Electric vehicle charging gets a jump

Eversource’s $45m program will support rapid buildout

MASSACHUSETTS TOOK A MAJOR STEP toward its goal of 300,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025 when the Department of Public Utilities last week approved the nation’s largest electric vehicle charging program outside of California.

The landmark $45 million program developed by Eversource, one of the Commonwealth’s largest utilities, will support the buildout of over 4,000 commercial charging spots and 67 DC fast chargers across their service territory in Massachusetts.

The impact will be significant. It will encourage more drivers to go electric. Our skies will be cleaner. The utility will gain valuable insight into charging behavior and how to efficiently incorporate the load into the grid. Additionally, the program will present new economic opportunities in the form of jobs, growth, and leadership in innovative technologies.

Just as importantly, it’s part of a growing number of well-designed utility programs that form the foundation of efforts to build out electric vehicle charging networks across the nation. As we approach 2018, policymakers should look to this program as a national model that features a significant role for utilities and supports the continued development of the dynamic and rapidly growing electric vehicle charging marketplace.

Massachusetts is not alone in laying the groundwork for an electrified transportation future through smart utility programs. Ohio is considering a program developed by AEP Ohio (a utility unit of American Electric Power) to provide $9.5 million in rebates that would encourage businesses to install electric vehicle chargers. Michigan has been convening a collaborative process that will result in pilots to demonstrate different methods to support the equitable deployment of public, workplace, and residential charging.  And in New York, PSEG Long Island (which operates the Long Island Power Authority’s transmission and distribution system) has a rebate program to encourage workplace charging.

Each of these programs is unique, built for the specific needs of the local community. But there are common threads that run through them all.

Simplicity in design – Simple utility programs are easier for utility commissions to approve as they minimize the amount of funding required from ratepayers.  They are also easier for the customers to understand, easier for the utility to implement, and, due to the low cost per station, can have a bigger impact on the overall numbers of stations deployed.

Two successful models are rebates for employers, retailers, apartment buildings and others to install electric vehicle chargers, as well as “make ready” programs (such as Eversource’s program in Massachusetts) in which a utility provides the underlying electrical infrastructure to prepare a parking space for charging.  Both approaches give participants the ability to choose among qualifying electric vehicle charging solution providers based on quality of services, networked capabilities, station design, and the ability to optimize the driver experience and station utilization.

Collaborative process – When it comes to electric vehicle charging, there are many stakeholders, including state and local governments, utilities, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. The programs poised for long-term success, such as the one proposed in Michigan, bring all of these parties together in a collaborative effort to chart the right course for the future.

Bold goals and a regulatory roadmap – Successful states such as Massachusetts set bold goals and develop a regulatory roadmap to ensure that they are addressing charging in a comprehensive manner. This includes answering key questions such as how utility programs can complement private and public investments to accelerate electric vehicle adoption in a way that creates value for all customers.

Meet the Author

Dave Packard

Vice president of utility solutions, ChargePoint
Electric vehicles have reached a tipping point. Electric vehicle sales are up nearly 40 percent year-over-year, including 26 straight months of sales growth. Automakers are developing dozens of electric vehicles that hit the sweet spot for drivers – vehicles that achieve 200 miles per charge at affordable prices. New fast charging technologies will hit the market soon allowing drivers to charge their vehicle in about the time it takes to order and pick up a coffee.  Electric utilities such as Eversource are leading the way in proposing market-friendly solutions to support their customers as they transition to electricity as a transportation fuel.

States and cities across the nation are waking up to the urgent need to electrify their transportation systems. Utilities are prepared to do their part, as they develop programs such as Eversource’s, which are intelligently designed to minimize the impact on ratepayers by attracting private funds, while working with the industry and local stakeholders to ensure the acceleration of a sustainable electric vehicle infrastructure market.  If we do it right — just as Massachusetts has— we will take an enormous step toward building the world-class electric vehicle charging network that our nation needs.

Dave Packard is vice president of utility solutions for ChargePoint, the world’s largest network of electric vehicle charging stations.