Canadian Manufacturing

Utilities brace for EV takeoffs

Can Canada’s energy infrastructure handle it?

OTTAWA: The electric vehicle (EV) picked up momentum in Canada this week with the official launch of the Chevrolet Volt and the unveiling of several new EV charging stations in Quebec and Ontario.

But as more manufacturers and consumers get behind the EV movement, Canada will need the right infrastructure to handle it.

That was a key message at the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA)’s recent Smart Grid Symposium in Ottawa, where representatives from energy companies discussed some of the sector’s challenges and opportunities.

“We have new technology and aging infrastructure,” said Georges Simard, senior engineer with Hydro-Québec, distribution strategic planning, and a presenter at the symposium.

Simard said the biggest trial for Canada will be setting up an integrated system to manage all the data involved in smart grid technologies.

“Cyber security is also a big part of it,” he added.

In a report released at the symposium, the CEA points to potential issues such as the manipulation of service to homes and businesses and operator access to private consumer information.

Industry will need standards and an open platform with developers to mitigate these risks, the report said.

As utilities prepare for these challenges, Hydro Québec is launching Canada’s largest test project of a smart grid zone in Boucherville, Que.

“This is where we’re going to play with demand response infrastructure,” Simard said, adding they have an agreement with Mitsubishi to run 50 i-MiEV vehicles in the demonstration area.

B.C. is also hosting infrastructure demonstrations over the next two years with vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf.

“We’re going to have 500 vehicles driving around very shortly and we need to build the infrastructure to support them,” said Mark Dubois-Phillips, senior manager of technology development at BC Hydro and Power Authority and another presenter at the symposium.

He pointed to a heat map reflecting the province’s population most likely to purchase an EV and those areas in the system that are already most vulnerable — in both cases, downtown Vancouver.

“This could have a serious impact on our distribution system,” he said.

Dubois-Philips said Canada needs to support more projects to test and develop its infrastructure.

“If you look at what’s going on in the US right now, just on the west coast, there’s the EV project with Nissan,” he said, referring to one of the largest deployments of EV infrastructure to date.

“Here’s a $400 million project and $200 million of that is coming from the federal government. Our federal government this far has been a little deaf on this one,” he said.

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