Regulate EV Charging or No? Missouri Regulators Find Answer in Laundromats

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In a recent decision about whether the Missouri Public Service Commission should regulate EV charging and allow utilities to recover costs of charging infrastructure in rates, the PSC argued that it doesn’t regulate laundromats that need electricity to operate, and shouldn’t regulate EV charging.

What’s more, it shouldn’t allow utilities to include EV charging investments in rates, the PSC said.

Utility Ameren Missouri had proposed an EV charging station pilot intended to look at the benefits of providing EV charging services for use by long distance drivers in its territory as well as communities located in its territory, according to the PSC ruling.

The commission noted that utilities generally file rate cases to recover their investments in electric plants.

“The commission’s statutory authority to regulate the EV charging stations proposed by Ameren Missouri depends on whether those charging stations constitute ‘electric plant,’ the PSC said in its decision.

However, regulators in at least one other state have jumped into the increasingly competitive EV charging scene. In California—home to a large proportion of EVs sold–utilities are getting creative and helping pay for EV charging infrastructure.

Having a utility participate in paying for EV charging infrastructure is a new model, said Jordan Tamer, CEO of EV Connect in an earlier interview.

The advantage, he said, is that utilities make the infrastructure part of their grid so that landlords and building owners don’t have to lay out up to $2,000 per station for infrastructure. The model is expected to allow for faster adoption of EVs.

EV charging stations not electric plant

In the Missouri case, the PSC said, “The charging service is the product being sold, not the electricity used to power the charging system. By analogy, a laundromat uses electricity to provide clothes drying services, but that does not mean the laundromat’s dryers are electric plant, or that the laundromat should be regulated by the commission. EV charging stations are not ‘electric plant’ and, therefore, the commission lacks statutory authority to regulate their operation. “

PSC approval of the utility’s proposal could possibly lead to an interpretation that the PSC also has jurisdiction over other battery-charging services, including smart phone charging stations or kiosks, RV parks that provide vehicles with connections to electricity supply or airports that connect planes to electricity supplies while parked, said the PSC.

In making its decision, the PSC looked at a number of questions, including whether EV charging station installations produce public benefits. Also under question was whether the utility would be serving as a regulated utility in offering the service, and whether the pilot would compete with third-party charging station providers.

The average cost of equipment, installation and commissioning of each charging station along Interstate-70 and in Jefferson City is estimated at $95,000, according to the PSC decision.

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“The $95,000 per charging station is comprised of an average $15,000 Ameren Missouri line extension and transformation cost, an average $60,000 hardware cost for charging equipment and an outdoor electric panel, and an average $20,000 cost for civil construction, hardware installation and site commissioning,” said the PSC decision.

Ameren Missouri had been talking to possible site hosts for EV charging stations near Interstate-70 and close to amenities, saying it wanted to mimic the experience of drivers of gasoline cars.

The utility had proposed charging $0.17 per minute of plug-in time for DC fast-charging and $0.20 per kWh for Level 2 AC charging, according to the PSC decision.

Regulate EV charging to protect the public?

In its decision, the PSC concluded that Ameren Missouri had not shown that the business of investing in EV charging stations required regulation in order to protect the public.

“Currently, EV drivers are not captive customers being served by a single utility, but have a choice among several providers of EV charging services. Ameren Missouri may own and operate EV charging stations in Missouri, but it may only do so on an unregulated basis without including those charging stations in its rate base or seeking recovery from ratepayers for any of the costs,” said the PSC in its decision.

Should the state regulate EV charging and allow utility cost recovery? Share your thinking on our LinkedIn Group, Distributed Energy Resources

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