Self-Driving Batteries, Virtual Microgrids, and Other Uber-like Future Energy Models

This new slideshare from Professor Damien Ernst describes microgrids, V2G (Vehicle To Grid), autonomous vehicle energy delivery, and other futuristic models for the electrical industry.  With seemingly daily announcement from car and technology companies, these models are much closer than most people realize.  Professor Ernst, of Université de Liège (ULg), has been kind enough to share this presentation with Microgrid Media.  Read more insightful musings from Professor Ernst here.

A taxonomy for uber-like models for electricity Microgrid 2. Multi-user 4. Power generation and/or storage anywhere Virtual microgrid Electric Vehicles (EVs) No Electric Vehicle Battery 5. Users close to each other Mobile storage device 1. Single-user Single-user 3. Power generation and/or storage close to the user Multi-user 6. Users located anywhere Vehicules to Grid (V2G) Not V2G 7. Car not always charged at home 8. Car discharging only at home 9. Car as a substitute for the utility grid 10. Delivery of electricity with storage devices 11. Storage devices as a substitute for the transmission grid

Model 1: The Single-User Microgrid

Starting with the most common uber-like model, a microgrid is an electrical system that includes one or multiple loads, as well as one or several distributed energy sources, that are operated in parallel with the broader utility grid.

single user microgrid

The single-user microgrid is:

  1. Legal.
  2. Popularised by PV panels and batteries.
  3. Has the possibility to have a microgrid fully disconnected from the utility grid.

Model 2: The multi-user microgrid

  1. Regulatory framework may not allow for the creation of multi-user microgrids.
  2. Often more cost-efficient than the single-user microgrid (e.g. economy of scale in generation and storage, easier to get higher self-consumption at the multi-user level).

multi-user microgrid

Why microgrids?

  1. Financial reasons:
    • Price paid for generating electricity locally is lower than price paid for buying electricity from the utility grid
    • Hedging against high electricity prices.
  2. Technical reasons:
    • Microgrids – especially multi-user ones – are a great way for integrating renewables into the grid and developing active network management schemes
    • Security of supply, especially if the microgrids can be operated in an autonomous way.
  3. Societal reasons:
    • Local jobs
    • Energy that belongs to the people.

Model 3 and 4: The single-user virtual microgrid

  1. If the user is located close to generation/storage (Model 3), it may have beneficial effects on the network to increase self-consumption in the virtual microgrid.
  2. Model 3 tested in Belgium. Known as E-Cloud. Big storage generation/storage devices in an E-Cloud but they are divided up among several single users.
  3. Standard regulations do not allow for the creation of virtual microgrids.
Single User Virtual Microgrid

From the market point of view, the consumption of the ‘single user’ is equal to the sum of the consumption measured by the three meters, for every market period.

Model 5 and 6:The multi-user virtual microgrid

  1. May be very helpful to integrate renewables if users are located close to each other (Model 5).
  2. Difficult to have multi-user virtual microgrids that can operate in an autonomous way.
  3. Easier to create a multi-user virtual microgrid in one area of a network than a multi-user microgrid. In a multi-user microgrid, one single potential user may block the creation of the microgrid.
Multi-User Virtual Microgrids

Multi-User Virtual Microgrid

 Model 5 (not 6) authorized in France?

A piece of French regulation « authorizing » the creation of multi-user virtual microgrids for which all the users are connected to the same low-voltage feeder (Model 5)  *PS: Sorry for those of you who do not speak French

France Virtual Power Plant Regulation

Model 7: EV – Car not always charged at home

A few comments on how this model could affect the electrical industry:

  1. May help domestic microgrids with PV and batteries to go fully off grid. How? During a sunny period the owner of the (good-sized) domestic microgrid would charge its EV at home. Otherwise, he would charge it at another location. This would help the fully off-grid microgrid to handle the inter-seasonal fluctuations of PV energy.
  2. The EVs could be charged immediately adjacent to renewable generation units where electricity costs may be much lower than retailing cost for electricity. Two numbers: retail price for electricity in Belgium: 250 €/MWh. Cost of PV energy in Belgium: less than 100 €/MWh. May also help to avoid problems on distribution networks caused by renewables.

An App-based Algorithmic Approach for Harvesting Local and Renewable Energy Using Electric Vehicles.

 Model 8: V2G – Vehicle discharging only at home

v2g charging vehicle to grid



  1. Could allow for the creation of fully off-grid microgrids that do not have their own generation capacities.
  2. Self-driving EVs could, during the night, autonomously bring back electricity to the house. This electricity could be stored in the batteries of the house.

Model 9: V2G – Car as a substitute for the utility grid

EV charging could be carried out next to electricity sources at a cheap price. Afterwards, EVs could directly sell their electricity (without using the grid) to any electricity consumer at a higher price. As such, they will act as a true competitor for the utility grid.

 v2g vehicle to grid substitute for utility

self-driving autonomous car prostitute comicModel 9 may become very successful with the rise of self-driving cars for two main reasons:

  1. No one will be needed to drive the car to collect electricity and deliver it to the electricity consumer.
  2. Fleets of self-driving cars will not be used during the night to transport passengers. Using them during the night as a substitute for the electrical network will therefore accrue very little additional capital costs.

Model 10: Delivery of electricity using storage devices

  1. Many producers of electrical energy could start delivering electricity directly to home batteries through the use of mobile batteries.
  2. Delivery system may be significantly cheaper than the cost of running distribution networks in rural areas.
  3. Biggest competitor of Model 10: Model 9.
Energy Delivery

Energy Delivery

Note: Model 10 could also be done with drones.

Model 11: No EV battery. Storage devices as a substitute for the transmission grid

marine battery energy delivery

  1. The off-shore grid could be replaced by a system of boats with batteries.
  2. Renewable energy collected at remote locations, such as the East coast of Greenland for example, where there is ample wind, could be brought back to consumption centres with using large ships full of batteries. Model is competitive with undersea cables once cost of batteries drops below 50 €/kWh.
  3. Model 11 could be combined with a model based on electricity distribution with batteries.

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