Two California Utilities Get Creative with EV Charging

Feb. 1, 2016
California is getting innovative with EV charging, having approved two utility proposals expected to expand charging and boost the numbers of EVs on the road.

California is getting innovative with EV charging, having approved two utility proposals expected to expand charging and boost the numbers of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road.

In the first, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a proposal by Southern California Edison to invest $22 million in its “Charge Ready and Market Education Program,” under which the utility provides incentives to deploy 1,500 EVs.

Having a utility participate in paying for the infrastructure to support EV charging is a new model for providing the infrastructure, said Jordan Ramer, CEO, EV Connect.

In the past, landlords and building owners were responsible for paying for electrical infrastructures to support the charging, he explained. That infrastructure could cost up to $2,000 per station, he said.

“Now the utility is taking the electric infrastructure and making it part of their grid, saying ‘We will make the investment and won’t require the landlord to lay out the cash for that part of the EV equation,’ and taking it a step further and providing rebates for charging stations,” he said.

“This is important because it’s the entrance of a major utility like Southern California Edison in a way that enables an open, transparent, and competitive attempt to bring charging to its territories,” said Ramer.  “It’s very significant investment toward a market that does need investment in order to meet Gov. Brown’s target of  1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025. The infrastructure is needed to meet those goals.”

The program is designed to provide infrastructure in locations where EVs will be parked for long periods of time — work places, shopping malls or multi-family communities, for example.

“SCE’s program will bring electricity to the property and right up to the parking lot, and you can get a rebate to put a charger at that location,” explained Terry O’Day, vice president of NRG EVgo.

Generally, renters ask landlords to install charging stations. Now, this program will fund the backbone needed, he said.

This program will allow California to bring more renewable energy to the grid, O’Day said.  Charging can be timed to occur when the most renewable power is being produced. In addition, the charging stations will meet the requirements of demand response programs, meaning the utility can send a signal telling the operator of the charging station to schedule charging to meet the needs of the grid.

Under the program, the charging station is owned by the store, apartment complex or other charging host.  The site owner assumes responsibility for operating costs, maintenance, and electricity usage. The utility provides rebates that apply to the base cost at a pre-determined percentage; 25 percent for non-residential stations, 50 percent for multi-unity dwellings, and 100 percent for EV stations installed in disadvantaged communities, according to the Electric Vehicle Charging Association.

In Oregon, PacifiCorp and Portland General are considering similar programs, said O’Day.

Meanwhile, the CPUC approved San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposal to develop a pilot program that will deploy 3,500 electric vehicle charging stations in the San Diego area.

“While we feel Southern California Edison’s pilot is a model program that should be adopted in states across the nation, SDG&E’s program, with its ‘Vehicle Grid Integration,’ is incredibly innovative, featuring dynamic pricing that creates incentives for charging when renewable energy is most available,” said Pasquale Romano, CEO of ChargePoint. “Together, these two programs represent a giant leap forward for EV Charging in Southern California.”

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About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

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