Electric cars could drive utility power demand

Dive Brief:

  • A drop in the electric utility deliveries has companies pushing electric cars as a way to maintain power demand.
  • Utilities are proposing pilot projects and refueling stations to boost usage of the technology.
  • But customer advocates are increasingly concerned about fees being added on to these projects.

Dive Insight:

Utilities facing environmental goals and a rise in distributed generation are searching for ways to maintain demand on their system. Increasingly that may mean a focus on electric cars, as evidenced by the Edison Electric Institute’s July white paper on increasing the electric vehicle in commercial and retail markets.

The paper encouraged investor-owned electric utilities to meet an industry-wide goal to spend at least 5% of annual fleet acquisition budgets on plug-in electric vehicles and technologies, and said the “electrification of the transportation sector” is a huge potential win for utilities. “It will enable electric utilities to support environmental goals, build customer satisfaction, reduce operating costs, and assure the future value of existing assets,” the association said.

But the Wall Street Journal reports that consumer groups are worried about fees tacked onto pilot programs and infrastructure proposals, as they leave ratepayers footing the bills for experimental technology.

Sempra Energy’s San Diego Gas & Electric has proposed installing about 5,500 charging stations in San Diego at a cost of about $100 million, with a surcharge on customer bills. But the Journal said the The Utility Reform Network is fighting the proposed rate increase, which they believe would amount to about 40 cents per month on a customer’s bill.

“Shareholders should fund business opportunities for the company,” Wall Street Journal quouted TURN lawyer Marcel Hawiger as saying.

Recommended Reading

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Utilities Push the Electric Car