Blog #2; Part 2: 13 March 2022

Solar, eV Charging and Storage – The Disruption Triad

Well, this is Part 2 of my previous blog on the electric Vehicles.

Electric Vehicles and eV Charging Stations Infrastructure: The Second disruptor

Electric Vehicles (eV) are nothing but energy storage systems on the road with wheels and a steering to drive on!

eVs are giving the traditional fossil fuel ICE vehicles a run for its money. Fundamental to this is lower cost per KM of driving and topped with significant reduction in carbon emissions thus helping our earth from the onslaught of green-house gas hazards to the environment.

The transport sector across all modes is the second largest contributor of green-house gases emissions next only to the industry. While many industries are implementing significant energy efficiency measures, the transport sector is still very much in the grips of the fossil fuels. The advent of natural gas as a clean fuel like CNG has somewhat reduced the emissions level, there is a need for total decarbonization of the entire chain of transport sector. This is where eV charging Stations with integrated battery storage and solar generation will play a significant part in the future. In a true sense, off the grid mobility decarbonization!

The average eV uses about 30kWh of electricity to power the vehicle for 200 KM (Assumption based on market trends). Let us assume an average drive of 15,000 KM per year. Considering an average cost of S$2/Litre of gasoline in Singapore and electricity cost at $0.2 / KWh, the savings on annual basis is close to 80%! That’s a pure compelling economic reason why switch to eVs is happening at an unprecedented level across the world.  

While billions of dollars are being pumped into developing newer and better models of eVs across the globe, there are two things that are driving the large-scale adoption of eVs:

  1. The battery technology and
  2. eV charging infrastructure.

Among the many battery technologies that’s been tried all over the world Li-ion batteries stand out which are ushering the sustainable mobility. Their advantage being higher energy density, compact sizes and falling costs are making the Li-ion batteries the driver to usher in the eV penetration and challenging the very existence of traditional vehicle manufacturers across the world. The technological advances constantly being made in the battery technology are now allowing the eVs to travel anywhere between 300 KM to 600KM on one full charge while reducing the charging times to as low as below 30 minutes.

The eV Charging Stations (eVCS) is a classic Chicken-or-Egg problem. Companies are not developing eVCS as there are not many eVs on the road and the customers are not buying eVs as there are not easily accessible eVCS network. One of the biggest obstacles to the rapid adoption of eVs has been lack of easy accessible eVCS. The fear of being stuck somewhere with charge depleted (juice gone!) is a real range anxiety issue. But, that’s changing much faster with newer high density batteries in the eVs extending the drive range coupled with widespread deployment of eVCS.

One of the easiest ways to solve the charge anxiety / range anxiety problem is to make the array of charging stations available at the work places and nearby areas around residential blocks. Today, a typical petrol station is no farther than few KM from most of the home dwellers. This needs to be replicated for eVCS as well. In addition, public car parks, existing retail fossil fuel petrol/diesel stations, taxi stands etc could be used to install eVCS. The new range of eVs are very tech-savvy with fully integrated charging and payment options on a mobile App. This will allow optimum utilization of eVCS infrastructure and tariff plans to be designed to avoid charge space parking lot hogging, which is one of the common problem being witnessed.

The eVCS industry is still evolving. The amount of charging infrastructure required to support the rapid growth of eVs is far greater than what is currently available. Manufacturers of eVCS hardware are bringing out new variants to meet different market segment’s requirements, be it a home owner, a taxi / fleet operator, mass transport buses and heavy trucks. Each one of these segments of users have their own unique charging time requirements. Accordingly, the cost of installation of eVCS also varies and has to be selected right for a greater cost-benefit.

To provide a significant push to the mass adoption to eVs and to move towards a decarbonization of transport sector most of the countries like Norway, India, France, Singapore, UK etc have announced road maps to phase out ICE engine vehicles in next 10-20 years’ time frame. Other countries are also following suit in banning the ICE vehicles.

In addition, most countries have aligned their taxation and incentive schemes to make the eVs “on-road costs” much lower than the ICE vehicles to support switch to eV. It is an important factor for the consumer to see a real $$ upfront benefit while purchasing a eV, of-course on the back of net savings on the per KM drive cost. This is one of the easiest ways to meet the Paris Climate Agreement targets. I personally believe the period from 2020 to 2030 will be the eV decade supported by technological innovations in the battery chemistry and deeper solar power generation in the overall energy mix.

eVs and the Grid:

The deeper deployment of the eVs will change the power demand equation on the grid. Just imagine 100,000 eVs with an average of 70KW battery plugged into the grid for charging. That’s a whopping 700 MW of additional load on the grid for a short period of time for that hour. The traditional transmission and distribution network are not expected to cater to this short-term peak demand as most of these systems are designed to meet long term average power demand. And it is too expensive to augment the generation to load point infrastructure to meet these short-term peaks.

That’s where the battery storage in the energy mix plays a significant role, which will be my third part of this blog series.


Blog #2: 14 February 2022

Solar, eV Charging and Storage – The Disruption Triad

Blog #2, Part 1

The energy world is facing a big disruption. There is a paradigm shift on how we generate energy, how we use energy and how we store energy. This disruption is just not going to impact the traditional way of energy landscape and investments but all of the humanity. The positive aspect of this disruption is we will see much lower dependence on traditional fossil fuels and move towards a clean and sustainable energy value chain. FOSSIL FUELS – REST IN PEACE (R.I.P)

This blog is an attempt to delve into the interplay of solar, storage and eV charging to transform the very traditional concept of energy landscape that we have witnessed over the past 100 plus years.

