PG&E electric vehicle charging network proposal curbed

SAN FRANCISCO — State regulators on Thursday sharply scaled back PG&E’s plan to deploy a network of charging stations for electric vehicles, but the plan will lead to higher monthly bills for the utility’s customers.

All customers of PG&E, residential and commercial, will see an increase of 22 cents a month on their electricity bills starting in January, said Ari Vanrenen, a PG&E spokeswoman.

The higher monthly bills will be in effect during 2017, 2018 and 2019 under this charging station program.

PG&E will be allowed to deploy up to 7,500 charging stations for electric vehicles, the Public Utilities Commission decided.

That’s far fewer than the 25,000 charging stations that PG&E had sought to deploy as part of its original proposal in February 2015.

“We think this plan will really help bring cleaner air to California,” Vanrenen said. “This is going to be a benefit to our customers.”

Critics of the initial PG&E plan had suggested that the proposal would have been too expensive for ratepayers.

The newly adopted plan will allow PG&E ratepayers to be charged collectively up to $130 million to finance the PG&E electric vehicle charging station plan. The original proposal would have authorized PG&E to extract $654 million from ratepayers to bankroll the program.

San Francisco-based PG&E had previously requested that the PUC authorize the utility to wield wide-ranging control over the design of the physical facilities and the network support services.
“Competitive firms with marketing and technological expertise and an appetite to innovate and compete would be pushed aside” had the original PG&E proposal for 25,000 stations and control over the design of the stations been approved, PUC Administrative Law Judge Darwin Farrar wrote in a proposal that the PUC approved.

The PUC approved the judge’s proposal for deploying electric vehicle charging stations on a 5-0 vote.

“Our decision strikes a good balance between consumer benefits and the promotion of competition in the electric vehicle infrastructure marketplace,” PUC Commissioner Carla Peterman said.

Gov. Jerry Brown has set a goal of 1 million electric vehicles in the state by 2020 and 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025.

“We have a policy of wanting to electrify transportation, but at the same time we have to look at competitive issues, ratepayer impacts and grid impacts,” PUC Commissioner Michael Florio said before the vote.

A consumer group applauded the PUC’s decision, saying PG&E’s original plan would have cost ratepayers too much money.

“PG&E should not be spending ratepayers’ hard-earned dollars to finance a risky business experiment that won’t improve anything for most consumers,” said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network.