PUC Should Approve Coalition’s Plan for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

There are more than 200,000 electric cars on California’s roads, but they are largely restricted to single-family-home neighborhoods because of the lack of charging infrastructure. Meanwhile, more than a third of PG&E’s customers live in apartment complexes or other multiunit dwellings, effectively locking them out of the market. If you can’t plug in at home, you’re probably not going to buy a plug-in car even though they are surprisingly affordable, slash fuel costs, and emit four times less climate pollution than the average new car in California. Charging stations are also rare in low- and moderate-income communities that suffer disproportionately from dirty air and where zero-emission vehicles are needed most.

That’s why, after months of negotiations, my organization and other environmental groups, social equity advocates, automakers, labor unions, local power providers, electric vehicle drivers and an EV charging company signed an agreement with PG&E that, if approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, will offer those who do not live in suburbs the same opportunity to plug in at home and at work and drive on a cleaner, cheaper fuel.

The agreement would deploy 7,500 standard charging stations at multiunit dwellings and workplaces, plus 100 public fast-charging stations on major travel corridors. At least 15 percent of those charging stations will be in disadvantaged communities, where state programs already provide generous rebates for drivers to scrap older, polluting vehicles and replace them with used EVs still under warranty at virtually no cost to the participants. The program, administered by PG&E, will provide the plugs for those plug-in cars.

Just like a recently approved, similar proposal from San Diego Gas & Electric, the program serving our area will foster competition by allowing participants to choose from a pool of independent EV charging companies already qualified via a transparent competitive solicitation.

The program serving PG&E’s service area is estimated to raise the average customer’s bill by no more than $2.64 during a single peak year — less than SDG&E’s program. And there are health and cost benefits on the other side of the ledger, too. For example, researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory estimate that a mass market for EVs could lower everyone’s electric bill by about 20 percent due to increased revenue from EV charging and improved use of the electric grid.

Furthermore, the program will lower the cost of meeting California’s renewable energy goals by encouraging owners to charge their cars when there is an abundance of solar and wind energy and electricity is cheap, which will also lead to even more fuel cost savings relative to gasoline.

The proposed agreement will benefit all PG&E customers, increase access to EV charging in underserved communities, clean the air we breathe, help California reach its climate goals, and challenge the transportation monopoly enjoyed by Big Oil for far too long. The signatories — Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Honda, Center for Sustainable Energy, Coalition of California Utility Employees, General Motors, Greenlining, Greenlots, Marin Clean Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council, PG&E, Plug In America, Sierra Club and Sonoma Clean Power — urge the PUC to approve it in a timely manner.

Californians who have been locked out of the EV market and who have suffered for too long from dangerous air pollution can ill afford to wait.