The forces of disruptive technological change are truly afoot in the U.S. power industry for the first time since the dawn of the electrical age. Coupled with smart grid and intelligent energy storage technologies, distributed clean power generation is not only disrupting technology, systems and business models of U.S. power utilities, but the institutional framework of federal and state regulations that govern production, distribution and use of electricity across the nation.

Growing production and sales of plug-in and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (EVs and PHEVs), along with the building out of EV charging station networks, raises the prospect of distributed clean power providers carving out market space in the transportation sector, perhaps one day obviating the need for fossil fuels and prompting tremendous reductions in associated carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.

Presented with new opportunities as well as challenges, reaction and response on the part of both U.S. utilities and auto manufacturers has been skewed toward reactionary as opposed to embracing, though varying shades of the two are in evidence. A July 29 announcement by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is a sign that U.S. utilities and auto manufacturers may be shifting to a more positive, proactive stance.

EPRI announced that it is working with 15 utilities and eight automakers “to develop and demonstrate an open platform that would integrate plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) with smart grid technologies enabling utilities to support PEV charging regardless of location.”

Disruptive as this is likely to be, the development of an open, industry-wide standard for EV charging and grid integration would not only be a potentially huge boon for EV and PHEV manufacturers and power utilities, but for the U.S. economy and society as a whole.

As EPRI explains in a press release, “As the electric grid evolves with smarter functionality, electric vehicles can serve as a distributed energy resource to support grid reliability, stability and efficiency. With more than 225,000 plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads — and their numbers growing — they are likely to play a significant role in electricity demand side management.”

An open industry standard platform for EV charging would smooth the way forward to developing, testing and proving the EV-to-grid (EV2G) concept. That, in turn, could be the missing piece of the puzzle enabling the U.S. and other countries, to enact a wholesale shift to distributed clean energy resources.

As EPRI points out, “Researchers anticipate that grid operators in the future may call on electric vehicles to contribute to grid reliability by balancing solar and wind generation, mitigating demand charges and providing ancillary services such as frequency regulation and voltage support.”

To be successful, such a system requires continuous two-way flows of accurate, granular data. As envisaged, EPRI’s open industry EV charging platform would work across multiple communication pathways, such as automated metering infrastructure (AMI), home area networks (HANs), building energy management systems and third-party energy management service providers serving multiple commercial and industrial power customers.

California’s three main investor-owned utilities – Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) are participating in and supporting the EPRI project. The other participants are DTE Energy, Duke Energy, PJM Interconnection, CenterPoint Energy, Southern Co., Northeast Utilities, Commonwealth Edison, TVA, Manitoba Hydro, Austin Energy, Con Edison and CPS Energy.

Representing automakers are American Honda Motor Co., BMW Group, Chrysler Group LLC, Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Mitsubishi Motors and Toyota. Sumitomo Electric is to develop the platform’s core technology during the project’s first phase.

Highlighting the approach being taken and its implications for EV2G, EPRI manager of Electric Transportation Dan Bowermaster stated, “A key aspect of the platform’s benefits will be giving customers flexibility and choices.”

“It can help the PEV customer determine the value of using their parked vehicle as a grid resource, and help the industry develop a convenient, user-friendly customer interface. We see this as the foundation for future developments to integrate PEVs with the grid.”

California has positioned itself as a development hub and proving ground for “green” power and transportation. EPRI’s open EV charging platform will align with the California Public Utilities Commission-California Independent Systems Operator’s Vehicle Grid Integration (VGI) Roadmap Initiative, as well as conform with international standards being developed by the IEEE, IEC/ISO, SAE and Open ADR Alliance, EPRI notes.

Based on customer, as well as our own, experience, we’re convinced our GreenStationTM intelligent energy storage solution can play a key, pivotal role in the evolution of a clean, distributed power and energy ecosystem. Our list of supporters is growing, as are our business prospects.

In case you missed it, on July 29th, we announced that Green Charge Networks and K Road DG raised $56 million of capital and formed a strategic alliance that will see both companies working to ramp up GreenStationTM adoption, as well as continue to refine and improve the technology and its range of applications.