California Utilities to invest $54 million in EV chargers at schools, parks and beaches

Friday, November 8, 2019 12:47 pm EST

By:

Chris King, Chief Policy Officer, Siemens eMobility.

Of all the barriers that exist to EV adoption today, a key one is range anxiety resulting lack of availability and access to public charging infrastructure.

California’s utilities have been in the forefront to address this problem through numerous programs. Today, the Public Utilities Commission added to these programs by approving an additional $54 million for PG&E, SCE, SDG&E, and Liberty Utilities to invest in chargers in visible, underserved segments: schools, parks, and beaches.

The approval and implementation of these investments continues the CPUC’s efforts to meet the clean energy and widespread transportation electrification goals established by the legislature in Senate Bill 350 and Assembly Bills 1082 and 1083. The utilities will deploy charging infrastructure at city and county parks, state parks and beaches, school facilities, and educational institutions. According to the CPUC, “This decision is another step forward in ensuring California meets its clean air and greenhouse gas reduction goals for 2030 and beyond.”

The target locations are long-dwell sites, and most of the chargers will be Level 2 chargers typically operating at 7.2 kW—but the door is open for some DCFC as well. The utilities will own the make-ready infrastructure and, except for Liberty Utilities, offer customer choice for ownership of the chargers – utility owned or site-host ownership. 

According to the decision, the two ownership options are designed to alleviate some of the budget constraints schools, particularly those in DACs, face with investing beyond day-to-day operational costs. By having a utility-ownership option, the participating school can avoid the upfront capital costs needed to purchase, and install the charger, as well as ongoing maintenance and operational costs – thus increasing the uptake of chargers at schools. In fact, Liberty’s prospective school sites are not interested in or financially able to participate in a site-host ownership option.

The chargers themselves must meet safety standards and, per the CPUC, “To promote competition and innovation within these pilots, and to reduce the risk of stranded assets, qualifying EVSEs should actively utilize open access standards for communication of data between the EVSE and the back-end network.” According to the Smart Electric Power Alliance, at least 29 companies make chargers that use the open standard Open Charge Point Protocol (OCCP), so OCCP is the obvious choice for this communication link (see https://sepapower.org/resource/ev-managed-charging/).

Another key charger standard requirement is open payment. On this point, the decision concludes, “The availability of credit and debit payment at more remote charging locations, such as state parks and beaches, should encourage customers to drive EVs to such destinations.” Accordingly, the decision requires compliance “with state law, including SB 454 and future regulations adopted by [the California Air Resources Board] to implement SB 454.” CARB has adopted regulations that require credit/debit card readers for publicly accessible chargers installed after January 1, 2022. 

To achieve the state’s goals for these programs and make the best use of ratepayer funds, the utilities must follow the CPUC’s intent to have the card readers—for both EV drivers and the many parks and beaches visitors who can then see how simple it would be to pay for EV charging at those locations should they buy an EV.

The table below summarizes the approved programs and budgets, in millions of dollars.*

*These are based on the final proposed decision issued November 7, 2019 and are subject to change in the final adopted decision.

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