Let us begin with the genesis of electricity generation. Electricity is consumed upon generation with no intermediary storage component. Large generators produce electricity using fossil fuels and move over long cross country transmission lines to the load points. There is significant inefficiency is built into this whole generation to load point and susceptible to disruption of services for various reasons. So, the question of reliability comes into the picture. This is where localized generation using renewables like solar coupled with storage is going to have a profound effect on our way of life.

Let us look at each of these disruptors in a bit more detail.

Solar: The first disruptor

The humanity and the flora-fauna on our earth benefits from a fraction of the solar energy that we receive from the sun. The evolution of solar power generation goes back to 19th century when rudimentary experiments on utilizing the photons from the sunlight were demonstrated using now what is known as p-n junction. Over the decades’ scientists and corporates have spent billions of money and man-hours to arrive a solar power generation technology that we see today. The advent of automated high speed manufacturing technology has enabled solar energy to flourish and now almost has become a mainstream energy source in many countries across the globe.

This eminent position of solar energy in the overall electricity generation landscape was possible with state mandates in US and across Europe that required electric utilities to have a given percentage of their generated power to come from renewables. What this regulatory push did is created a demand for solar modules and thereby facilitating ramping of production capacity of solar modules in US, Europe and China. The competition not only brought in significant capacity addition but also efficiency gains of the modules. Today in most of the jurisdictions, solar power is either at grid parity of below the grid prices.

What this disruption achieved is it classified the consumers as prosumers, means turning a consumer to a producer of energy. This in turn transformed the electric grid from a one-way electron highway to a two-way electron highway where electrons could move either way between the grid and the consumer. It has provided the power in the consumers hand on where to procure his electrons, how to use it and not any more dictated by the large utilities. On the strength of its price competitiveness and on-site generation capabilities, solar energy is here to stay and is already responsible for retiring host of fossil fuel fired generating plants including the so-called peaking power plants across the globe.

While traditional silicon based solar modules base grid scale and home solar installations are taking away the peak demand from the grid, what is further adding to the attractiveness is the emergence of thin film Organic photovoltaic (OPV) technologies for Building Integrated PV (BIPV) applications. What OPV is doing is helping the solarization of the hitherto passive building facades, specially in the dense urban centers, into an electric generator. An example of this is a world leader of OPV thin films is Heliatek, based out of Dresden Germany which holds the world efficiency record for a OPV thin film.

With the solar energy costs becoming grid parity or below grid prices, the decision to install solar panels is no more an economic but depends on the energy utilization goals of the consumer and/or prosumers. This in turn will get decided by the location in relation to latitude and the area available for installation. A well laid out design and installation will make the facility totally independent of the grid.

The solar genie is out and there is no way that can be put pack in the bottle! Thereby, this paradigm shift is the first disruptor. But, the solar industry is set to undergo an even more radical change when it is paired with energy storage. This will allow the energy that is generated during peak sun hours in the day to be time-shifted into the night. Further, the steep drop being witnessed in the battery storage cost is driving the electric vehicle (eV) boom. Thus, the solar-storage-eV market linkage is the new holy grail of the energy industry of the future.

Well, this takes me to the next part of my blog i.e., the electric Vehicles, which will be published in next Blog series.

Blog #1: 3rd February 2022

Promoter’s Thoughts:

Dear friends,

I am back to chart my own destiny through my consulting company DESTINY ENERGY PTE LTD.

The past 12 months and prior 24 months were nothing but nightmare with everything that could go wrong did go wrong. A time came in where nothing would matter anymore as I was given one blow after another blow relentlessly, both professionally and personally. As you know after some time you feel totally numb. However, the spirit never died and fought all the adversaries and maintained the head high based on one simple belief and faith – THIS TOO ALSO WILL PASS!

Finally, I see a light at the end of the tunnel …and NOT the elephant!! One thing the past years’ experience showed to me is “who truly are my friends”! And above all how much the family support matters! Preserve and nourish such relationships as they are priceless!

As part of my new Avatar I, through Destiny Energy vehicle, will be focusing on Sustainability and Energy Transition aspects of the energy industry and will be publishing periodical blogs in addition to working on consulting assignments in this space.

However, to begin with few my very own personal insights to aspiring entrepreneurs:

  1. If you have a passion for something, go for it.
  2. Be prepared to listen to “NO” many times.
  3. Start with your own funds, and as far as possible look for partnerships with some-one who shares your passion and vision.
  4. Build a team who share your passion and commitment.
  5. Avoid taking any loan from the banks and that too by giving personal guarantees for at-least first three years of operation. No debt for the first three years! This is the mantra!
  6. Grow your business organically within the means of your cashflows.
  7. Seek third party investors’ funding once you have an operating business with positive cashflow and with a clear path for growth.
  8. Look out for institutional funding support in the form of government led subsidies and grants.
  9. Entrepreneurship has its own risk and rewards if you have stomach for it; do not venture into it if you are content with 9-5 work profile.
  10. If you are not cashflow positive at the end of second year, better look to unwind your operations and look for something else. No bad feelings, it is just that it was not meant to be…. It is wide open world out there… “Keep walking …. Towards the light”

Keep tuned for more blogs on energy industry perspectives, entrepreneurship journey, sustainability & energy transition. And look out for excerpts from my upcoming book “From Dust Bowl to First World” and specially of one of the chapter aptly titled as “Electrifying Experience”.