Coalition Backs Big Increase in Electric-Vehicle Charging Stations

San Diego Gas & Electric announced Wednesday that an array of automakers, labor representatives, environmentalists and service providers has agreed to support the utility’s proposal to substantially increase its local electric-vehicle infrastructure and incentives.

The program calls for SDG&E to install charging stations for electric vehicles at up to 550 sites throughout its service territory and offer special rates to encourage use at times that are optimal for power-grid efficiency.

The groups have come together to make the project a key step in meeting Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of having 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on California roads by 2025.

“We are very pleased to enter into this agreement with such a diverse group of stakeholders all working together to promote clean electric vehicles,” said Jim Avery, SDG&E’s senior vice president for power supply.

“More than 50 percent of SDG&E’s residential customers live in multi- family communities, where only a small fraction currently has access to charging.”

Agencies signing on in support of the pilot effort include the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, California Coalition of Utility Employees, Greenlining Institute, ChargePoint Inc., NRG EV Services LLC, Smart Grid Services Siemens AG, Plug in America, General Motors, Honda Motors, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, KN Grid, CALSTART, the Center for Sustainable Energy and the Green Power Institute.

The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to rule on the proposal sometime this year.

The plan calls for SDG&E to install 10 vehicle chargers at each designated location. Building owners and managers would have a choice of rate options and equipment, promoting competition and market growth in the nascent industry, according to the utility.

At least 10 percent of the chargers would be installed in economically disadvantaged communities to expand access to electric-vehicle use in currently underserved areas. The pilot project also would offer special rates designed to encourage customers to lower their fueling costs by charging their cars when electricity supply, including renewable energy, is plentiful and energy prices are low.

Though the San Diego area already is home to more than 16,000 plug-in vehicles — one of the largest concentrations in the country — their use needs to increase at a significantly quicker pace to meet the governor’s 10-year target number, according to SDG&E.

State officials contend that developing a comprehensive network of readily available electric-vehicle charging stations would be a boon to efforts to fight climate change, since the transportation sector creates roughly 40 percent of the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions.