The time has come for EV ready buildings

It’s no surprise that Wattwatchers has seen a spike in apartment building owners corporations in Sydney wanting to monitor their common property circuits as a precursor to installing electric vehicle (EV) charging. Awareness is surging in strata land, which has over 370,000 apartment buildings of all sizes nationally, and the NSW Government is highlighting a path to ‘EV ready buildings’.

ON MY WATTS: MURRAY HOGARTH

It’s starting to feel like 2009 all over again, only this time it is strong state government incentive programs starting to drive electric vehicles uptake instead of rooftop solar back in its early days.

When the NSW Government hosted a webinar recently (12 May 2022) on ‘EV ready buildings’, aimed particularly at the strata sector, nearly 500 attendees turned up.

So if you are still wondering when the tipping point for electric vehicles will happen, then the answer is simple: it’s here and now, and at least some jurisdictions are putting their policy foot on the EV pedal.

Part of the Wattwatchers origin story, which dates back to 2007, is that at the time Australia only had about 7000 rooftop solar systems installed, and the cost of a 5kW system – which today might cost around $5000-$6000 for a quality installation – was in the order of $50,000-plus.

Fast forward to 2022 and Australia leads the world with small-scale rooftop solar deployments, covering over three million homes and enterprises.

If NSW achieves its objectives, backed by a nearly $600 million program investment over the next four years, then the nation’s biggest state economy will be on track for half of new vehicle sales to be EVs by 2030, and the vast majority by 2035.

EV charging is a key focus, especially in buildings where most of it will happen, and multiple funding rounds are planned to drive deployment. As an example, the NSW Government has just announced a $20 million EV destination charging grant program aimed at regional areas.

In regard to EV ready buildings, the theme of the helpful and well-attended webinar that I joined, one clear objective was to do some myth busting to remove barriers that might be holding building owner corporations back from acting on EV charging.

One such myth is the idea that strata buildings will need to make major reinvestments in their core electricity supply and distribution infrastructure.

Ross De Rango from the Electric Vehicles Council was clear on this, saying: ‘We don’t need a bigger supply in apartment complexes. We need scheduled charging.’

This is where smart energy monitoring technologies like Wattwatchers come in, first to support energy assessments and evaluations to plan for EV charging in apartment building common property areas, and then to combine with other softwares and hardwares to integrate EV charging into a building’s overall electricity use including any demand ceilings and charges.

It’s clear that load monitoring and control will be crucial to efficiently and cost-effectively deploying EV charging in strata buildings, and many commercial buildings, whether they have a handful of apartments or hundreds.

Other key bits of practical advice from the EV ready buildings session that stood out include the need for strata buildings to write EV charging in common property areas into their by-laws; and also making financial provision for deployments by revising their 10-year capital plans in tandem with building managers. 

Solar has long been a challenge for apartment complexes, which often have limited available roof space compared with standalone dwellings, and penetration has been limited. But stratas will have less choice to opt out when it comes to EV charging.

Rooftop solar has been big for the clean energy transition and electrification in Australia, and is still growing. But self-evidently the accelerating transition to electric mobility is going to be huge!

FOOTNOTE: Wattwatchers is deployed in a growing number of strata buildings to monitor common property circuits, and where possible main grid supplies as well, with EV charging scoping the main driver. A majority of these projects have been carried out under the My Energy Marketplace (MEM), a $10 million national project led by Wattwatchers with $2.7 million in grant funding support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)*. Wattwatchers has worked closely with strata advisory startup Wattblock, also based in Sydney, as this video shows.

HELPFUL RESOURCES

NSW Government – https://www.energysaver.nsw.gov.au/reducing-emissions-nsw/electric-vehicles 

Wattblock – https://www.wattblock.com/ev-charging.html and YouTube video EV Charging Capacity Explained for Strata Apartment Buildings

Chargepoint https://www.chargepoint.com/solutions/apartments 

The Driven article – https://thedriven.io/2022/05/12/nsw-launches-guide-for-ev-ready-apartments-and-office-blocks/ 

The Guardian – Apartment dwellers face hurdles in the race to install EV chargers

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ARENA ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The My Energy Marketplace project is receiving funding from ARENA as part of ARENA’s Advancing Renewables Program. The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Australian Government, and the Australian Government does not accept responsibility for any information or advice contained herein.