Proposed Decision on EV Charging Wins Praise in California

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EV Charging Station

EV Charging Station

Private EV charging providers and users are hailing a proposed decision before California regulators for its handling of competitive concerns.

An administrative law judge filed the proposal November 14 before the California Public Utilities Commission (A.15-02-009) on a plan by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to install 7,500 charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs).

The parties opposed the utility’s initial plan. But they say the ALJ’s proposal better protects customer choice, competition and innovation.

“We are pleased to see this as moving forward to allow California to choose and innovate. We are very much aligned with the proposed decision,” said Andrea Deveau, executive director, TechNet. Her organization includes members ranging from Google and eBay to venture capital startups, and represents the innovation economy, she said.

“Energy choice and competition are critical to our members,” she said. “A lot of our companies like ChargePoint want to protect customer choice, and many of our companies own charging stations at their data centers or campuses.”

The CPUC may hear the proposal as soon as December 15. The proposal from the judge has no legal clout unless the commission approves it.

EVs are expected to be included in microgrids in the future, and there’s much controversy over who will control charging.

In April, the Electric Vehicle Charging Association voiced its opposition to a PG&E proposal to grow its services. EVCA and others claimed that the utility’s proposal would have blocked competition and controlled EV pricing. One in five EVs in the U.S. — more than 81,000 EVs — are registered in the utility’s service area.

PG&E initially wanted to own and operate 25,100 new electric car charging stations by 2022. EVCA criticized the proposal because for 100 fast charging stations the utility would have selected a vendor and given no equipment choices to site hosts.

Under the ALJ’s proposal, PG&E can own and operate charging stations if they’re located in disadvantaged or multi-family communities. “This way, the utility owns and operates where there is the greatest need,” said Anne Smart, director of government relations and regulatory affairs for ChargePoint. But PG&E can only own up to 35 percent of the charging stations in those communities, she added.

PG&E said it is still reviewing the ALJ’s proposed decision. “We will provide comments back to the CPUC and parties in 20 days (from when the proposed decision was issued). Our goal remains to make it easy and affordable for customers to install chargers, and we are looking forward to getting started with the program as soon as possible,” said Ari Vanrenen, a PG&E spokeswoman.

In March, PG&E had submitted a settlement plan to the CPUC along with a diverse group of stakeholders, including environmental, automobile, EV advocates and socioeconomic justice groups. It called for the company to partner with EV charging station providers to install 7,500 level 2 chargers and 100 DC fast chargers. The budget was proposed at $160 million over three years, with PG&E owning the charging infrastructure.

The ALJ’s new proposal would allow companies like ChargePoint to invest in make-ready charging stations and provide rebates to the site host, said Smart.

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When a utility invests in make-ready charging stations, it invests in equipment on the customer’s premises. The site host buys the charging station using their capital and uses a rebate from the utility, Smart explained. The site host owns the equipment and network services associated with the charging station.

“We thought they should use their own funding to the greatest extent possible,” said Smart. “We support the model of the utility investing in make-ready and allowing site host to own the equipment…that’s the majority of what was proposed.

TechNet’s Deveau said her group views the proceeding as protecting the innovation economy. “We think it’s critical to encourage competition in California. This sets a precedent across the country for states that want to delve into charging plans. It serves as a great model for how states will look at this.”

The original proposal from PG&E didn’t protect customers choice because it didn’t allow site hosts to choose technologies, she said.

The ALJ reviewed all of the proposals offered in the controversial PG&E case and chose the elements that were in the public interest, according to ChargePoint. The proposal provides for the deployment of 7,500 EV charging stations at a cost of $130 million.

Under the ALJ proposal, PG&E would provide rebates for customers to own and operate EV charging stations of their choice in most cases. PG&E would own the “make-ready” infrastructure, which is what’s needed to prepare a parking space for installing an EV charging station. At all sites, the site host would be the utility customer. This aims to allow EV charging to support different business models, according to ChargePoint

A program advisory committee would establish a process for site hosts to choose equipment and network services, which would help ensure innovation in products and services, said ChargePoint’s press release. The site host would determine the rate structure and amount drivers pay for charging services.

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