Two California utility companies have requested permission to enter the EV charging station business, and a group of state legislators has recommended that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) lift a 2011 ban on investor-owned utilities owning EV charging infrastructure.
The original intent of the ban was to protect competition in what was then a nascent EV charging market, by preventing utilities from gaining monopolistic control. However, proponents of the change say that removing the ban would result in more EV charging stations becoming available, and even lead to lower energy prices for ratepayers.
One private-sector fan of the change is ChargePoint CEO Pasquale Romano, who did “a happy dance” when he heard the news. Romano explained that allowing utilities to participate enables them to reward station operators for installing equipment that is compatible with their grid management programs. Utilities can also lower the entry cost for independent operators, because a utility that helps an entrepreneur defray the initial cost of equipment can recoup that investment by selling electricity.
The two utilities – San Diego Gas and Electric, and Southern California Edison (SCE) – filed requests for permission to build $500 million worth of charging infrastructure. SCE wants to install up to 30,000 stations over the next five years, and proposes to provide a rebate to customers that install EV charging, who will be able to choose their preferred hardware vendor.
Romano likes SCE’s proposal, because the utility doesn’t seek to make decisions for charging station operators like ChargePoint, but does want to give those companies incentives for continued innovation. “Their recommendations take into consideration the need for driver adoption, sustained innovation, site owner choice, and installation practices using their own resources and expertise,” said Romano. “This allowance for choice will increase competition and spur private investment in new technologies and business models,” said Romano.
The CPUC is expected to make its decision this month.