California Scaling Down PG&E Proposal to 7,500 Charging Stations

California Public Utilities Commission will vote next week on a controversial proposal where a utility may get the green light to install 7,500 charging stations.

That proposal has been scaled back quite a bit since its initial offering. In early 2015, northern California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. proposed spending $654 million to install 25,000 electric-car chargers in northern and central California. That was the largest charging station proposal ever.

After complaints were filed by several parties, including charging station companies, that number was scaled back to 7,600. PG&E made that proposal in September, but the CPUC will be voting next Thursday on an edited version where 100 fast charging stations have been removed and a total of 7,500 Level 2 chargers will be considered. More chargers could be added in later phases, if CPUC agrees to it.

PG&E says that its investment will support growth in adoption of plug-in electrified vehicles and will bring them to PEV owners who don’t own houses. Its latest proposals have emphasized bringing charging to workplaces and multi-unit dwelling locations.

The utility company estimates that there are currently just 5,000 level-two chargers — the most common kind — in the 70,000 square miles the utility serves. With California being the largest state for PEVS, the region needs more chargers, the company said.

Another challenge coming up for charging station companies and others who would like to the state take a more open approach to building the infrastructure is the Volkswagen settlement. As part of that settlement with the federal government and California, the automaker will spend $800 million in California over the next few years to bring more plug-in electrified transportation to its roads and the needed charging infrastructure. The California Air Resources Board is asking VW to also support the state’s zero-emission vehicle mandate, and its more recent efforts to bring these clean vehicles to low-income and disadvantaged communities.

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Greenlots, a charging station company in San Francisco, expressed concerns shared by several other charging infrastructure companies operating in the state.

“Deploying up to 7,500 level-two chargers over a few years is fundamentally going to grow EV adoption in PG&E territory — that’s a very strong positive,” said Thomas Ashley, senior director of government relations for Greenlots.

Like his colleagues, Ashley disagrees with elements of the final proposal, especially the removal of 100 fast chargers from the final proposal. Having public access to fast charges is absolutely necessary to persuade more Americans to buy electric cars. That’s particularly true for people who live in apartment buildings that don’t have garages, he said.

San Francisco Chronicle

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