Guide to Electric Mobility: Framework for setting up EV charging networks and integration with the grid

Framework for setting up EV charging networks and integration with the grid

Decarbonising the transportation sector will inevitably require a transition to electric mobility. India’s policymakers have been passionately promoting this transition. With India aiming to make electric vehicles (EVs) account for at least 30 per cent of new vehicle sales by 2030 as per the global EV30@30 campaign, setting up a wide network of EV charging infrastructure is crucial.

On August 12, 2021, NITI Aayog, the Ministry of Power (MoP), the Department of Science and Technology, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, and the World Resources Institute, India released a handbook titled “The Handbook for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Implementation – Version 1”. It received support from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs; the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; and the Department of Heavy Industry. It aims to guide state governments and local bodies in framing policies and norms for setting up charging networks for EVs. This is a crucial objective, given that the MoP has set a national target of having at least one charging station every 25 km on a highway. Planning for granular targets is up to urban local bodies or state nodal agencies.

Overall, the handbook gives an overview of the technological and regulatory frameworks and governance structures needed to facilitate EV charging infrastructure, focusing on the current needs and considering the evolving nature of the sector. A key pillar in the entire ecosystem would be the integration of EVs with the electricity grid. As such, discoms would take on the additional responsibility of managing the EV load.

Highlights of the handbook relating to the link between EV charging and the electricity grid…

EVs and the electricity grid

As accessible, reliable and affordable electricity is a prerequisite for sufficient deployment of charging infrastructure, low tension (LT) electricity distribution infrastructure should be set up wherever po­ssible and economically feasible. The handbook mentions that a distributed approach to cha­rging infrastructure, comprising primarily normal po­wer charging points, will ensure that most cha­rging points can be connected to the LT electricity network.

The handbook also mentions the central and state regulations and guidelines in this space. Amongst the central technical regulations and guidelines, the Central Electricity Authority has notified amendments to existing regulations, to facilitate grid connectivity for charging infrastructure. The key regulations in this space are:

  • Technical Standards for Connectivity of the Dis­tri­buted Generation Resources (Amend­ment) Re­gu­­la­tions, 2019. This regulation de­fines “char­g­ing sta­tions” and “charging poin­ts”. It recognises EVs as an energy generation resource and in­tro­du­ces stan­dards for charging stations connected or seeking connectivity to the electricity supply system.
  • Measures Relating to Safety and Electric Su­pply (Amendment) Regulations, 2019. This re­gulation specifies safety requirements for charging infrastructure including general safety for EV charging stations, earth protection system, fire safety, testing of charging sta­tions, inspection and periodic assessme­nt, maintenance of records, and safety provi­sions as per international standards that need to be followed.

In India, regulations at the state level determine the rules around connection and supply of electricity, as electricity distribution and supply is a state subject. Among state regulations, the State Electricity Supply Code and Performance Stan­dards Regulation is the key framework governing the provision of electricity connection and supply by discoms. Stakeholders need to consider state regulations carefully while planning or ins­talling charging infrastructure, as every state has different regulations.

In particular, state governments use electricity tariff as a key fiscal and regulatory tool. As EV charging is a new business opportunity for discoms, having a different tariff schedule for it has become the norm to facilitate uptake of EVs.

The handbook highlights the benefits of having EV-specific electricity tariffs. One, such tariffs can be designed to send clear price signals to EV users and they can be used to manage EV charging load profiles. Two, a separate tariff for EV char­ging gives an opportunity to state governments to offer various incentives for EV uptake:

  • Exemption of demand charges: The fixed/de­mand charge for an electricity connection is levied on the sanctioned load for the connection or the maximum power demand registered during the billing period, which must be paid irrespective of the actual power usage. Exemp­tions from such charges are a key incentive.
  • Reduction of energy charges: Energy charges are variable components of electricity tariffs, applied on the total volume of electricity consumed during the billing period. A reduction in these charges is also a major incentive for various stakeholders.

Role of discoms

The role of discoms is crucial in promoting the setting up of EV charging infrastructure, given that EV owners and charge point operators (CPOs) are the new business opportunities for discoms. These new clients have different re­quirements from residential, and commercial and industrial consumers. Therefore, to fulfil the requirements of EV stakeholders, discoms have the responsibility of implementing certain regulatory measures such as EV tariffs, setting standard operating procedures, and planning for power connections. A key role for discoms could be to streamline the process of providing electricity connections for charging infrastructure, thereby reducing the time taken to set up such infrastructure. The handbook provides certain suggestions to state electricity regulatory commissions regarding the role of discoms, which are worth mentioning:

  • Provide clear public guidelines on the application process for metered connections for EV charging.
  • Create a single-window system for processing applications.
  • A technical pre-feasibility check for public charging connections is necessary. It will as­sess the feasibility and estimated cost of pro­curing the required sanctioned load for a proposed charging facility.
  • Set maximum timelines for inspection, certification and award of charging facilities.
  • Publicly share the criteria and requirements for different types of connections and associated charges in a simplified format for CPOs.
  • Lay out clear guidelines for owners of private cha­r­gers on how they may apply for metered EV con­nections in a bid to take advantage of incentives.
  • Create a dedicated internal team to respond to queries, coordinate with interested applicants and carry out site visits.

The way forward

The handbook says that going forward, meeting the overall energy demand for EVs is not expected to be a challenge. This is because the total electricity demand for EVs – at a 33 per cent EV penetration rate by 2030 – is projected to be 37 TWh. This will translate into less than 2 per cent of the total electricity demand in India by 2030.

Still, challenges remain with respect to efficient EV load management. The high charging capacities of EVs and their spatial concentration may lead to significant volatility in their power demand. This may lead to grid instability for all electricity consumers. The issues notwithstanding, there are ways by which EV charging loads can be better managed. One, by focusing on distributed implementation of charging infrastructure to limit the power demand for charging at any location. Two, by managing EV charging load by designing time-of-day (ToD) tariffs. Such tariffs ensure EV charging is expensive during peak hours, thus avoiding grid instability. Three, by deploying smart chargers that can handle instruments such as ToD tariffs and time-of-use tariffs. In the latter, electricity tariffs are adjusted in real time, based on demand. Such measures will lead to many benefits such as reduced electricity costs for consumers and improved integration of renewable energy in electricity supply, apart from improving grid stability.

The handbook succinctly outlines all the necessary information on EV charging. Such information is often difficult for stakeholders to gather given the number of regulations and ministries involved. Another positive is that the handbook is expected to be a “living document”, meaning it will be updated as and when the dynamics of the sector change. In sum, the recently released handbook will serve as a valuable knowledge tool for scaling up charging infrastructure in India.