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California utilities push for more EV charging infrastructure

Three companies aim to gather $1 billion in order to finance over 10,000 new charging stations

Earlier this week, ElecTrans reported that the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) had submitted a proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that would help boost adoption of EVs in the state.

Now the San Francisco-based company has been joined by two of the other major utilities providers in the state, Los Angeles-headquartered Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). Between them, the three firms have asked permission to collect around US$1 billion from their customers in order to support infrastructure expansion in California, including the building over 10,000 new charging stations.

SCE asked state regulators on Friday for permission to collect up to US$570 million from its customers over five years. One of the projects this collection would fund is the building of 1800 charging stations for electric trucks, an important initiative if businesses are to be convinced to introduce ZEVs into their commercial fleets.

Also on Friday, the same state regulators announced that they were aiming to cut emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2030. All this on the day when a president hostile to such measures was sworn into office.

The ZEV mandate already in place in California would see 1.5 million EVs on the roads by 2025. If adoption is going to take place at such a rate, a strong infrastructure will first have to be established, and the proposals made by these three companies demonstrate a collective will to achieve this.

Southern-California-Edison-Charge-Ready
Southern California Edison charging station

Just good business?

SCE president Ron Nichols is clear: “The key aspect of this is all about greenhouse reduction. We’ve got to start looking beyond the electric power supply” he says, emphasising his company’s commitment to tackling climate change.

However, the revenues of such companies have been struggling recently, especially in states such as California where widespread solar roof adoption and energy efficient appliances weaken power sales. One area of few steady areas of bankable growth is EV charging. PG&E had a smaller plan to invest in charging stations approved by regulators last month and SCE was cleared to spend up to US$22 million on charging stations in the area. Their latest program also includes installing 50 fast-charging stations in the state and offering rebates for some residential customers according to Nichols.

Whatever the incentive behind the proposals may be, they are nonetheless particularly timely. With Donald Trump in the White House –and a climate change-denier as head of the EPA– it will increasingly be up to states to accelerate adoption of EVs themselves. Any proposal by local utility firms to aid in achieving ZEV mandates is a welcome one.

 

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