Ontario utility agencies back BluWave-ai project to manage increased EV power grid use

EV charging
“We know EVs are coming … so we want to be prepared.”

BluWave-ai and Hydro Ottawa are collaborating with two Ontario provincial government agencies in a project that will use artificial intelligence (AI) to manage electric vehicle (EV) charging during peak demand periods.

The agencies and startups involved said that the project will save customers money while extending the life of electricity infrastructure.

“You can spend billions of dollars doing capital upgrades to the grid or you can try to figure out how to space out all of that charging more efficiently.”
– Devashish Paul, BluWave-ai

The three-year project called EV Everywhere is designed to help meet the growing energy needs electric vehicles are anticipated to create in the Ottawa area. The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) are supporting the project, with the IESO providing $2.4 million in funding from its Grid Innovation Fund.

Project proponents and their partners are investing an additional $2.4 million. The OEB will provide regulatory support through its Innovation Sandbox.

Katherine Sparks, the director of innovation, research and development for the IESO, told BetaKit: “We’re not necessarily hoping to encourage EVs per se, but we know EVs are coming. We know customers, municipalities and corporate consumers, too, with fleets have an increasing interest in EVs aligned with their decarbonization and electrification goals overall, so we want to be prepared.”

The IESO forecasts that electricity demand from the electrification of transportation, which includes EVs, will increase 20 percent annually. Increased EV adoption introduces challenges for utilities that distribute the energy needed to charge them.

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Devashish Paul, the founder and CEO of BluWave-ai, said in the most extreme instance of people eschewing gas stations to receive all of their energy from the grid, the grid would essentially blow up.

“You can spend billions of dollars doing capital upgrades to the grid or you can try to figure out how to space out all of that charging more efficiently,” Paul said in an interview with BetaKit.

EV Everywhere predicts, detects, optimizes, incentivizes, and controls the charging of residential EVS in the grid, according to Paul.

“Our cloud-based software platform basically allows for the onboarding of EVs in the grid with the ultimate vision that there’s EVs everywhere and they’re charging but not overloading the grid,” he said.

EV Everywhere will use AI to create an online service for EV owners that will pool the storage and charging capabilities of EV batteries to smooth out demand peaks and take advantage of lower-cost energy at off-peak. The automated system will also gauge customer interest and impacts.

The expectation is that some amount of charging of EVs in a residential neighbourhood will be taking place at any given time. BluWave uses its AI to predict on any residential street what charging is likely to occur; based on that information, the startup generates an optimized schedule as to when EVs should be charging.

Opted-in consumers would agree to have their charging throttled at particular times. Others, who don’t opt in, could download an app that would inform them as to the best time to charge, and when pricing might be cheaper. “Hopefully, the not opted-in consumers conform to when there’s economic benefits,” Paul said.

BluWave plans to test out different pricing schemes in the OEB’s sandbox in order to encourage consumers. “The EV owners gain, but the rest of the population who are not EV owners also gain because otherwise the governments and utilities would have to make major capital expenditures all over the place,” Paul noted.

BluWave secured $3.9 million CAD in seed financing in 2020.

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As part of EV Everywhere, BluWave and Hydro Ottawa have brought in Moment Energy, and Area X.O, operated by Invest Ottawa.

“Working with BluWave-ai and Hydro Ottawa creates an amazing opportunity to increase EV adoption,” said Gurmesh Sidhu, co-founder and chief product officer of Moment Energy. “By adding energy storage to the grid, we can solve many problems the grid would otherwise experience as EV adoption increases. Working with partners enables us to demonstrate how effective second-life batteries are and the impact they can make to transmission and distribution infrastructure.”

Cleantech startup Moment Energy creates sustainable energy storage systems by repurposing retired EV batteries, and raised $3.5 million CAD in 2021 to bolster its production capabilities to meet growing demand for its solution.

One of the possibilities the project will examine is the possibility of putting energy back into the grid through EVs, and storage.

“As part of our partnership in this project, Area X.O operated by Invest Ottawa will be providing our state-of-the-art private R&D facility and technical expertise to collaborate and demonstrate the technology solution before it moves to real-world deployment,” said Kelly Daize, Director, Area X.O.”

The project will use Area X.O.’s electric vehicle supply equipment charging systems, network infrastructure, and electric vehicles to test multiple applications.

Economic development agency Invest Ottawa expanded its autonomous vehicle test facility, Ottawa L5, and rebranded the innovation hub, aimed to support the creation, commercialization, and adoption of innovations in mobility, autonomy and connectivity, to Area X.O. in 2020.

Since its inception in 2005, the IESO’s Grid Innovation Fund has supported more than 260 projects. The OEB Innovation Sandbox enables innovators to better understand regulatory requirements.

Back at the IESO, Sparks said, “I think this is a great example of an innovative energy project leveraging local solutions to address the reliability of clean energy and affordability needs of Ontarians, so we’re really excited about that.”

Feature image courtesy dcbel via Unsplash.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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