August 30, 2016

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PG&E’s plan for EV charging to cost ratepayers $160 million, crush competition

By
Andrea Deveau and Damon Conklin
East Bay Times

It’s no coincidence that Northern California is home to more electric vehicles and EV charging stations than any region in the world.

For decades, our region has been acutely aware of the threat posed by global warming, and is committed to addressing it.  We’re early adopters of technology, and we love the wave of high-performance EVs coming off assembly lines from automakers.

But ironically, a proposal by PG&E pending before the California Public Utilities Commission would crush the fledgling marketplace for electric vehicle charging stations in region.

Under PG&E’s proposal, ratepayers would foot the bill for a massive $160 million proposal that is too big, too costly, and would stifle innovation and competition in the marketplace.

So what’s the alternative?  Is it PG&E’s program or bust?  Do we either support an ill-advised utility driven model or nothing?

Absolutely not.  In fact, there is an alternative that at once supports innovation and competition and includes PG&E as a significant part of the solution.

The fact is that we agree with PG&E that California must take significant steps to encourage EVs and EV charging, but how any such program is structured and designed matters.

If done in the right way, this program can encourage the growth and development of electric vehicles in the state.

So what does this alternative include:

First, it slashes the cost to ratepayers nearly in half from $160 million to $87 million.

It does so by limiting ratepayers’ reimbursement to the features of the program that utilities traditionally provide – wiring, conduit and other “make ready” services to transform parking spaces in to EV charging facilities.

Second, it limits the number of EV Charging stations funded by the proposal to 2,500 L2 (commercial) stations and 10 DC fast chargers (high-speed charging).  This is the number that CPUC said was appropriate when it rejected an earlier version of PG&E’s proposal.

Despite that, PG&E’s latest proposal calls for 7,600 stations, a number that would overwhelm the marketplace, and eliminate competition.

Third, it promotes competition and consumer choice.  It puts “site hosts” at the center of the charging ecosystem instead of PG&E.  It means employers, grocery stores, retail outlets, apartment owners and many more will be able to select a charging provider of their choice and determine the price for charging.

Why does this matter?  Because it gives these businesses a stake in ensuring that the charging station is used in a way that supports their business.

Fourth, it allows for new entrants to the market, critical in the fast moving electric vehicle charging sector.  Under PG&E’s proposal, new vendors or new products aren’t certified for a year.  This alternative would allow new entrants to join almost immediately.

These modifications to PG&Es’ expensive, unworkable and deeply flawed proposal turns it into something that works for drivers, for businesses, and for California.

California should be doing all it can to meet or beat the governor’s goal of putting 1.5 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025.

But PG&E’s proposal, if adopted as is, represents a step backwards that will inhibit the growth in electric vehicles and EV charging.

Our alternative, on the other hand, will unleash a new wave of innovation in EV charging and encourage the widespread shift to an electrified transportation future for California.

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