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AESO Warns Electric Vehicles to Push Demand for Electricity in Alberta

The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) predicted earlier this year that thousands of electric vehicles (EVs) could hit the streets and highways in Alberta during the course of next two decades as more people switch from gas to battery-powered vehicles and more car makers switch to all-electric vehicles lineups.

AESO manages and operates the province’s power grid and recently published its 2021 long-term outlook for electricity supply and demand in Alberta. This report gave an astonishing increase in EVs in Albert ranging from 200,000 in a conservative estimate to two million by 2041.

This could be problematic for the province of Alberta. While there is no time of use billing in Alberta, the peak demand on the energy system from all of those EVs charging together would equal 3,900 MW of electricity.; enough to power two cities the size of Calgary! A large amount of power by any standard.

The lower estimate, an average 10,000 new EVs in Alberta every year, would result in a peak power demand of only 400 MW. While that is a conservative estimate, it seems that the future trend is heading in the direction of EVs.

The AESO report also predicts where electricity demand is going over the next 20 years and what will drive that.

At the end of March 2021, there were 3,527 EVs registered in the province of Alberta. This represents an almost 10-fold increase since 2017. That means there are now 2,500 hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles in the province in only four years’ time. Those numbers are tiny, though, compared with the total of 3.6 million vehicles registered in Alberta.

Can the current system handle the demand of additional EVs in Calgarys? While EVs will drive energy demand in the future, the overall consumption in Alberta is not expected to increase much, with a modest half-percentage-point increase over the next 20 years. This is one of the lowest growth rate predictions in years. It’s an important point, considering demand for electricity impacts prices. It’s something Albertans have dealt with through several heat waves over the past few summers.

Importantly, all new cars to be zero-emission by 2035, which is a boon for the environment and climate change. The federal government has said it wants all new car sales by 2035 to be zero-emission vehicles, making AESO’s “extreme” EV projection closer to reality than dream.

A senior analyst with the Pembina Institute says with potentially tens of thousands of new EVs on the road, economies could see energy demand spikes at the end of each day, when people get home and plug in their cars. Fortunately, EV owners who have solar panels on their roofs can program their vehicles to charge at a rate that is proportional to the amount of renewable energy generated by solar, reducing the pressure on the power grid.

Over time, electricity systems have always grown along with the global consumption of oil. We managed to meet the growth in demand for oil so surely It is more than possible to meet the growth in demand for electricity.

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