Reed Bingham State Park

The CPUC approved $54 million in funding for EV charging stations at schools, parks and beaches.

The California Public Utilities Commission on Nov. 7 approved about $54 million in funding to build hundreds of new electric-vehicle charging stations at schools, parks and beaches across the state.

Four investor-owned utility companies—Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Liberty Utilities—will install about 850 Level 1 and 2 chargers and about 35 direct-current fast chargers at about 110 schools and 67 beaches and parks.

"These are priority areas for investments," Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen said as the CPUC approved the measure. "Parks and beaches are often seen as uneconomic locations because of their remote locations."

The CPUC considered whether an EV charging station should be owned and operated by a utility company, or by customers.

The Utility Reform Network does not support utility ownership of charging stations, saying that utility ownership is "costlier and administratively burdensome."

TURN said the utility-ownership model primarily benefits IOU shareholders because they earn a rate of return on capitalized, utility-owned assets. TURN recommended that utility ownership be limited to all supporting infrastructure, up to and including the electrical stub for the pilot programs, and that the charging stations themselves be owned by the site host or a third party, according to the CPUC decision [A18-07-020].

To address TURN's concerns, ChargePoint, an EV charging infrastructure company based in Campbell, proposed that customers be offered the same amount of money for each component of the new EV station that a utility company would be offered. Without this equivalency, customers would have an unjustified financial incentive to choose utility ownership over owning it themselves, ChargePoint said.

The CPUC agreed with ChargePoint and TURN. Ensuring utilities do not unfairly compete with nonutility enterprises is an important objective, especially in the nascent EV infrastructure market, the CPUC said.

"To combat this anticompetitive structure, we require PG&E, SCE and SDG&E offer participants choosing site-host ownership a rebate that should be equal to the cost of the charger, maintenance, and network fees for Level 2 chargers and direct-current fast chargers only," the decision says.

The CPUC also said the chargers should accept credit and debit payment at more remote charging locations, such as state parks and beaches, and that these payment methods will encourage customers to drive EVs to such destinations. The California Air Resources Board in June approved regulations to increase payment options at charging stations and provide clarity about the cost of a charging session (see CEM No. 1545).

Average monthly rate impacts due to these pilots for non-California Alternate Rates for Energy customers with a 500-kWh-per-month demand will be as follows: 2 cents for PG&E customers; 3 cents for SCE customers; and 13 cents for SDG&E customers.

The number of EV chargers in California is still far too low to support widespread EV adoption, according to CARB. The California Energy Commission estimated that California needs 229,000 to 279,000 EV connectors to support the state's goal to have 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2025. To date, the state has installed approximately 18,000 chargers, representing only 7 percent of the anticipated future need, according to CARB.

Staff Writer

David Krause is an energy reporter covering the California Energy Commission and Air Resources Board. He writes about transportation, climate change, utilities, and wildfires. He has an MFA in Writing, an MA in English, and a BS in Civil Engineering.