Hitting the Brakes on Rolling Blackouts

Can electric cars help keep the grid going?

Austin Ener­gy announced last week that it will join the University of Texas and the Electric Relia­bil­ity Council of Texas in a study to determine whether, in the event of another power emergency such as the rolling blackouts that occurred this past winter, plug-in electric vehicles could be signaled remotely to stop charging to conserve energy, or even to send power back into the grid from their batteries. AE will receive 14 electric trucks and 14 charging stations as part of the federal study grant and will match the grant with $567,871. Obviously, in these early days of the electric car industry, such a program would have little effect on the grid, but its significance could grow as plug-ins become more prevalent. "This project will help us prepare and get the grid ready for the day that there is an influx of electric vehicles in our community," said AE General Manager Larry Weis in a press release. Results of the study will be reported by 2013.

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