With PG&E getting the go-ahead to install up to 7,500 charging stations throughout California, the state is paving the way to increase electric vehicle ownership.
The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday approved the plan, which was a scale-back of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s original proposal to build 25,000 charging stations, according to documents posted on the commission website. The charging stations are part of PG&E’s electric vehicle infrastructure and education pilot program, which the commission capped at $130 million for its first three years.
The decision is in line with achieving the commission’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and Governor Jerry Brown’s mandate to get 1.5 million clean energy car on the road by 2025, according to the proposal’s text.
“It’s exciting that CPUC has approved us,” said Ari Venrenen, a PG&E spokesperson in a telephone interview. “This is a huge deal for (electric vehicle) adoption in California, because one of biggest barriers (to ownership) is lack of charging stations.”
PG&E is authorized to own 35 percent of the charging ports, with 15-20 percent to be installed in disadvantaged communities, Vanrenen said.
Greenlining Institute applauded the decision as a big step toward expanding clean transportation options to more Californians.
“Low and moderate income Californians want and need clean transportation, and we can only reach our clean air and climate goals if EVs become a practical alternative in all neighborhoods,” said Joel Espino, legal counsel for Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity. “Access to EV charging is essential to that effort, and to dispelling the myth that electric cars are just for the wealthy.”
The Utility Reform Network was significantly less enthused, complaining in a news release on its website that PG&E was funding the project by passing on costs to customers rather than with corporate profits.
“All five million PG&E households from Fresno to Yreka would subsidize charging stations to serve about 75,000 EV owners, the majority of whom live in the Bay Area,” TURN’s release said.
Vanrenen noted that funding the project will add about 22 cents per month to customer’s bills, a small amount to pay for reduced greenhouse gasses and cleaner air for all. She also disputed the number of electric vehicle users cited by TURN.
"Right now there are more than 100,000 EV drivers in our service area and that number continues to grow," she said in an email.
California PUC Commissioner Carla Peterman said the decision “strikes a good balance” of consumer benefit with marketplace competition.
“This program provides a hybrid ownership model whereby the site host has flexibility to choose to own the electric vehicle charging equipment or have PG&E install, own and operate all the equipment,” Peterman said in a report on the commission’s website.