Building for the future: How can cities prepare for transportation electrification?

Comments Off on Building for the future: How can cities prepare for transportation electrification?

For cities, the fast growth of electric vehicles (EVs) is a challenge and an opportunity. In the process of becoming cleaner and smarter, cities face a two-fold challenge: First, they are promoting a shift towards more sustainable modes of transport and electrifying the vehicles that cannot be avoided or shifted. Second, they must also ensure local electricity grids can serve the needs of electrified transport. Meeting these challenges requires thorough planning to decarbonise both the energy and transport systems concurrently while minimising costs and maximising benefits for society overall. To complicate matters, high energy prices have increased the need to manage additional demand well and reduce costs by integrating EVs smartly into local power grids.

With this in mind, cities network Eurocities and energy transition experts Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) reviewed promising practices from early movers and frontrunners in local planning for rolling out e-mobility and drew lessons that can be tailored to regional circumstances and challenges. Some examples are based on innovative initiatives from partners of the EU-funded research project USER-CHI. Building on three key lessons, we discuss policy opportunities for cities to take up a stronger role in defining the electromobility ecosystem and to receive support in urban e-mobility planning, both on the national and European levels.

Three key lessons for cities when planning for e-mobility

Lesson 1: Think big and smart!

Planning for electrified transport requires close collaboration between planners involved in the energy, power system, infrastructure and transportation sectors. Holistic planning for electrified transport requires cities to identify the charging and infrastructure types that will best serve sustainable transport goals. Dublin, Ireland, for instance, analysed the demand for charging electric cars, vans, taxis and two-wheelers, and explored use cases such as residential, en-route and destination charging. The analysis was based on an extensive geospatial mapping process, examining charging needs and use cases by area in the greater Dublin region. The needs were assessed in line with the authorities’ overall aim to reduce car use in the city centre. In addition, the city adapted its internal procedures to put plans into practice.

Holistic planning for electrified transport requires cities to identify charging and infrastructure types that best serve sustainable transport goals.

Thinking big and smart also means developing a planning approach based on quantitative and qualitative assessment of future demands. The German city of Berlin’s authorities conducted an extensive study ‘Elektromobilität Berlin 2025+’ that identified charging infrastructure needs based on projections from inbound and outbound traffic patterns and parking needs for different user groups such as inhabitants, visitors and commuters. The planners were then able to identify the projected charging point needs by 2040 for each scenario, including the different use cases. Working from the existing political and planning regulatory framework, they could also determine the most effective process for rolling out this charging infrastructure.

Findings suggest that in almost all use cases, the number of charging points required can be significantly reduced by increasing their individual use rate. Based on this finding, the planners developed a dual approach developing normal and fast charging hubs to serve all uses. Installing fast charging hubs on publicly accessible but privately owned grounds, such as petrol stations and shopping centres, helped to avoid adding more car parks and to reduce the need for infrastructure on public grounds, typically on streets.

Lesson 2: Plan for both EVs and the power grid at the same time

With the ambitious goal of fully electrifying transport by 2030, Stockholm, Sweden, has been developing and testing planning tools to optimally integrate EVs into the grid. A public dynamic map for planning public charging points, called the BABLE Platform, allows third parties such as service providers and installers to choose their locations of interest, providing planning security for investors and citizens. To help create a market for related EV charging services, the city has chosen a tender model: It awards five-year operation contracts to service providers based on pre-defined criteria. To better capture inhabitants’ charging needs and plan for them, the city also created residents’ councils. These councils, which focus on EV charging for residents of multi-family buildings, facilitated 1,000 applications for charging units. Finally, Stockholm’s planners have sought to make EV charging smart.

It’s critical that planners in all cities have access to planning tools for building EV charging infrastructure.

A modelling study of the potential local network confirmed that time-of-use tariffs with cheaper overnight rates, for example, effectively encourage users to charge at times that are cheaper for them and beneficial for the grid. It also recommends a charging station booking system to foster efficient utilisation and offers data to help avoid overinvestment in infrastructure. An ongoing pilot is exploring how the speed of public charging can be adjusted to allow users to take advantage of the savings from smart charging.

It is critical that planners in all cities have access to planning tools for building EV charging infrastructure. As part of the USER-CHI project, VMZ is developing an open access planning tool called CLICK for siting new electric vehicle supply equipment. CLICK is an easy-to-use online tool that uses a question-and-answer format to facilitate top-down location planning of charging infrastructure in cities. The tool matches users’ needs, charging preferences and habits with existing charging technologies and types. To generate these insights, the tool takes into account detailed data — including inhabitants, number of cars and existing share of electric vehicles — along with existing grid capacity and the areas and technologies to be covered. Based on these inputs, it provides planners with recommendations for the number of charging points and proposed locations, charging technologies and connectors, and indicates the required power grid capacity. This tool will soon be tested in Barcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; Budapest, Hungary; Rome, Italy; and Turku, Finland.

Lesson 3: Collaborate and optimise

Successful planning for e-mobility requires collaboration at all levels. In an effort to work directly with citizens and encourage them to switch to e-mobility, Italy’s capital Rome invited inhabitants to indicate their preferred location for charging points within predefined zones. To date, more than 1,150 users have already used the platform and over half are considering switching to an EV. From the municipality’s perspective, the portal is a key tool for identifying the optimal location for on-street charging points.

Successful planning for e-mobility requires collaboration at all levels.

Cooperation between the different levels of local governance also accelerates charging infrastructure deployment by allocating responsibilities to different actors. With the objective of phasing out fossil-fuelled vehicles by 2030, the Netherlands established the National Charging Infrastructure Agenda to overcome the challenge of installing a sufficient number of charging points to meet the country’s ambitions. The goal is to ensure that infrastructure is not a barrier to the electrification of transport by engaging with local and regional authorities, network operators, national ministries and independent technical experts. Public and private stakeholders collaborate to determine goals, actions and agreements for deploying infrastructure. This leads to improved coordination in building out infrastructure while ensuring broad multi-stakeholder buy-in.

Conclusions and recommendations

Visionary thinking, joint planning and broad collaboration are three key strategies for municipalities to meet the electrification challenge. As the numbers of EVs in cities increase, small and medium-sized cities in particular can learn from best practices across Europe and enhance planning for e-mobility rollout. The lessons learned by many cities confirm that the uptake of electric vehicles will require sufficient charging infrastructure and, equally important, convenient and equitable access. While successful regulatory incentives such as zero-emission zones encourage the uptake and use of electric vehicles and the phase-out of polluting diesel vehicles, stronger policy support is needed to help cities plan and manage smooth and efficient electrification of transport. On both the European and national level policy opportunities are opening:

On the European level, the new Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation can ensure local authorities are able to fully participate in determining the governance, rollout strategies and specifications of charging infrastructure. Existing guidelines for local authorities, such as the ones developed by the EU Commission’s Sustainable Transport Forum, are an important source of information, but need to be made more easily accessible to local authorities.

National frameworks can be developed with the aim of encouraging cities to better integrate electrification strategies in their Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans, in harmony with other local plans, such as Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans. The French Mobility Orientation Law is a good example of empowerment of local authorities in this field, by allowing for the possibility that local powers set up EV charging plans.

Planning zero-emission mobility in cities is a task that many local authorities are increasingly finding part of their remit. It is therefore important to help them develop effective local strategies, new skills and expertise for their cities. The benefits offered by the transition towards more sustainable urban mobility will guarantee that both policymakers and citizens contribute to making this transition a success.

A version of this article originally appeared in Green Mobility.

Photo: Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash

Five key actions for activating household demand-side flexibility

Comments Off on Five key actions for activating household demand-side flexibility

If the video is not visible, please accept all cookies to enable the player.

Securing a clean, efficient and affordable power system is a complex undertaking in the best of times. The current energy crisis, however, has compounded the challenge with a cost-of-living crisis, the need to free Europe from its dependency on Russian fossil gas, and the ever-present spectre of climate change. A seemingly insurmountable task begs all available resources. One of the most powerful — and often undervalued — solutions is household demand-side flexibility.

Empowering and rewarding consumers who are able to shift how and when they use electricity is a vital power system resource. Demand-side flexibility contributes to a reliable and decarbonised power system while reducing costs, a critical outcome for low-income and disadvantaged households.

On 28 September, the Electrification Academy was pleased to welcome Sophie Yule-Bennett to unpack the insight and recommendations from RAP’s 2022 study The joy of flex: Embracing household demand-side flexibility as a power system resource for Europe. She explored:

  • The benefits of demand-side flexibility: sustainability, reliability, equity and affordability.
  • Barriers to flexibility as a resource.
  • Five key actions for activating household demand-side flexibility.

House power: the hidden powerhouse of the new energy landscape

Comments Off on House power: the hidden powerhouse of the new energy landscape

Raoul Dufy’s 1937 fresco La Fée Électricité — an arresting 600 square metre tribute to “the great adventure of electricity” — depicts science and technology leaps such as Faraday’s discovery of electromagnetic induction, Gramme’s direct current dynamo, Baudot’s telegraph, and Edison’s incandescent light bulb. These developments changed the world in ways that were previously unfathomable.

Tackling the climate crisis while mitigating the impacts of the war in Ukraine and skyrocketing energy prices will require Europe’s policymakers to champion a new class of energy pioneers in the months and years ahead: households.

