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LATEST THINKING


Overview

The market for plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) is charged up and ready to roll. Growth in market penetration of PEVs is occurring across most major global markets.

Utilities can gain the upper hand in the PEV arena through developing a PEV charging infrastructure with the digital customer at the core. According to Accenture Consulting New Energy Consumer research, 81 percent of customers prefer buying charging services from their energy provider.

However, many utilities are just beginning to formulate an integrated PEV strategy. A window of opportunity is available now, but utilities need to act quickly to become a major player in the PEV market. If they do not, other players in the PEV ecosystem (including automotive, technology and retail companies) will likely develop a digital customer experience strategy and thereby win.

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Key findings

Although PEVs are a major opportunity for utilities, the cars will be a new, significant draw on the power grid—and maybe at the worst times—putting utilities at risk. 

Normal PEV charging behaviors will put an extra load on the grid at peak times when the grid is already at capacity. By contrast, “smart” charging shifts the PEV charging peaks to early morning hours, during off-peak grid load hours.

Too few utilities are offering “smart” PEV infrastructure and programs. 

Many utilities have yet to take action in the PEV marketplace. For those who have, the vast majority of their charging programs are focused on deploying traditional or unmanaged charging instead of smart charging infrastructure.

If utilities do not respond to PEVs in a digitally enabled, customer-focused manner, they will lose the opportunity to shape customer demand and align incentives. 

A digitally enabled, customer-centric, cross-industry solution for PEVs is needed. This solution should address the needs of customers (availability, affordability, connectivity) as well as utilities (grid reliability, load response).

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Recommendations

How should utilities respond to the PEV opportunity?

Here are some important steps to consider:

  • Invest in “smart” PEV charging infrastructure that provides innovative rate structures and charging options. Being able to shape PEV charging behaviors depends on developing a smart PEV charging infrastructure, connecting the utility with real-time markets.

  • Pursue partnerships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and charging providers while retaining ownership of the key part of the value chain. OEMs are a big part of the overall PEV opportunity and are already creating their partnering ecosystems.

  • Think beyond PEV charging infrastructure, including vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology and turnkey charging infrastructure offerings. V2G technology could turn PEVs into full two-way distributed energy resources on the grid.

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Who we are

Stu helps utility clients around the world develop strategies and capabilities that optimize their financial and operating results, while also capitalizing on digital innovation. With nearly three decades of Accenture experience, he specializes in smart grid, customer care, field and back office operations, sustainability, cyber security and business continuity. Stu is based in McLean, Virginia.

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Greg specializes in helping clients transform their operating models to improve results and enable growth. With nearly three decades of consulting and management experience, he works with major utilities in North America and Europe to help refine their strategies, organizational structures, governance processes and operating capabilities. He has also worked extensively with companies in the Communications, Media, Hi-Tech and Retail industries. Greg is based in Chicago.

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James has more than 20 years of utilities and energy industry experience. He works with leading North American electric and gas utilities to drive growth by developing new business capabilities in emerging areas such as energy storage, electric vehicles, distributed energy resources and advanced analytics. His focus is on the shift towards customer-centric business models, distributed energy resources and grid modernization. He began his career as a US Army officer, leading a combat engineering unit. James is based in Chicago.

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