California Approves Compromise on Competitive EV Charging

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California regulators approved a competitive EV charging model on Thursday that is expected to spur a record number of charging stations.

The much-awaited decision by the California Public Utilities Commission emerged from a compromise struck by environmental organizations, EV drivers, EV charging companies and Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). Forecasters see the program adding 7,500 EV chargers over three years in northern and central California, a record number.

The decision is especially important because one in five EVs in the US are registered in PG&E’s service territory, according to PG&E. Future microgrid designs often incorporate EVs for storage.

Microgrid developers are just beginning to integrate EV charging into their microgrids. For example, a UCSD pilot program incorporates EVs into its microgrids. Some pilots projects–such as the residential PG&E/BMW pilot underway in California–use EV batteries to provide power.

“In combination with similar charging station programs the commission authorized earlier this year for Southern California utilities, today’s decision will help California meet its goal of deploying 1.5 million EVs by 2025 and challenge the monopoly enjoyed by Big Oil for far too long,” said the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in a statement.

The program matches EV charging to hours of the day when wind and solar are available. This is expected to lower the costs of renewable resources in California, which aims to source half of its electricity from renewables by 2030, said NRDC.

“The chargers will be on time-of-use rates where the price of electricity depends on the time of day,” said Ari Vanrenen, spokeswoman for PG&E. “To note, the electricity fueling EVs in California comes from one of the cleanest energy mixes in the country.”

She added that in 2015, PG&E delivered nearly 60 percent of electricity to customers from greenhouse gas-free resources.

Initially, PG&E asked for broad control of EV charging in northern California, prompting an outcry from charging companies. The Electric Vehicle Charging Association said that for the 200 fast charging stations in PG&E territory, there would be no customer choice. PG&E wanted to select a single vendor and deny the site host the ability to choose equipment. And for Level 2 stations, there would only be limited customer choice.

Thursday’s decision calls for a $130 million budget and elements from both the Southern California Edision and San Diego Gas & Electric charging station programs approved by the commission earlier in the year.

The decision is based on a compromise from an Administrative Law Judge.

Under the competitive EV charging model, PG&E will provide rebates for customers to own and operate an EV charging station of their choice. PG&E’s role will be to own the “make-ready” infrastructure needed to prepare a parking space for installing an EV charging station that includes lines, wiring, conduit and metering, said ChargePoint.

PG&E will own and maintain charging stations from third-party vendors in under-served markets, including multi-unit buildings and other non-single family homes.

The utility will supply electrical infrastructure at workplaces located outside of disadvantaged communities. The company will also offer rebates for employers for the purchase of  charging stations.

PG&E is also required to installs at least 15 percent of charging stations in disadvantaged communities.

Read more about California’s road to creating competitive EV charging on Microgrid Knowledge’s electric vehicle channel.

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