The California Public Utilities Commission is abandoning plans to allow electric vehicle charging infrastructure funds to go to investor-owned utilities under a new prorgram and is instead establishing an EV charging rebate program for third-party entities.
The California PUC said that utility ownership of EV charging infrastructure has been cumbersome and expensive, and as such utilities will not be eligible for funds in this new program.
California’s decision signals to the rest of the country that spurring private sector investment in EV charging stations represents the most efficient way to develop an EV charging network.
“California has been experimenting with EV charging longer than any other state, and the PUC is acknowledging that utility ownership is a failed model,” said Jay Smith, executive director of Charge Ahead Partnership, a coalition of individuals, businesses and organizations working to expand the nation’s EV charging network. “Private retailers are far better equipped to meet the needs of EV drivers than the power company is, and we applaud the California PUC for acknowledging this reality.”
NATSO, along with Charge Ahead Partnership, have been advocating for a level playing field in the EV charging marketplace, warning that simply handing ratepayer funds to utilities will slow the development of the EV charger marketplace, while also resulting in higher power bills for all ratepayers.
Those are the same arguments California’s PUC made at the Nov. 17 meeting, where they established the new program to attract private third-party investment.
“The utilities will not be permitted to own any of this infrastructure, and the rationale for that is that will mean lower cost for ratepayers because the charger and other equipment will not be in the utility rate base,” said Commissioner Cliff Rechtschaffen.
The commission also stated that allowing power companies to own on-site EV charging infrastructure was placing too much additional responsibility on the already strained providers.
“We think the program moves in the direction of rightsizing the role of the utility in EV infrastructure, and to allow the utilities to focus more on the areas within their core competency,” Rechtschaffen said.
Smith said the new program creates a unique opportunity in the state that did not exist before the Nov. 17 decision, and he is hopeful that other states will take notice.
“Eliminating utility ownership sends a signal to investors that they won’t be forced to compete against a monopoly,” Smith said. “Fortunately, California has recognized that retailers are best equipped to sell EV charging. Unfortunately, states like Nevada and Minnesota still think giving handouts to power companies is a viable strategy.”
While travel plazas have the locations, amenities and accessibility that travelers in need of EV charging want, many operators have been hesitant to enter the EV charging marketplace because of competition from public utilities. Public Utility Commissions all over the country have been raising power rates to subsidize new utility-owned EV charging stations, while private travel plaza operators must make significant investment if they want to own and operate EV chargers.
To learn more about CAP’s efforts to create opportunities for travel plazas in the EV charging space, visit Charge Ahead Partnership’s webpage.
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