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Sherry Login: Making the grid more efficient by incentivizing off-peak charging

Posted by Lauren Hertel on Tuesday, May 21 2019

Fellows: 

Fellow Sherry Login, the manager of electric vehicles for Consolidated Edison (Con Edison) in New York, manages all customer-facing electric vehicle (EV) programs for the company. Her special project, however, is SmartCharge New York, an off-peak charging incentive program that she created two years ago.

The program was funded as part of Con Edison’s last rate case, which is a periodic occurence when a utility company presents their proposed rates for approval by the public service commission and also has the opportunity to propose new programs. It was the first time Con Edison had ever included EVs in their rate case, asking for $6 million to offer a “beneficial electrification” program that has the potential to generate revenue for the utility during off-peak hours.

Making the grid more efficient is important, says Login, since all utilities have to be sized to handle system peak loads. In Con Edison’s case, that is afternoons in the warm summer months, when homes and businesses are running their air conditioners. What SmartCharge New York does is to incentivize use of the grid at off-peak times (midnight to 8 am) all year to spread out utilization of the grid’s capacity without adding to the burden at peak times.

In the case of SmartCharge New York, the company pays EV owners, whether they are Con Edison customers or not, to charge their vehicles within Con Edison’s service area during off-peak times. The program pays the incentive out in the form of monthly e-gift cards, so non-customers, apartment dwellers, and others can benefit and use the program. Con Edison gives participants a FleetCarma connected car device they plug into the onboard diagnostic port of their EV, which collects charging and GPS data to confirm the car was charged within Con Edison’s service area. (Login is quick to point out that the device only turns on when charging, and does not track participants’ movements while driving.)

The company then pays 10 cents per kWh for all charging done between midnight and 8am. In addition, participants are paid $150 just for installing and activating the free FleetCarma device, and $5 every month they keep device installed and charge in the Con Edison service area. If they completely avoid charging during summer peak hours (weekdays, 2 to 6 pm), they are paid an extra $20 per month.

In all, Login calculates that an EV owner who drives 10,000 electric miles annually, and charges all off-peak, would receive about $500 per year, plus the one-time installation bonus of $150.

The unique aspect of this program, says Login, is that it incentivizes the person who is choosing when and where to plug in, not the entity who is paying the electric bill. The idea, she says, is really to benefit EV owners. Subsequently, by reducing the cost of ownership of an EV, it can make the vehicles a bit more competitive than the equivalent internal combustion engine vehicles, which are still cheaper to purchase.

SmartCharge New York currently has over 1,300 private EV’s participating in program. The City of New York is also participating via their Charge Point stations, which collect the data on the city’s electric fleet, which happens to be the largest in the country.

The only real challenge Login sees to her work is somewhat beyond her control: dealers and their salespeople.

“Dealers frequently don’t tell people about the program, because it takes more time to sell an EV. People have questions the salespeople can’t answer. Even if we train them, there’s high turnover of salespeople. The dealers just won’t sell something they don’t know when they can sell something they’re comfortable with,” says Login.

One way Login and her team can educate EV buyers about the program is through New York State’s Drive Clean Rebate program. It offers electric car buyers a rebate of up to $2,000 for new car purchases or leases. When people take advantage of the rebate, they are also agreeing to have their contact information shared with the utility companies, so Con Edison eventually can tell them about the SmartCharge New York program. There can be a delay of up to six months getting the contact list from the state, but it is the best method Login has for now

Despite these challenges, Login’s program is growing and so is interest in it from other utilities. “Electric utilities all over the country are trying to replicate our program," she says.

Con Edison is also using the charging data they are collecting to plan future programs, forecast future load, and site charging stations. She believes collecting and analyzing this data is a growing field, and may make charging and ownership more efficient for both the EV owner and Con Edison.

“Getting a job at a utility is a really exciting place to be right now,” says Login. “Utility companies will be the gas stations of the future, so anything to do with electric transportation and electric utilities is a really good place to be.”

In the next ten years or so, she sees Con Edison and other utilities putting a lot more effort into EV programs. “They are the only real areas of growth for utilities, ” says Login.

The next iteration of SmartCharge New York will move beyond external devices that have to be installed in the vehicles, to eventually getting data straight from the vehicle telematics. The Open Vehicle Grid Integration Platform is a collaboration among utilities, manufacturers and a nonprofit called EPRI to help create a standardized system for all plug-in electric vehicles. Once OVGIP is developed, permission for utilities to gain access to the vehicles charging data and for customers to enroll in a SmartCharge program could easily happen to the point of sale --  before the car even leaves the dealership lot. This would eliminate a lot of the expense for Con Edison to mail the device and the hassle for car owners to install it, while also eliminating the delay of supporting new makes and models.

Login also says she sees growth coming in the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sectors. New York City currently has ten electric buses as part of a pilot program, but they are looking towards going all electric in the next ten years.

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