February 12, 2014
From increasing efficiency to a huge surge in distributed renewables, traditional utilities are increasingly finding their business model under threat. So much so, in fact, that Duke Power's former chairman recently revealed he'd rather work in solar if he was entering the industry today.
Electric cars, and more precisely the charging of these cars, may provide a much needed growth area for those who are smart enough to get in early. In the UK, at least, it would appear that Ecotricity—the ultra-green upstart responsible for countless urban wind turbines and a supplier of vegan biogas—has gotten a jump start on the incumbents.
Having launched a nationwide network of electric vehicle fast chargers back in 2011, the company is adding four more chargers every week, and is projecting that it will have fast charger's at 90% of the UK's motorway service stations (rest stops) by the Spring.
These chargers are currently free to use, although there is much speculation that this is a temporary measure designed to grow the market and win brand loyalty. In another clear effort to corner the market for electric car charging, the company is offering 1000 free miles annually to electric vehicle owners who sign up with Ecotricity to supply their homes.
In the video below, sponsored by Ecotricity, Robert Llewellyn drove from London to Edinburgh in 13 hours with satellite scientist David Peilow, using only Ecotricity's fast charging network, and stopping for plenty of chats and cups of tea along the way. (Kicking off a rather passionate war of words with Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson in the process.) As an interesting side note, this journey took the BBC's Brian Milligan four days to make this same journey just three years ago.
And just in case you were worried about what electric vehicles will do for grid stability, as reported over at Clean Technica, it would appear utilities themselves are not in the least bit concerned. As I say, this is a rare opportunity for growth for an industry that sometimes seems to be under siege. Utility bosses would do well to take note, lest the green energy crowd get a jump on them from this angle too.