Blue Emissions Graph

Carbon emissions from electricity production in California have decreased, but emissions from transportation remain high.

Community choice aggregators in California are well poised to promote widespread electric-vehicle infrastructure adoption, especially to support post-pandemic economic recovery, according to a May 29 webinar hosted by the California Community Choice Association.

Panelists discussed how communities can support the installation of EV charging stations by applying to the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project, the California Energy Commission's incentive program for expanding the state's charging network. Approximately $50 million in funding is available for 2021 under the CALeVIP program. The CEC will select its next group of grantees sometime in June or July, pending approval of the state budget.

While California has made great strides in reducing carbon emissions from the electricity sector, emissions due to transportation remain high. "Transportation has been the hardest nut to crack," Kielan Rathjen, special advisor to the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, said during the webinar. Permitting and related costs are higher in California compared with other states, and local permitting offices take far longer to respond to applications; Electrify America said in its third-quarter 2019 report to the California Air Resources Board that the average permitting time in the state exceeds the national average by 70 percent. Rocky Mountain Institute found in a January report that installation costs in the U.S. are three to five times the cost of the charger, and that the greatest opportunity for cost reduction is in "soft costs" such as permitting time.

To address the bottlenecks, California legislators in 2015 passed Assembly Bill 1236 to streamline the permitting process. The CALeVIP program weighs AB 1236 compliance in determining future projects. "You are most competitive to receive CEC funding if you streamline," Rathjen said.

East Bay Community Energy has committed $14.5 million in funding to match CALeVIP's grant, which requires a 1-1 match, Jessie Denver, EBCE's transportation electrification manager, said of the CCA's effort to bring the CALeVIP program to Alameda County. CCAs are well equipped to implement the streamlining processes outlined in AB 1236, she said.

"Because CCAs like EBCE are not-for-profit public agencies, we are a joint-power authority of Alameda County, and the JPA is made up of each of our government partners . . . we're well suited because we have that direct line of communication," Denver said.

EBCE currently has 1,209 EV charging stations in its service area and 35,000 zero-emission vehicles registered in Alameda County. More than 6,400 charging stations will be needed to meet the county's goal of 60,000 ZEVs by 2025, according to Denver. The population of Alameda County was around 1.6 million in July 2019, according to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate.

California's ambitious ZEV goals include having 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025 and 5 million by 2030. In order to achieve these goals, Rathjen noted that the state will need to install charging stations at 30 sites each working day for the next 10 years. "We're nowhere near that," he said.

Rathjen pointed out that there are many shovel-ready projects awaiting permits to put Californians back to work. California has been the hardest-hit state in the country in terms of the number of clean-energy sector job losses, with 77,900 layoffs in May. This represents nearly 15 percent of the state's clean-energy workforce, according to a May 13 report by E2, the American Council on Renewable Energy, E4TheFuture and BW Research Partnership (see CEM No. 1590).

Aria covers California and the Southwest from Albuquerque. Her work has appeared in a variety of popular and academic publications.