- Two Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin are circulating draft legislation to allow the state to access tens of millions in federal funds to build electric vehicle chargers by authorizing private businesses to charge EV owners by the kilowatt-hour rather than the time spent recharging.
- Wisconsin is among the last states to require EV charging facilities selling electricity to be regulated as public utilities, which ultimately bars the state from utilizing about $78 million from the federal National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program, known as NEVI.
- Wisconsin’s electric utilities provided input on the two bills, which are expected to be introduced in December. A national coalition of retailers interested in providing charging services said it supports the move to allow private charging but would like to see the legislation amended to bar utility ownership of EV charging stations.
The NEVI program was announced last year, with $5 billion in formula funding for states and another $2.5 billion available in competitive grants. States must develop transportation electrification plans to access the funds, which among other requirements must allow charging stations to sell electricity by the kWh.
Wisconsin officials have said they anticipate receiving $78.65 million over the next five years through the NEVI program.
However, states have historically allowed kWh sales only by regulated utilities. Along with Wisconsin, Nebraska has also not made the change to allow private entities to resell electricity, said Ryan McKinnon, spokesperson for the Charge Ahead Partnership, which represents businesses interested in providing EV charging to their customers.
“It definitely puts them in limbo,” McKinnon said.
Two Wisconsin bills are being circulated by Sen. Howard Marklein, R, and Rep. Nancy VanderMeer, R. One would allow private sector businesses to construct stations and sell electricity by the kilowatt hour, and specifies they will not be considered utilities. Another provides the Wisconsin Department of Transportation with the budget authority to distribute the NEVI funds.
“It is not necessary for gas stations, grocery stores and others who want to offer EV charging for sale to be regulated like a utility,” Marklein and VanderMeer said in a joint statement. “This bill changes the law to allow for EV charging without this cumbersome regulation.”
The bill also requires retailers that provide EV charging services to purchase their power from a utility and to collect an excise tax per-kWh that will be dedicated to the state’s transportation fund.
The lawmakers are seeking cosponsors for the bills.
“Alliant Energy did review the bill and we are supporting it,” utility spokesperson Tony Palese said in an email. “Importantly, the changes outlined in the legislation will support customer adoption of electric vehicles and help businesses and communities develop additional EV fast-charging infrastructure.”
We Energies spokesperson Brendan Conway said the utility “provided input on the draft legislation and will continue working with lawmakers and other stakeholders on the goal of expanding EV charging across the state.”
There is still time to amend the bills, to grow Wisconsin’s EV charging infrastructure faster, McKinnon said. The Charge Ahead Partnership opposes utility ownership of charging stations, and points to restrictions in Texas, Georgia and Oklahoma as examples of ways to manage how utilities can participate in the charging market.
Those states have passed “common sense limitations on what the utility can do,” McKinnon said. Oklahoma has a prohibition on utilities using ratepayer funds to compete in the private EV charging marketplace, and other states are considering such rules, he said.
“It's getting these common sense, stay-in-your-lane type guidelines in place that help utilities focus on what they need to do,” McKinnon said. “It's basically like setting up a framework so that private businesses can work as partners, not competitors with the power company.”
While CAP says utility ownership provides too much of a market advantage to entrenched monopolies, power providers have argued their investment is necessary to install chargers in areas where private companies might not be able to turn a profit while EV adoption is nascent.