Calif. and N.Y. put big money on charging infrastructure

Source: David Ferris, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, June 4, 2018

California and New York yesterday made record-setting bets on electric transportation, with California regulators approving utilities to spend $738 million and New York’s governor pledging up to $250 million.

The developments mean that two of the nation’s biggest and most liberal states will have more places to charge the wave of electric cars that automakers have said are coming by 2019.

In California, the Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) unanimously voted in favor of proposals by the state’s three largest power companies. For the first time, it endorsed hundreds of millions of dollars for charging infrastructure for bigger vehicles like buses, forklifts and freight trucks.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that the New York Power Authority would invest $40 million in fast chargers for cars on highways and at airports, funding that could climb to $250 million.

The California decision was both bigger and longer in coming. The impetus began with a 2015 state law that set aggressive targets to electrify transportation, a sector that is the state’s leading source of greenhouse gas emissions. Utilities submitted their first proposals early last year.

The resulting $738 million “is by far the biggest investment by the electricity industry anywhere,” said Max Baumhefner, an attorney with the nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council who lobbied the state on the proposal.

Californians own half of the 193,000 new electric vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, according to a studyby the International Council on Clean Transportation.

A good chunk of the new money, about $282 million, will go toward light-duty EVs. San Diego Gas & Electric got approval to spend about $240 million to get 60,000 charging stations into homes, by way of rebates and installation services. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E), the principal energy provider in Northern California, will dedicate $22 million to standing up 300 fast-charging stations.

It’s the remainder that is more groundbreaking.

Trucks, buses, cranes and forklifts will be the beneficiaries of $356 million from Southern California Edison (SCE), the utility of Los Angeles and its environs. Meanwhile, PG&E will put $236 million toward that heavy-polluting sector.

Those bets are “really innovative in the sense that they are addressing markets and segments we haven’t seen anywhere else,” said Anthony Harrison, the director of public policy at ChargePoint, a Silicon Valley company that builds and sells chargers.

SCE’s funding targets the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together receive roughly 40 percent of goods that arrive on the mainland by container ship.

A significant portion of the funding for all the programs must be spent in low-income communities, many of which are in areas of the Los Angeles Basin and the Central Valley that have the state’s worst air pollution.

Most of the programs will swing into effect within five years, and utilities will recover the expenses from their ratepayers. Private companies, not the utilities, will sell the chargers and any infrastructure on the customer side of the meter.

Yesterday’s development was the latest in a string of moves to support EVs by California’s government agencies. In 2016, the CPUC approved almost $200 million for the three utilities to add a collective 12,000 charging stations.

In January, the California Energy Commission approved $43 million in pilot electrification programs, the same month that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) issued an executive order to get 5 million EVs on the state’s roads by 2030.

And a week ago, the California Air Resources Board approved a plan to spend $290 million from the Volkswagen “dieselgate” settlement toward replacing fossil-fuel-powered heavy vehicles with electric ones.

New York’s goal is to get 10,000 charging stations installed by 2021.

An initial $40 million, already approved by trustees of the New York Power Authority, will install as many as 200 direct-current fast chargers on interstate arteries, spaced every 30 miles or so, and in cities; put fast chargers at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports; and establish “model communities” that will test approaches to developing infrastructure and services.

“New York has an incredible opportunity to move the needle on greenhouse gas reduction and get more electronic vehicles on the road by building more charging stations to ensure New Yorkers can drive them from one end of the state to the other,” Cuomo said in a statement.