Utilities around the country have deployed public EV charging infrastructure, and continue to do so. However, this trend is controversial. Some say that utilities, with their monopoly power and their ability to charge ratepayers for the costs of installing infrastructure, could freeze independent operators out of the charging marketplace. Others argue that getting large numbers of public charging rolled out quickly should be the top priority, and that utilities have the resources to make that happen.
In Minnesota, a public utility recently lost a battle in this ongoing war. Local TV station WJON reports that Xcel Energy withdrew a plan to build more than 700 EV charging stations statewide, after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission approved a much smaller rate increase than the company was asking for.
The project was expected to cost some $197 million, which Xcel planned to recoup from ratepayers.
“Xcel was trying to take over Minnesota’s EV charging marketplace, which would have reduced infrastructure and service while raising prices for Minnesotans,” said Jay Smith, Executive Director of the Charge Ahead Partnership, a coalition of retailers, gas stations and convenience stores.
The Charge Ahead Partnership had argued against approval of the plan. Officials with the group claimed many existing gas stations are willing to offer EV charging, but are hesitant to invest if they have to compete with a public utility.
The state PUC’s ruling was “a win for Minnesotans,” said Smith. “Xcel’s attempt to extend its monopoly into the EV charging marketplace would have burdened all Xcel customers with higher power bills and discouraged private investment in EV charging.”