Friday, October 7, 2016

California Utilities Preparing for Electric Vehicle Surge


Electric cars, buses, trucks and trains.  They're coming faster than you may think.  Transportation electrification is one of the keys to meeting California, U.S. and international climate goals,

Without plug-in transportation, we won't meet targets of a 40% reduction in fossil fuel use by 2030 and 80% by 2050.  All of those plug-in vehicle will need infrastructure on the other end of the plug ranging from charging stations to storage to renewable energy power generating facilities.

California continues to show leadership in providing incentives for all aspects electric vehicle (EV) deployment from vehicle manufacturing and ownership (see, for example, CalGreenFinance post on manufacturing incentives here) to charging infrastructure.  The state is now looking further into how to assure there will be adequate infrastructure for the increasing number of electric vehicles.  This is part of a larger strategy to address greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector (see prior Climate Dispatch post on California transportation strategies here).

The California EV market is the largest in the nation.  The California Plug-In Vehicle Collaborative recently released the latest sales data for California and the nation, showing there are now over 500,000 plug-in electric vehicles nationwide, with nearly half in California:




California expects the number of  plug-in vehicles to reach one million by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025.  California utilities are preparing for this surge of electric vehicles, including how to provide enough electricity at the right times of day and deciding what role they should play in delivering that electricity to cars.

To give a sense of the magnitude of the electric vehicle deployment, estimates in the Sacramento Municipal Utility District area suggest that we will need to move from 4300 plug in vehicles on the road today in the area to 240,000 by 2030.  SMUD serves 1.4 million residents.  Similar electric vehicle increases are expected throughout the state.

Sacramento Municipal Utility District Electric Vehicle Projections (Source: here)

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power estimates that 145,000 plug in electric vehicles will be needed in their area in five years and 580,000 by 2030 to meet climate goals.




The California Energy Commission recently held a workshop to explore how electric utilities are responding to the challenges.  As background, they provided a good listing of the various laws, Executive Orders, incentive programs and regulations affecting electric vehicles within their workshop notice (here), including:
  • Governor Brown established the zero emission vehicle (ZEV) Executive Order directing California government to ensure electric charging infrastructure is available to support one million ZEVs by 2020 and 1.5 million by 2025
Tim Olson of the Energy Commission Fuels and Transportation Division
presented overview of California programs 10/5/2016

  • The Governor also established the Sustainable Freight Executive Order to set targets to accelerate adoption of zero emission transportation options in the freight sector by 2030.
  • The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) zero emission vehicle mandate requires automakers to offer specified numbers of ZEVs for sale in California by 2020. 
  • CARB’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard requires a 10 percent carbon intensity reduction in gasoline and diesel fuel sold in California by 2020 and electric transportation is one option to displace petroleum fuels and help fulfill that objective. 

    California Energy Commissioner Janea A. Scott,
    Lead Commissioner for Transportation chaired recent Utilities & Electric Vehicles Workshop

  • CARB adopted a statewide mobile source strategy to comply with federal ambient air quality standards to reduce ozone forming vehicle tailpipe emissions and ZEVs offer attributes to help achieve that requirement
  • CARB also provides incentive rebates and vouchers in conjunction with federal tax credits to reduce the purchase price of ZEVs and the Energy Commission complements these efforts with its support through its own program to plan and deploy electric vehicle charging infrastructure 3 throughout California as part of the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP).
  • SB350 of 2015 requires utilities, in conjunction with the requirements/processes of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Energy Commission, to plan for electric vehicle deployment and infrastructure.


Investor Owned Utilities: Pilots & Programs 


The investor-owned utilities (i.e. those regulated by the Public Utilities Commission) are evaluating how to assist electric vehicle infrastructure and electric vehicle deployment.  The utilities are seen as a major source of know-how and capital to  improve the infrastructure, but there are concerns from those who worry about the utilities competing with others who want to deploy electric vehicle chargers.

The investor-owned utilities have been told to present transportation electrification plans by January, 2017 (larger utilities: PG&E, SCE, SDG&E) or July 2017 (smaller utilities: Liberty Utilities, Bear Valley Electric, PacifiCorp).  According to PUC Analyst Amy Mesrobian, it is possible for utilities to collaborate with each other on joint projects or to even work with nearby publicly owned utilities.  The utilities regulated by the PUC will also be able to fast-track approval of smaller (less than $4 million) non-controversial projects.

California Public Utilities Commission Analyst Amy Mesrobian
Explains programs affecting investor owned utilities
at Energy Commission Workshop 10/5/2016

The PUC is already working with the utilities on pilot projects to examine the effectiveness of charging infrastructure through the installation of over 12,000 units.

California Investor Owned Utility Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Pilot Program
Source:  PUC Presentation to Energy Commission 10/5/2016

More information on the PUC and investor owned utility programs can be found here.

Publicly Owned Utilities: New Planning Mandates & Challenges


The publicly owned utilities in California are grappling with how to develop infrastructure in their communities.  The 16 largest public utilities, including SMUD, LADWP and others (see chart below) are required under SB350 to develop specific "Integrated Resource Plans" addressing renewable energy, greenhouse gas reduction and transportation electrification issues by 2019.


16 publicly owned utilities subject to SB350 planning requirements
Source:  here



The Energy Commission workshop included presentations from several of the publicly owned utilities and other experts.

Some common themes, included:
  • There are not enough charging locations in place or planned to meet anticipated growth.  In The electric grid is getting cleaner as  more renewable projects come online.  As a result the benefits of electric cars are increasing.
  • Customer choice is helping to propel more interest in electric vehicles.  43 new models are expected in the next four years.
  • Increased range is also helping drive interest.  Upcoming models will get more than 200 miles and that may soon become the expected range. 
  • Transportation electrification helps meet greenhouse gas reduction targets, but more aggressive electric transportation deployment is needed to meet goals

Source:  Electric Power Research Institute presentation 10/5/2016

  • Solar electric generation has caused an oversupply of energy mid-day in California.  There may be ways to use the electric fleet as part of the solution to store electricity or charge during times of abundance.  Fuel-cell vehicles could also be part of the solution if hydrogen is produced with excess power.
  • Time of use rates are an effective way to match electric production peaks with consumer demand.  Electric vehicle charging at the right time can help significantly.
  • Low oil prices have impacted the pace of electric vehicle adoption

Source:  Testimony of Dr. Nancy Ryan of E3 10/5/2016


  • Providing charging in multi-family and rental housing is challenging and must be addressed in order to meet the electric vehicle targets.
  • The fast-charger network must continue to expand to keep up with electric vehicle fleet expansion.  The demand for use of existing fast chargers is very high.
  • Fast chargers will be be even faster in the future as new ones are able to deliver increasing amounts of electricity.
  • Faster fast chargers may cost more and have a greater impact on electric loads.  It is possible that there may be variable pricing among chargers depending on their throughput.  This is likened to paying more for premium (faster EV charging) vs. regular (slower EV charging)
  • Consumer incentives, including incentives for chargers, are important to EV adoption
  • There is not yet a good business case for chargers.  They generally cost more to install/maintain than the revenue they generate.
  • Building code changes to require chargers in new construction or renovations can be helpful.
Copies of presentations from the workshop are online here and some highlights are included below.

Los Angeles Seeks to Meet Challenge


The City of Los Angeles is implementing plans for scaling up electric vehicle infrastructure.  They hope to go from about 23,000 plug-in electric vehicles today to 145,000 within 5 years and 580,000 by 2030.  To do this, new car sales in the region will need to be about 15% plug-in by 2020. 

Marvin Moon of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Describes electric vehicle programs 10/5/2016

The Los Angeles City Council is engaged in pushing for better electric vehicle infrastructure.  They are changing codes to require electric vehicle chargers in new construction.   City fleets, including the police department, will increase their plug-in fleets to 1,600 vehicles.  The city plans to install over 3,000 chargers and encourage at least 10,000 or more public charging stations in the next five years.  The city chargers will include 1,000 curbside chargers.


The Los Angeles Police Department is purchasing many electric vehicles


More on Los Angeles electric vehicle plans in their presentation here.


Sacramento Pushing Fast Chargers


The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has several programs to encourage electric vehicle use and plans to expand these in 2017.



Bill Boyce of SMUD describes electric vehicle programs
at Energy Commission workshop 10/5/2016

SMUD is deploying six DC fast chargers in the community, including chargers at the Sacramento Airport, the Sacramento Valley Train Station, Nugget Market in Elk Grove and elsewhere.  They have a "charge free for a year" program to provide a rebate on electricity costs for electric vehicle users.  They are expanding efforts to deploy chargers in multi-family dwellings and low income communities.

For 2017, SMUD is planning to expand their initiatives, including doubling their residential incentive from $300 to $600, providing incentives for multi-family and workplace charging and expanding the DC fast charger network.


Nissan:  Charging, Charging, Charging

Nissan representative John Tillman emphasized the need for expanding charging infrastructure.  He pointed out that California has slightly more than 10,000 level-2 public charging locations, but could use 100,000 or more to meet the rapid pace of electric vehicle adoption.

Source:  Nissan presentation to California Energy Commission 10/5/2016

Tillman also suggested there are "5 R's" to a successful charging network:
  • Reliable - Equipment functions consistently
  • Redundant - Multiple chargers to assure availability to consumer
  • Relevant - Chargers need to be available for all EV connector types
  • Rapid - Need to have 30 minute or less charge times
  • Regional - Chargers need to be available where people need them

Source:  Nissan presentation to California Energy Commission 10/5/2016



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