California Utilities Entering Electric Vehicle Market

Three of California’s largest utilities, Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and SDG&E, have put together proposals totaling  more than $1 billion to try to electrify the state’s transportation sector.

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The costs will be passed on to ratepayers and still need to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. The utilities say the projects will go a long way to reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Southern California Edison’s proposal is expected to cost $570 million, which will pay for electric vehicle incentives, rebates for residential charging stations and electrification projects for medium and heavy-duty vehicles.

Pacific Gas & Electric has requested $253 million, the bulk going to electric infrastructure aimed at larger vehicles such as buses that currently use diesel fuel. The PG&E proposal also wants to offer “a significant rebate” program for fast-chargers that can power electric vehicles in 20 or 30 minutes.

SDG&E wants to spend $244.1 million to install tens of thousands of charging stations in its service area to boost the transition to zero-emission vehicles, trucks, shuttles and delivery fleets.

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Southern California Edison said the average residential customer could see a monthly bill increase of 53 cents a month — but about 29 cents for customers who meet income qualifications. PG&E customers would see a monthly bill increase of less than 28 cents. Typical residential SDG&E customers would see an increase of about 71 cents a month to their bills in 2020.  

Under provisions of SB 350, utilities are required to detail how they plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ramp up deployment of clean energy resources. Utilities are also authorized to “undertake transportation electrification activities.”

There are more than 265,000 vehicles classified by California government agencies as zero-emissions vehicles, by far the most of any state in the nation, less than 1% of all California vehicles.

Sales for EVs and hybrids have remained flat across the state, largely because of the low price of oil, which has resulted in average gasoline prices in California dropping from more than $4 a gallon as late as July 2014 to $2.78 this week for a gallon of regular.  

Each of the utilities’ proposals will get vetted through the PUC’s regulatory process. The first round of decisions, focusing on the smaller aspects of the proposals, are not expected until later this year.  (L.A. Times, 1/24/2017)