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Sector Coupling

Electromobility brings distribution grids to their knees

Although electromobility will not have a dramatic impact on electricity consumption in Germany, many local distribution grids are not prepared for the additional load.

24 Sep. 2018
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Electromobility brings distribution grids to their knees (Chart: © McKinsey & Company)

These are the findings of an analysis by McKinsey. The consulting firm estimates that one million electric cars on German roads would consume about two to three TWh per year - not even 0.5% of the total German demand for electricity. The study findings also indicate that even an e-car market share of 40% would increase electricity demand by no more than 10%. McKinsey senior partner Thomas Vahlenkamp says that there is nevertheless a need to take action: "The impact of electromobility on the German energy system is small on a large scale, but great on a small scale."

He is referring to local distribution grids, which could reach their limits due to the increase in electromobility. The main reason for this is that the cars would probably be charged mostly in the evening - i.e., at a time when local distribution grids already reach peak loads. According to McKinsey, the necessary expansion would cost tens of billions over the next five to ten years. Although it would be much cheaper to change charging behavior, appropriate market and incentive mechanisms are apparently lacking.

The German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW), which claims to represent 95% of German distribution grids, had already positioned itself in 2017. It spoke out in favor of reinforcing and upgrading distribution grids in certain regions in order to deal with the increase in electromobility. It also recommended that grid operators be given the power to manage charging in critical network situations.