A spectrum of challenges

Europe faces a step-change within a step-change. Securing a clean, affordable and reliable energy system is no longer a case of moving fast without breaking things. We must now accelerate while fixing things.

This means ramping up green generation at an unprecedented scale and pace, shunning imported gas without over-relying on expensive alternatives — such as hydrogen in its rainbow of varieties — or relapsing on brown fuels. We also need to secure energy supply, ensure grid reliability and help families and businesses stay out of the red.

No matter how many supply-side resources we pour into the mix, the perfect blend will elude us until we stop treating demand-side flexibility as a final flourish of glitter.

In fact, it is more like the primer — often unseen but foundational to reliability, managing price volatility, enhancing grid performance, efficiently integrating renewables, facilitating newly electrified technologies and reducing cost. Flexibility adds adhesion and endurance to the core principles of energy policy.

Demand-side flexibility binds energy, climate and social objectives together.

graphic depicting how demand-side flexibility addresses reliability equity and sustainability of energy supply

Putting households in the frame

Demand-side flexibility means energy users changing how and when they use electricity in return for financial reward. They offer flexibility by drawing power from the grid at different times and by utilising energy efficiency, onsite generation and onsite storage, including electric vehicle batteries.

We need lots of flexibility and we need it now. The IEA estimates that, to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, a ten-fold increase of demand-side resources is required worldwide by 2030, compared with 2020 levels.

Industrial response receives most of the policy attention on the demand side, which is still only a fraction of that dedicated to supply-side resources. However, European Commission analysis concluded that the greatest potential for additional customer flexibility in 2030 actually lies within homes.

This is due to the, as yet untapped nature of this sector, plus projected electrification and digitalisation of buildings and vehicles. The proportions in the graph below are striking—even though the capacity levels themselves are likely to be a significant underestimate, given the fast-paced technology and market evolution since the 2016 study.

graphic depicting the theoretical potential in megawatts of demand-response capacity in selected European countries by 2030

Policy proposals

To take advantage of these untapped resources, there are three policy actions that should be enacted.

Firstly, make flexibility effortless and stress-free. Policymakers need to stop putting the onus on individuals to solve structural problems. People are busy; they have kids to get to school, shifts to work and boilers and cars that fail at the worst times. It is not their job to become energy market experts, it is the job of energy market experts to ensure that people make decisions — even unconscious ones — that boost flexibility and reduce energy bills.

There should be an EU-wide “mandate for smartness,” requiring products and buildings to be electrified and “flex-ready,” with clear labelling and high-quality customer support. Deployment schemes are urgently required, including subsidies to fast-track uptake and drive down future costs, replicating the success of renewables.

The regulators’ role is to ensure digital inclusivity of marginalised and vulnerable groups and to adapt customer protection rules so they keep up with new retail offers, without picking winners or stifling innovation.

Secondly, allow wholesale pricing to reflect the true value of flexibility. To uncover the value of flexibility and reveal its full potential, wholesale electricity prices should reflect real-time conditions on the power system.

Interventions such as price caps mask the increased costs caused by inflexibility, reducing incentives for efficient actions. Households should be rewarded to increase demand when there is a surplus of renewable generation, for example, but measures like minimum price guarantees prevent payment via the wholesale market.

Safeguards such as supplier hedging, price relief mechanisms for extreme events and targeted support for low-income customers become increasingly important. The baseline, however, should be wholesale pricing and smart network tariffs that reward flexibility in a fair and non-discriminatory way. This creates a positive feedback loop of households embracing flexible assets and seeing tangible benefits, which further incentivises flexibility.

Finally, develop robust metrics for flexibility. Europe lacks a common methodology for assessing and quantifying the multi-faceted benefits of customer flexibility.

Unless we make this value visible and measure it consistently and fairly, we cannot reliably assess flexibility potential or design mechanisms to unlock it. Developing robust metrics supports policies that can accelerate flexibility deployment such as targets, trading platforms and obligations on suppliers to procure demand-side capacity. Standardisation also enables progress to be tracked across Member States.

To create a masterpiece, start with a masterplan

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas

Flexibility is a system resource, activating it requires systems thinking. That does not mean treating households like mindless cogs in the machine — a new social contract must be crafted for the age of automation, upheld by equity, agency and opportunity.

Europe’s policymakers should take in the whole picture, rooting out market distortions, barriers to access and bad practices, while proactively showcasing and replicating positive examples of household flexibility, beyond pilot schemes.

If the artwork La Fée Électricité were recreated in the year 2035, what would we see? The fresco could show millions of homes, interacting seamlessly with the power system, for the benefit of people and planet alike.

One thing is certain, we are going to need a bigger wall.


A version of this article originally appeared on Foresight Climate & Energy.

