The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) energy division last week proposed a new transportation electrification framework that would require state utilities to put together 10-year plans detailing investments in electrification infrastructure.
- The state is aiming to put five million zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) on the road by 2030. As per the energy division's proposal, utilities would file their 10-year plans in 2021 and the CPUC would formally adopt them in 2022.
Parties can comment on specific aspects of the proposal on a rolling basis, with comments on the investor-owned utilities' (IOU) plan process due Feb. 25 and a workshop scheduled for March 12.
California's transportation electrification goals require the state to set up 250,000 public charging stations — 10,000 of which must be direct current fast charging stations — by 2025. The state currently leads the nation in utility investments in transportation electrification, Miles Muller, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Utility Dive. The CPUC created a rulemaking in December 2018 to look into transportation electrification programs, tariffs and policies.
Meeting ZEV goals is particularly important to the state's long-term clean energy targets, according to the staff proposal. Electric vehicle (EV) load is predicted to increase by ten times by 2030, positioning the sector as an important flexible resource to soak in renewable energy. But EV adoption in California is currently restricted by the lack of charging infrastructure.
The proposed framework would create a new process for investor-owned utilities to develop 10-year plans to invest in transportation electrification infrastructure, which would include proposals for channeling ratepayer investment and creating a competitive market. The plans would also outline how utilities are handling incremental load from electrified transportation, and "clear, long-term market signals that encourage the development of third-party business opportunities."
After the CPUC reviews and approves the plans, utilities can file formal, large-scale transportation electrification applications every two years, per the proposal. The energy division's expected schedule would have the utilities filing their plans in 2021, with a first round of formal applications in the first quarter of 2023.
There are three ways in which utilities can help California meet its ZEV goals: ensuring availability of charging infrastructure, affordability and awareness, Katie Sloan, director of eMobility and building electrification at Southern California Edison (SCE), told Utility Dive. The utility currently has a plan before the CPUC to install 48,000 charging ports at a cost of $760 million, which would meet around a third of all the infrastructure that SCE believes needs to be in place over the next four to five years, she said.
"So there's still quite a bit of infrastructure that needs to get into place in order to support electric vehicle adoption," according to Sloan.
Meanwhile, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) "is committed to continue its efforts to increase the adoption of EVs in California. Expanding access to EVs and charging stations is essential to reducing emissions, improving air quality and meeting state goals," utility spokesperson Ari Vanrenen told Utility Dive in an email.
The CPUC has authorized more than $1 billion in ratepayer funds on EV infrastructure since 2016, and California utilities filed applications in 2018 and 2019 requesting almost another $1 billion for future infrastructure programs. So far, the commission has evaluated IOU applications on a case-by-case basis. The rulemaking is in part aiming to streamline the CPUC's process around approving transportation electrification initiatives, and reduce some of the repetitive and extensive litigation around utility applications, according to Muller.
However, the timeline outlined in the staff proposal could cause delays, according to Muller, since utilities would not be filing applications for full-scale infrastructure programs until 2023. Given the regulatory process involved in approving the programs, "it's likely that no significant steel would go into the ground until 2025 or 2026, aside from smaller, limited scale pilots," he said.
"We feel that the climate imperative dictates that we act now and that some modifications are likely necessary [to the proposal] to really unlock the speed and scale necessary for California to meet its 2030 goals," according to Muller.