key to the program’s adoption.

Post-Accelerator Outcomes

At Accelerator the Seattle EV Strategy team explored the various desired outcomes an EV charging program could enable in the City of Seattle for different stakeholders including the consumer, the business community and the utility. Through interactive, rapid-prototyping activities the team identified system requirements necessary to enable many different stakeholders' interests to be met in an EV charging program. From here the team designed two concurrent charging infrastructure initiatives that would be mutually reinforcing to a larger EV adoption program for the city. The Seattle team is now putting together the business case necessary to socialize the initiative with Seattle city staff. Once City approval has been secured the team will begin to convene stakeholders for implementation planning.