The US is soon going to be seriously wired for electric driving, at least on the coasts. The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) has approved a portfolio of EV charging projects worth a cool $738 million for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE), perhaps the largest public investment in utility EV charging infrastructure to date.
In the eastern theater, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) just announced plans to invest $250 million in charging infrastructure along highways, at airports and in communities.
Katie Fehrenbacher, writing in GreenBiz, notes that these state-sponsored projects highlight the growing role that electric utilities are playing in rolling out public charging networks. Most observers seem to agree that (unlike some past public charging initiatives), the California and New York programs are well-designed, bringing private industry into the picture and considering the needs of all the major stakeholders.
Large sums of money are being invested in public charging. The CPUC deal “is the largest omnibus package of investor-owned utility investments to be approved,” said Chris Nelder of the Rocky Mountain Institute. And none too soon, say some. Research from the Edison Electric Institute and the Institute for Electric Innovation predicts that the US will need up to 5.5 million chargers by 2025 to meet growing demand.
“Building EV charging infrastructure should be an urgent priority in all states and major municipalities,” wrote Nelder and colleagues in a recent RMI report. “Getting it right will require unprecedented cooperation by many stakeholder groups. The time to act is now.”
Of course, not everyone is on board with the transition to electric transportation. The CPUC’s project is no more than a “$500 million money grab,” according to the California Independent Oil Marketers Association.