Photo: Guillaume Baviere via Flickr Creative Commons

The joy of flex: Embracing household demand-side flexibility as a power system resource for Europe

Comments Off on The joy of flex: Embracing household demand-side flexibility as a power system resource for Europe

To meet its 2050 climate goals, Europe will need to purge its power sector of carbon emissions by the mid-2030s. This means integrating renewable energy resources such as wind and solar at an unprecedented scale and pace. Only one path allows for rapid decarbonisation while maintaining a reliable energy system, minimising system costs and increasing energy democracy. We must ensure that customers have the incentives and tools they need to adjust the flexible portion of their electricity use in ways that are beneficial for the system.

Flexible resources are essential to balance supply and demand and make best use of renewable generation.

In addition to climate impacts, the most recent energy price crisis has underscored the urgent need to release Europe from gas dependency — and therefore from exposure to gas price volatility — by progressing swiftly to a clean, efficient and electrified energy system.

This paper focuses on the greatest untapped source of flexible demand across Europe: household flexibility. Households can increasingly shift how and when they use electricity, without compromising utility or comfort, thanks to new digital technologies and storage. Yet, as the users with the lowest individual electricity use, they often face the greatest barriers. If enabled effectively, through inclusive access to flexible assets, markets and retail offers, there is an opportunity to improve energy services and reduce costs, which is particularly important for low-income and vulnerable households.

For household demand-side flexibility to take its rightful place in the energy transition, swift and concurrent effort is needed on multiple levels of policy and regulation. Underpinning this process is the principle that demand-side flexibility is more than an individual customer right; it’s a vital, cost-effective power system resource that should be valued as such.

Europe needs a cohesive regulatory strategy to create the infrastructure that will enable large-scale, aggregated customer flexibility. As a starting point, this paper presents a five-point action plan for scaling up household flexibility in Europe, with specific recommendations for carrying out each action.

  • Action 1: Create robust tools for measuring and valuing customer flexibility.
  • Action 2: Incentivise flexibility through energy market price signals.
  • Action 3: Ensure a level playing field for demand-side resources.
  • Action 4: Accelerate installation of flexible assets in homes.
  • Action 5: Make flexible actions easy and safe for customers.

By investing now in strategies that wholeheartedly embrace household demand-side flexibility as a power system resource, Europe can avoid paying a much higher price later.

The time is now: smart charging of electric vehicles (Webinar)

Comments Off on The time is now: smart charging of electric vehicles (Webinar)

If the video is not visible, please accept all cookies to enable the player.

European policymakers and car manufacturers are increasingly committing to the phaseout of internal combustion engine vehicles. With this shift to electric transport, tariffs and services for so-called smart charging of EVs bring significant value to consumers and the power sector. Now is the time to build a robust regulatory framework to expand the markets for these offerings consistently across the entire continent. 

On 25 May, the Electrification Academy welcomed Jaap Burger and Julia Hildermeier of the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) to share the findings of their study The time is now: smart charging of electric vehicles. The authors, who analysed 139 smart charging tariffs and services across Europe, shared: 

  • A brief overview of the benefits of smart charging for users and the power system. 
  • Innovative approaches and best practice examples of dedicated EV tariffs and services. 
  • Recommendations to accelerate the use of smart charging.

For an introduction to smart charging, check out our earlier Electrification Academy webinar with Frank Geerts and Michael Hogan, Smart charging puts the pedal to the metal on emobility. 



The time is now: smart charging of electric vehicles

Comments Off on The time is now: smart charging of electric vehicles

The transition to zero-emission mobility and a decarbonised energy system are best planned in tandem, and electric vehicles will play a key role in both shifts in the coming years. Automakers are already committing to phasing out internal combustion engine vehicles, making Europe’s transport future electric. EVs are more than a cleaner vehicle; they are a powerful resource for consumers and power sector actors. It is critical, therefore, to draw the most value from charging electric vehicles through so-called smart charging. Smart charging means charging a vehicle flexibly to lower costs for EV drivers and grid companies, to accommodate the integration of renewable energy sources and to minimise EVs’ collective impact on the power system.

Now is the perfect time to lay the groundwork for a robust regulatory framework that fosters a market for smart charging tariffs and services. By designing policy measures in a consistent manner across Europe, legislators can help ensure that the EV services market can prosper and capture the benefits smart charging offers. To this end, RAP analysed 139 tariffs and services available across Europe that specifically involve smart charging to highlight best practices and innovative approaches.

To ensure that all Europeans can charge smartly wherever they are on the continent, RAP recommends that policymakers:

  • Make smart charging the default everywhere.
  • Make public charging smart too.
  • Empower consumers to make informed choices.
  • Improve rewards for consumer flexibility.
  • Stack multiple services for smart charging to increase individual and system benefits.
  • Make local grids ‘smart charging ready.’