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by Jacob Briggs, Senior Consultant, Cornwall Insight
21 May 2024
Associate Feature: Plug in to unlock – the benefits of smart meter enabled EV flexibility

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Associate Feature: Plug in to unlock – the benefits of smart meter enabled EV flexibility

New research by Cornwall Insight, commissioned by Smart Energy GB, demonstrates the significant benefits of smart electric vehicle (EV) charging for consumers and our energy system – something which will become increasingly important as we transition to a smart, flexible, and low carbon future.  

Delivering the benefits of a low carbon economy requires a combined focus on decarbonising transport, home heating, and our electricity system. Electrification is a necessary part of this transition. However, an increase in uptake of technologies such as EVs significantly raises the overall volume of electricity consumed by households, as high-carbon petrol and gas consumption is transitioned to lower-carbon (and eventually zero-carbon) electricity.

Currently, times of peak demand often rely on an increase in fossil fuel-generated electricity. This increases the cost of wholesale electricity at peak times, which is factored into the price paid by consumers. However, research published last year from Cornwall Insight found that if households embraced opportunities to use energy more flexibly, such as charging their EVs overnight, we could avoid the need to build the equivalent of four new gas fired power stations to cope with peak demand in 2030. 

Households using energy flexibly benefits them, our energy system, and the environment. It provides an opportunity for households to save money and reduce carbon emissions. Importantly, even households that do not, or cannot, actively participate in household flexibility will see an overall reduction in their bill because of a more efficient energy system.

For EV owners, making this change should be low effort. This is because there is likely to be a high level of flexibility in how and when electricity use can take place, without negatively impacting the user experience. 

For example, a driver could return home in the evening, having used their EV for their daily work or commute. There may be 12 hours before they need to use the car again, and only a fraction of that time is needed to recharge the battery. This means that the charging demand can be flexible and aligned with the cheapest times to use electricity. 

New research from Cornwall Insight assesses the value of smart and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) EV charging within a flexible energy system. The research projects how EVs and the different approaches to charging them could be taken up, and the benefits that can be realised from smart and V2G charging as opposed to non-smart charging. 

So, what are the benefits?
Firstly, smart charging unlocks lower wholesale electricity and network costs for drivers. By using a time-of-use tariff based on wholesale market signals, smart charging households could access wholesale electricity prices that are 24% lower on average than prices for non-smart charging households in 2025. In fact, savings on wholesale electricity costs reached up to 77% on some days over the year for these owners.

However, wholesale electricity prices are not the only time-based signal that smart EV charging services can use to deliver value for owners. 

Network charges also contribute to the time-of-use rates that make up energy tariffs, and the costs for domestic customers using the distribution network at peak, rather than off-peak times, can be around 50-70 times higher. Therefore, by moving charging away from peak periods, smart charging not only reduces network requirements but could also lower costs for the driver.

Network services can also offer signals to smart chargers, either to ‘turn-up’ when there is excess generation on the system or, more typically today, to reduce electricity demand during periods of peak electricity consumption. These services can provide opportunities to reward smart meter-enabled household flexibility, especially for service providers that use automated controls to deliver value to their customers.

Secondly, exporting electricity through V2G can save up to 70% on electricity costs. This is because, as hardware markets mature and cost and availability barriers lower, V2G charging is expected to become an increasingly common part of the domestic charging landscape. 

The research uses a projection of more than 4m EVs taking part in V2G actions by 2040. Based on this projection, households in the V2G category made on average £320 in revenue in 2030, and £250 in 2040.

Even without network services included, V2G charging actions enabled households to benefit from up to 70% savings on their overall charging costs in 2030

Finally, flexible electricity use from EVs supports lower electricity costs, and less carbon consumption for everyone. 

The modelling found that if all the projected EV owners engaged with time-of-use signals via smart charging it would result in ~7GW of peak-time electricity demand from EVs being avoided. This is more than twice the capacity of Drax power station, the largest single power station in GB.

By avoiding this power demand at peak times, and instead meeting it when renewable generation is higher and spare capacity on the electricity network is greater, households – whether they own an EV or not – can avoid the costs of network reinforcement and peak time demand management that would otherwise be incurred.

The market for smart and V2G charging is evolving. Exciting and innovative propositions are becoming available for EV owners, allowing them to plug-in and unlock lower energy bills and financial rewards, all whilst supporting our transition to a smarter, flexible, and low carbon energy future. 

For more information about research, or the ways in which smart meters are supporting our transition to a smarter and more flexible energy system, please visit or email  

This article is sponsored by Smart Energy GB & Cornwall Insight

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