SDG&E kicks off $52.5 million EV charger installation and customer education pilot

Dive Brief:

  • San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) has begun installing 3,500 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at 350 locations across its territory for its $52.5 million, three-year “Power Your Drive” pilot program to boost EV ownership.
  • Customers charging EVs at the stations will be billed by SDG&E. The utility will institute a first-in-the-U.S. real-time pricing structure, with information accessible via smartphone, that will encourage charging during off-peak periods when electricity’s cost is lowest.
  • SDG&E will install, own, and maintain the stations at a cost of $45 million and direct a $7.5 million shareholder investment into programs to educate customers. Opponents argue the program, approved by regulators this year, represents regulated utility interference in the private market.

Dive Insight:

SDG&E’s education campaign will include opportunities for customers to test drive EVs from all the major manufacturers and learn of the available benefits and incentives. Benefits include low fuel costs and the potential to be powered by renewables-generated electricity. Incentives include state and federal tax credits and rebates worth up to $10,000.

California regulators are encouraging EV charger buildouts by investor-owned utilities. Many EV advocates argue utilities and their rate bases are among the few financing sources with pockets deep enough to expand the infrastructure rapidly. Governor Jerry Brown has called for 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2025.

The pilot phase of the Southern California Edison (SCE) Charge Ready Program was approved by California’s commission earlier this year, allowing the utility to proceed with the installation of up to 1,500 electric vehicle charging stations in its 50,000 square mile territory.

California’s Utility Reform Network and other ratepayer advocates have expressed interest, but are concerned about rate impacts from utilities building charging station infrastructure.

“Utilities have to be the ones because it will take a longer time and cost more than a private company will give it,” Brett Hauser, CEO of charger company Greenlots, told Utility Dive. “Utilities can rate base the charging infrastructure upgrades and consider what is best for the community. Private sector financial concerns will focus the infrastructure on narrower, more affluent markets.”

Original Story: