01 April 2021

Smart standards for a smarter future – these two could change our lives

By Luka De Bruyckere

2021 will see the publication of two new standards essential for smart charging. Under the cryptic names ‘ISO 15118-20’ and ‘EN 50491-12’, hide the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) standard and the Customer Energy Management (CEM) standard. Both are set to boost the deployment of smart charging infrastructures, affecting the daily lives of millions of people across the world.

These standards will determine how we charge our electric cars, change the way electricity flows in our homes, and potentially cut our energy bills. How? Read our Q&A!

What are these standards about?

The V2G standard enables electric vehicles (EVs) to give energy back to the grid, to a building, or to other devices. This so-called bi-directional energy flow allows the vehicle to serve as energy storage, comparable to a large, mobile battery. This way, the vehicle can become the energy supply for a building, or send energy directly into the grid when energy demand is high. In addition, this standard will simplify the charging experience of EV drivers and assist the grid in dealing with the variability of renewable energy sources.

The CEM standard, in turn, manages devices and appliances within buildings, taking into account the signals received from the power system, user preferences and internal flexibility. By means of an interface, consumers can indicate their needs, be it for heating or EV charging. The CEM coordinates the energy demand and supply (for example from solar panels) within a building in the most energy efficient way, ensuring that energy is used at the most optimal moment, for instance when the general energy demand is lower or when renewables are available and energy is cheaper.


How will ISO 15118-20 change the way we charge our electric cars?

The V2G standard enables bi-directional energy flow, allowing the car battery to store energy at any time of day – for instance when a lot of renewable energy is produced. This energy can be then returned to the grid or to a building. For example, excess solar energy could be stored in a car battery during the sunny period of a day and delivered back to the building when energy demand exceeds local supply in the evening and night. In combination with a customer energy management system, this energy can be used by active devices within a building, when energy is cheap and, in general, when it makes the most sense.

This way, larger amounts of cheap renewable energy may be used. Energy demand peaks may be softened, for instance in the morning and evening hours when most people are at home – without needing to expand the electrical networks.


How can smart grids in buildings change our lives, using the new Customer Energy Management standard?

Currently, it is possible to programme vehicle charging or to set a washing machine cycle to start at a particular time. However, this form of smart energy consumption requires consumers to actively plan ahead. Thanks to EN 50491-12 – the Customer Energy Management (CEM) standard, this will be no longer needed. Coordinating all energy flows within a building, CEM can harmonise them based on consumer preferences – this way, users do not need to keep their eyes on the system all the time.

Both V2G and CEM standards are crucial to make smart charging a reality on a large scale. They also guarantee interoperability of devices and systems. In other words, devices and systems developed by different manufacturers can communicate with each other, which enhances the flexibility of any energy management system and reduces costs for consumers because it is no longer necessary to buy devices from a particular brand.


When will the standards be published and operational?

The standards still have to follow a few procedural steps before they are officially published but it should happen during the course of 2021. Then, the different stakeholders such as car manufacturers, grid operators and charge point operators will need to run tests to ensure their systems communicate well and are truly interoperable. In the case of the V2G standard, it might even take a few years – possibly until 2023 – before the standard can be used on a large scale. Likewise, by 2023 a wide deployment of the CEM standard can be expected, allowing products, such as thermostats or dishwashers, to communicate with an energy management system.  

Both standards will continue to be fine-tuned after publication, potentially including new features, as is common practice in such cases. For instance, one of the updates in the CEM standard could include definitions for microgrids, or so-called ‘electrical islands’, that can operate independently of the power grid. Microgrids are important in case of power disruption and can help energy communities (groups of citizens who collectively generate electricity) to consume the energy they generate.


What was the impact of ECOS?

We were heavily involved in the drafting of both standards, ensuring that they are interoperable, coherent with other smart charging standards and not overly complex. We tirelessly advocated for a smooth charging experience as one of the ways to promote electrification to  consumers, while avoiding the overloading of the grid, thanks to the implementation of grid codes by EVs, technical specifications for vehicles to have a well-functioning connection to a public electric network.

As the only environmental stakeholder active in the different standardisation working groups covering a wide variety of energy management and EV charging topics, our involvement was instrumental to the drafting of robust and compatible standards.

For instance, when drafting the CEM standard, we stressed the importance of including specifications for EV charging, and provided the technical expertise to do so. During the V2G discussions, ECOS ensured that the standard was fit to support microgrids. In addition, as a neutral party without vested business interests, we helped lead the dialogue and look for compromise among a wide range of stakeholders with diverging commercial interests.

Making smart charging a reality is extremely important to electrify transport and buildings, an essential step to decarbonise both. It will ensure more renewable energy can be used and support an electricity grid that increasingly relies on variable renewables. We are extremely pleased to have helped shape these standards so that they work for the environment, and are very much looking forward to their publication, while we keep working towards a smarter, greener future.

ECOS is co-funded by the European Commission and EFTA

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