I saw a tweet from SDG&E (@SDGE) a few days ago asking Nissan Leaf electric car owners to share information so that SDG&E can track the electrical system in their area to support the cars. SDG&E is preparing for an influx of Nissan Leafs and is girding up to create a smarter grid in time.
According to the Union-Tribune, the first Leaf sold to a San Diego resident was in December 2010, which was also only the second Leaf in the world delivered to a customer (the first was up here in the Bay). Couple that with increasing sales of both the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt (and a smattering of sales of the Tesla roadster... saw one on the road just yesterday and my, my, what an eye-catching car), and the electric grid may have a real problem on its hands.
See in a white paper published by the CPUC's Policy and Planning Division in May 2009, the staff outlined many of the potential issues associated with increased use of electric vehicles. Add a few new Leafs and Volts and suddenly you have to worry about the "potential to increase total energy demand, substantially increase daily load capacity requirements, alter peak load shapes, increase transmission and distribution system demands, and result in net negative emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), while increasing the electricity sector's emission profile."
In other words, regulators are slightly worried that electric vehicle deployment might bring down the whole grid if we aren't careful and don't prepare for their integration.
There seems to be general agreement that electric vehicles are a good thing for the world, but who is going to pay the costs for their integration?
The PUC has a lot of options about who will pay, how they will pay, and what costs will be paid for...and will be discussing all of that as part of its smart grid proceeding (Rulemaking 08-12-009). In addition, there are a number of metrics that the PUC is collecting to develop standards related to the deployment and integration of plug-in electric vehicles that will affect electric vehicle owners, manufacturers, and electric utilities (and thus all ratepayers).
Yet it doesn't appear that the electric vehicle industry is participating in this proceeding in any meaningful way-- at least not yet. Somebody get Chevy and Nissan on the line immediately and get'em involved-- maybe we'll reach out to the MyNissanLeaf forum folks!! They need to be concerned about the balance that the CPUC ultimately sets for how the costs to integrate their plug-in cars is allocated.