Northeast, Mid-Atlantic states to plunge into EV preparations

Source: David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Several Eastern Seaboard states that want to become a key market for electric vehicles will hold public discussions this fall on potentially transformative plans to expand zero-emissions transportation.

The myriad questions on their agendas include whether regulators should let utilities build out chargers and how that could serve power consumers and the health of the grid, what executive offices can do to steer the longer-term electrification of the sector, and how environmental agencies should spend money from the Volkswagen diesel-emissions settlement on clean transportation.

In New Jersey, a committee made up of staff from the utility regulator, environmental department and other agencies is inviting public input as part of the development of a 10-year energy master plan.

That plan, to be released next summer, will provide the blueprint for the “total conversion of the State’s energy production profile to 100% clean energy sources” by 2050.

Five work groups, including one for clean transportation, will analyze and make recommendations on disparate corners of the energy sector. They’re holding public meetings this September for stakeholders to chip in ideas.

By then, Virginia will have wrapped up a public comment period for its own revamped master plan, which includes a component on electric vehicles and advanced transportation. Its Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is slated to deliver the plan to the Legislature on Oct. 1.

In Massachusetts, an executive zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) commission that has usually met sporadically to review the state’s rebate programs and other initiatives has scheduled its third meeting of the year for September, though an agenda hasn’t been drawn up yet.

It comes as a federal proposal to strip California of its emissions-regulation authority casts a shadow over the dozen-plus states that participate in its ZEV program, a group that includes several in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Officials want a California-style diversity of plug-in models at local dealerships, and they’re tracking whether automakers are making more types available, following the expiration of a quirk in the program’s rules.

“Some models weren’t available at all, and some were available only in small numbers,” said Kathy Kinsey, senior zero-emissions policy adviser for the eight-member Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) bloc. “So the availability problem was, we think, a big factor in low sales in the Northeast states.”

State officials say they plan to press forward with electric transportation plans despite the potential loss of California’s authority, which could mean the collapse of the ZEV program. It remains to be seen, though, whether that possibility will discourage utility regulators from approving infrastructure build-outs paid for by ratepayers.

In Maryland, regulators have set dates to resume hearings on a four-utility proposal to build out some 24,000 EV chargers across the state. And in New York, a working group convened by the Public Service Commission will discuss how EV charging stations should design fees for use. The commission is also expected to issue a white paper in early fall on how utilities should get involved in large-scale charger build-outs.