California is a global leader in electric vehicles (EVs), with about 120,000 on the roads at the start of 2015, and accounting for approximately 40% of all plug-in EV sales in the US.
Last December, in order to encourage the wider deployment and use of EVs, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) gave the go ahead to utility ownership of EV charging infrastructure.
Already last April San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE) had submitted a proposal to build 5,500 charging stations as part of an EV pilot programme, and in October Southern California Edison (SCE) followed with a proposal for up to 30,000 charging stations. Now Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has followed suit with a proposal to build an estimated 25,000 charger stations across its northern and central California service area.
The PUC’s assessment of the proposals will include the nature of the programmes and whether the utilities might gain any unfair competitive advantages.
PG&E’s electric vehicle infrastructure programme
PG&E’s programme, with a US$654 million cost (US$551 million in capex and US$103 million in operating costs) proposes to deploy approximately 25,000 chargers at commercial and public locations, including multi-family dwellings, retail centres and workplaces over about 5 years. Approximately 10% of the chargers would be installed to support disadvantaged communities.
All of the stations would have Level 2 chargers, while in addition at key locations 100 DC fast chargers would be installed, which can recharge an EV’s battery in only 30 minutes.
“Our proposed build-out of EV charging infrastructure aims to accelerate customer adoption of clean, quiet, and efficient plug-in vehicles by reducing lingering range anxiety,” said Tony Earley, chairman, president, and CEO of PG&E Corporation.
PG&E proposes to own all of the infrastructure, but contract with third parties to build, install and maintain the chargers and manage customer billing. The costs of the plan, if approved, would be recovered from the rate base. For a typical residential customer the cost would amount to about 70 cents per month over the period 2018 to 2022 (in 2016 and 2017 the total impact on system average bundled rates would be minimal).
PG&E believes that to meet the target of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles in California by 2025, about 100,000 Level 2 chargers will be needed in public locations in its service area by 2020.
SCE’s Charge Ready programme
SCE has proposed a two phase programme, starting with a 1-year pilot of up to 1,500 charging stations to test the approach and then the remaining ones up to the 30,000 total over the following four years.
SCE’s proposed model is somewhat different in that the company would own and maintain the supporting electrical infrastructure and “make-readies,” while customers would choose, own, operate and maintain the charging stations. The programme targets long dwell-time locations, where cars typically park for at least four hours, such as workplaces, multi-unit dwellings, fleets and destination centres.
SCE’s costs are US$22 million for the pilot phase and US$333 million for the second full rollout phase. With cost recovery via the tariffs, SCE estimates an increase of 0.1 cents/kWh for most customers, or overall an average 0.2% increase in rates.
SCE expects the programme will provide approximately one-third of the stations necessary in the region to support critical EV penetration by 2020.
SDG&E’s vehicle-grid integration programme
SDG&E’s VGI programme is proposed as a 4 to 5-year pilot to better determine the benefits to customers of efficient integration of EV charging loads with the grid.
SDG&E proposes to contract with third parties to build, install, operate and maintain EV charging facilities under a service level agreement. Sites would have 10 charging stations each, with 50 sites to be completed in the first year, 100 sites in the second and 200 sites in each of the third and fourth years.
Like the other programmes, the VGI pilot would target workplace and multi-unit dwelling facilities for siting chargers.
Total costs are estimated at US$103 million and it is proposed these be offset from the revenues generated by the sale of cap-and-trade allowances.
Of these three proposals SDG&E’s is the most advanced in the PUC and a decision is expected in September/October of this year.
Pasquale Romano, CEO of California-based ChargePoint, has come out strongly against PG&E’s proposal, saying it “will hamper the industry, is bad for ratepayers, bad for EV drivers and bad for California’s emissions reduction goals."
Stating that ChargePoint believes strongly that utilities should play a significant role in the EV industry, he says that PG&E’s proposal creates a monopoly in EV charging equipment and services that will stifle growth and innovation in the market. “Allowing one monopoly utility to define the EV charging hardware, network, pricing, features and everything in between, will reduce competition and innovation.
“The right approach as taken by Southern California Edison, allows utilities to do what they do best – install electrical infrastructure. This approach protects customer choice and encourages continued innovation in EV charging hardware, network and services.”