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SDG&E wants to spend $58.4 million to build 2,000 more electric vehicle charging stations

SDG&E wants to spend $58.4 million to build 2,000 more electric vehicle charging stations


If approved, the utility will spend a total of $157.2 million in ratepayer funds on various electric vehicle projects

San Diego Gas & Electric has already spent $70 million of ratepayer funds on a pilot program that has erected thousands of electric vehicle charging stations in the region. Now the investor-owned utility wants approval to spend an additional $58.4 million to construct a couple of thousand more.

Launched in 2016, the Power Your Drive pilot program has installed more than 3,000 charging stations at 255 locations at apartments, condominiums and workplaces across the utility’s service territory.

The program and its funding were approved by the California Public Utilities Commission as part of a wide-ranging statewide effort to promote a dramatic transition from internal combustion vehicles to electric vehicles, known as EVs for short.

But the clean car revolution faces a bit of a chicken and the egg problem: What needs to be done first — putting lots of EVs on the road or installing sufficient numbers of charging ports to support the vehicles?

California policymakers are looking for both, setting goals to have 5 million EVs on the state’s roads by 2030 and 250,000 charging stations dotted all over the Golden State by 2025.

Earlier this year, a Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Volvo reported 61 percent of people who did not drive EVs said the No. 1 reason that would make them more likely to purchase a zero-emissions vehicle was access to charging stations, ahead of pricing and government financial subsidies.

Saying “several hundred properties and organizations” are looking to have SDG&E install charging infrastructure on their property, the utility has proposed the commission extend the Power Your Drive program so SDG&E can install about 2,000 charging ports in about 200 sites over a two-year period in its service territory that spans San Diego County and southern Orange County.

“By building more EV chargers, we are not just meeting customer demand and managing the grid more efficiently, we are also supporting state mandates to accelerate clean transportation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality,” Estela de Llanos, chief environmental officer at SDG&E, said in a statement.

If the CPUC approves the proposal, a typical SDG&E residential customer will see an increase on his or her annual bill of:

  • 60 cents in 2021
  • $3.84 in 2022 and
  • $5.64 in 2023

Power Your Drive has concentrated its construction at multiple-unit housing and workplaces, sites where drivers park for long periods of time but often don’t have access to charging infrastructure.

More than 30 percent of the chargers in the pilot program were built in economically disadvantaged communities where EVs are less common and air pollution tends to be worse because they are located near freeways or industrial facilities.

The transportation sector accounts for the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in California — 41 percent. The figure is even higher in the city of San Diego — 55 percent. The state aims to reduce emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

Similar to the pilot program, the proposed extension will see SDG&E design, engineer and construct the chargers at low or no cost to property owners. The utility will install Level 2 chargers that deliver about 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging.

The chargers can be used by employees or residents of the respective workplaces or multi-unit dwellings but will not be open to the general public. Customers can take part in a special rate structure called “Vehicle-Grid Integration” that incentivizes charging when electricity supply and renewable energy production are high and, consequently, energy prices are low.

SDG&E has proposed a schedule that would see the CPUC making a final decision on the proposal by next August.

“Our customers are telling us that they want to see more electric vehicle chargers where they live and work, and we’re enabling customers to save money by charging their vehicles at the right time — when renewable energy is high and demand on the grid is low,” de Llanos said.

But Wayne Winegarden, senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, a San Francisco-based organization that advocates for free-market solutions to policy issues, said ratepayer dollars should not go to building EV charging stations.

“This is infrastructure for a car. Could you imagine if they were subsidizing gas stations?” Winegarden said. “Average ratepayers and low-income customers are just trying to pay their bills to get by the month and the utility is using it in a completely unrelated service that many of them don’t benefit from.”

The proposal comes on the heels of the CPUC approving $18.8 million in ratepayer funding for about 340 charging stations via two other SDG&E pilot programs — one to construct public charging stations at 22 state beaches and state, city and county parks and another to install chargers at 30 schools and other educational institutions including K-12 campuses and colleges.

SDG&E has also received the green-light to spend $10 million on other EV charging programs for:

  • installing charging equipment for ground support at the San Diego International Airport;
  • charging stations for fleet delivery trucks in multiple locations;
  • and charging stations at five sites to support green shuttles running on fixed routes.

Should the CPUC approve the $58.4 million Power Your Drive extension, SDG&E ratepayers will have paid $157.2 million in various EV infrastructure projects.

That parallels larger efforts by state policymakers to hasten the transition from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs.

Earlier this year, a review conducted by the Union-Tribune showed various state agencies have committed $2.46 billion in public funds for EV programs.

Of that, the utilities commission has set aside $1.048 billion for electric vehicle initiatives with a large share going to erecting charging stations. The California Air Resources Board has budgeted slightly more — $1.087 billion.

And that does not count the $800 million Volkswagen will spend in California over the next 10 years on various EV programs after the carmaker got caught manipulating diesel vehicle emission tests.

The Air Resources Board will look over VW’s shoulder to make sure at least 35 percent of the money goes to infrastructure in disadvantaged communities.

As for the state’s overall target of 5 million EVs by 2030, the proportion for SDG&E’s service territory works out to about 500,000 zero-emission vehicles. The utility estimates there about 47,000 EVs in the region, which means the number will need to increase by more than tenfold to meet the state’s goal.

Statewide, as of Oct. 7, a little more than 655,000 EVs are on the road.

Source: sandiegouniontribune
Anand Gupta Editor - EQ Int'l Media Network


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