The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has opened an investigation into DPU policies and regulations that will help facilitate and accommodate the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).
As part of its investigation, the DPU will accept initial written comments on EVs and EV charging by Feb. 14, with reply comments due by March 17.
In a recent order opening the investigation, the DPU also noted that in October 2012, it issued a notice of investigation into the modernization of the electric grid. In that notice, the DPU proposed to examine, among other things, how to realize the benefits of distributed resources such as EVs.
A stakeholder working group was created to inform the DPU’s approach to grid modernization, including issues related to EVs, and in July 2013, the working group submitted a report to the DPU recommending that electric distribution companies file plans on grid modernization that increase distributed resources, including EVs.
Furthermore, the state is supporting EV implementation in various ways. For instance, in September 2013, the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs convened the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Initiative (MEVI) task force, which includes numerous public and private stakeholders. Massachusetts has also signed a multi-state agreement to increase the number of clean energy vehicles on the road by 2025.
Like grid modernization, the DPU added, the widespread adoption of EVs will require adding new technologies to the electric grid while maintaining, and in some cases, improving, the reliability and the safety of the grid. The availability of public EV charging will be especially important for EV drivers without private charging infrastructure, and for all EV drivers making medium- and long-distance vehicle trips.
The DPU has identified different categories of EV charging, including public charging that is open to all EV drivers for a fee and private charging at residences and businesses. Some other state public service commissions have disclaimed jurisdiction over certain types of EV charging, such as public EV charging, the DPU added.
The DPU will investigate whether and how it should regulate the different categories of EV charging and it will also investigate whether electric distribution companies may or should own and operate charging infrastructure and, if so, how that activity should be treated in their business operations.
Furthermore, the DPU said it will investigate how the electric distribution companies are accommodating and planning for widespread EV adoption and what, if any, notification requirements should be developed to track the increase of EVs on the distribution system.
Ideally, EV charging should occur at off-peak times, when wholesale electricity prices are low and the system is under less stress. However, the DPU added, residential customers do not currently have metering capability or a rate structure that allows them to experience the time-varying nature of electricity costs, and thus they lack incentives to charge their EVs during off-peak times. The DPU will investigate metering policies and rate structures that incentives off-peak charging for residential customers with an EV.
The DPU will also investigate its role in maintaining appropriate standards regarding EV charging.
Questions on which to submit comments include:
- Are there pricing or business models for EV charging that the DPU cannot and should not regulate?
- Should an electric distribution company be involved in EV charging equipment and facilities?
- What short- and long-term benefits and risks do EVs and EV charging offer to the electric distribution system?
- What information should an electric distribution company have regarding EV charging, to plan and provide for reliable service? What are the best means for the utilities to obtain that information?
- Are applicable consumer protection laws and regulations adequate for EVs? If not, what issues should the DPU address?
Among other things, the DPU also said that commenters must provide the DPU with an electronic copy and a printed copy of their comments.