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EV Charging in the Golden State: Preserving Customer Choice & Innovation for California

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Interest in electric vehicles has never been greater, especially when you consider that 400,000 people signed up for the Tesla Model 3, and Norway just imposed a ban on the sale of gas-powered vehicles going into effect in 2025.
 
Northern California, today, is home to the most competitive EV charging market in the world.  It rightly is and should be a test-bed for new EV products, business models and innovation. And it should include a robust and competitive EV Charging market, with a diverse range of EV charging options for drivers and site hosts alike.
 
But, all this could change if a proposal on EV charging from PG&E is adopted by the CPUC.
 
In southern California, the region’s leading utilities – Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric -- worked successfully with the California’s EV charging companies to expand EV charging in a way that promotes innovation and customer choice.   However, in filing now under consideration by the California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E once again seeks effective control over EV charging in the northern part of the state.
 
The EV charging industry shares the same goal as PG&E – a vast network of charging stations throughout northern California.  This network will help electrify our transportation system, strike a blow against greenhouse gas pollution, and encourage the adoption of high-performance electric vehicles.  In fact, our industry has already installed more than 20,000 EV charging ports in the state.
 
But how we achieve this goal is critically important. Today, there is a rapidly-growing EV charging market, with a diverse range of options for drivers and site hosts alike at the lowest costs available. The private sector has spurred a highly competitive and innovative marketplace that continues to grow. However, PG&E’s proposal would be unprecedented and insert a utility in the heart of the EV charging system.
 
We believe that PG&E’s revised proposal is not the right fit for Northern California.  It is too large and fundamentally hinders the ability of the private sector to innovate.
 
In this latest proposal, PG&E is seeking 7,600 charging stations for the region.  Yet, the CPUC, directed PG&E to limit its proposal to 2,500 stations when it rejected an earlier version of the plan.  Additionally, PG&E’s cost per port is significantly higher (3 times) than the average cost per port of the private sector, and far more expensive than the pilot programs launched by Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric.
 
More importantly, PG&E leaves open major unanswered questions about the program design, including responsibility for network management, the ability of site hosts to implement innovative pricing models, PG&E’s ability to impose burdensome, annual pre-screening on vendors before they can participate in the market.  In fast charging, PG&E would select a single vendor.  By restricting choice in equipment and services for customers, PG&E would be picking winners and losers in the market, and negatively impacting a thriving competitive marketplace.
 
On the positive side, the proposal does call for 15% of charging stations to be located within disadvantaged communities including multi-unit dwellings (PG&E Settlement, Page 15). That is an improvement, but these requirements should be strengthened. For example, San Diego Gas & Electric will be installing at least 40% of its stations at multi-unit dwellings as part of its EV charging program.  PG&E should do at least as much.
 
There is no disagreement about the importance of expanding EV Charging in PG&E territory. The only question is what kind of program it should be. We are interested in collaborating on a program that is a good fit for the most successful market in California, but let’s do it right. Along with many other parties not supporting this settlement, including both of the main ratepayer advocate groups, we feel that PG&E could do much better.  The Commission should look to the proposals of non-settling parties for ways to foster private investment and deploy EV charging with less risk to ratepayers.
 
The EV charging industry wants to work with PG&E on this, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the ultimate program supports innovation and competition, and doesn’t harm ratepayers.
 
We call on the CPUC to reject or substantially revise this proposal to ensure that northern California has an EV charging program that allows for innovation to flourish.
 

Damon Conklin's picture

Thank Damon for the Post!

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