Nevada regulatory staff: Possible impediments to increased penetration of EVs include high upfront costs

Possible impediments to increased penetration of electric vehicles (EVs) and commercial transportation electrification include high upfront costs of EVs; access to charging; and consumers’ unfamiliarity with, and misconceptions about, EVs, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada regulatory operations staff.

Staff and others recently submitted comments to the commission in response to a Feb. 17 procedural order, which noted that the commission in January 2016 voted to open an investigatory docket regarding EV charging infrastructure (Docket No. 16-01018). Participants were invited to file comments with the commission by March 17 in response to such questions as:

  • Have any legislative, regulatory, or local government changes been proposed that may affect EVs?
  • Are there any relevant market updates regarding transportation electrification in Nevada?

Discussing relevant market updates regarding transportation electrification in Nevada, staff noted in its comments that as a result of the Volkswagen Clean Air Act Civil Partial Settlement, Volkswagen must invest $2bn to promote the use of Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs) through the Electrify America Program, and must deposit $2.7bn into an Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund to offset emissions of nitrous oxides (NOx) over a 10-year period.

The program is administered by Volkswagen and focuses on investing in the installation of EV charging infrastructure, as well as increasing awareness and education about the availability and benefits of EVs. Of the $2bn, $1.2bn will be used for national ZEV investments, while the remaining $800m will be exclusively used for ZEV investments in California, staff added.

Nevada expects to receive $24.8m under the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund between 2017 and 2027, staff said, noting that the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection is administering the program for Nevada.

According to the division’s website, a partial settlement and consent decree has been finalized between the U.S. Department of Justice, the Volkswagen Corporation, and its subsidiaries regarding the installation and use of emission testing defeat devices in more than 500,000 turbocharged direct injection (TDI) 2.0 liter diesel engine vehicles sold and operated in the United States beginning in 2009.

Staff said that as EV penetration increases, EV charging is likely to have a significant impact on the grid. EVs have the potential to increase system load peak, and since charging an EV can be equivalent to adding one house to the grid, EVs also have the potential to overload distribution and substation transformers. Demand response (DR) can be a useful tool to manage EV load and provide additional grid services, staff added.

While NV Energy offers EV time-of-use (TOU) rates, as EV penetration grows, the company should explore other ways that “vehicle-grid integration,” or VGI, could be employed to benefit the grid, as well as to incorporate VIG in its renewable energy resource planning and DR programs. VGI – which is enabled through technology, as well as programs and products, such as TOU rates – refers to using EVs to manage EV load and provide grid services, staff said.

Among other things, staff said that from a high level, some of the initially recognized potential benefits related to electrification of the transportation sector include the reduction of carbon emissions, stable fuel costs, and more efficient use of utility resources. Any benefits, however, are dependent upon the practical and efficient use of EVs and their enabling technologies, and are relative to the technologies and resources that they supplant, staff said.

Governor’s Office of Energy

Discussing legislative, regulatory or local government changes that may affect EVs, the Governor’s Office of Energy noted in its comments that Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante and Assemblyman Richard Carrillo have indicated that they are cosponsoring a bill to put an assessment fee on EVs.

In a January presentation to interested stakeholders, the proposed concept included a fixed fee for EVs at the time of initial registration and each annual renewal of $336, which is what the average motorist pays at the pump at the current fuel tax rate of 62 cents/gallon, and an estimated 13,500 annual vehicle miles traveled at 25 mpg. The office added that hybrid EVs would be assessed half of what the average motorist pays, or $168/year.

Of relevant market updates regarding transportation electrification in Nevada, the office noted that in response to Electrify America’s solicitation for ZEV Investment Plans, the office submitted a proposal on behalf of the state that builds off state goals and initiatives already in place and focuses on the combined priorities of developing a cross-country EV charging network, as well as increasing awareness and education about EVs and charging availability.

The Nevada ZEV Investment Plan includes deployment of “Level 2” and direct current (DC “fast chargers”) charging infrastructure in strategically located sites along key regional corridors crossing Nevada, starting with I-80 and I-15, as well as an EV education and awareness campaign targeting Las Vegas tourists and using the McCarran International Airport as an advertising conduit.

The office also said that it is considering establishing by regulation a new use of the Renewable Energy Account in order to use a portion of the reserves in that account toward meeting agency performance measures, including completion of an “electric highway system” serving the entire state.

ChargePoint

ChargePoint Inc. – which, as noted on its website, designs, builds and supports technology that powers the EV charging network – in its comments discussed TOU rates, recommending that the commission and NV Energy consider pursuing a pilot to test deployment of smart charging stations with embedded metering capabilities.

That residential smart charging pilot could confirm the accuracy of the metering, work through service and business policies, as well as trial different methods to educate and engage with customers, the company said.

Of additional funding sources that could be used to support the electrification of transportation in Nevada, ChargePoint said that it recommends leveraging private investment and the competitive marketplace that already exists in the state to further the state’s goals. Noting that it has sold more than 375 charging stations to date to customers in Nevada, ChargePoint said that private investment dollars could be stretched further and better leveraged through targeted programs that provide financial incentives that help bring down the cost of the hardware and installation of the station.

On how transportation electrification might be included in distributed energy resource planning and DR programs, ChargePoint said that at the distribution level, the ability to manage EV charging through price signals, such as DR and TOU rates, should be used to address the impacts down to the individual substation level in order to determine if those types of programs can support deferring traditional distribution investments. That may include the ability to increase load from EV charging during the middle of the day on a substation that has a high penetration of distributed solar generation, ChargePoint said.

NV Energy

In their comments, Nevada Power d/b/a NV Energy and Sierra Pacific Power d/b/a NV Energy – together referred to as the company – noted that it is committed and positioned to support Electrify America in Nevada’s state, municipal, and business goals to immediately increase EV penetration in Nevada and beyond. For instance, the company has committed to administer any EV infrastructure incentives through its existing Renewable Energy and Smart Infrastructure group that provides energy services to all customers, residential and commercial, contingent upon approval from the commission.

The company also noted that it offers a discount for all usage during the EV charging period – 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. – for those customers who own an EV and avail themselves to the EV Recharge Rider (EVRR). There are 2,896 EVs registered in Nevada, the company said, noting that not all EV customers in its service territories are electing to enroll in the EV TOU rate. There are 917 NPC customers 133 SPPC customers on the EVRR rates, the company said.

One reason that EVRR participation may be lower than expected is that the rate applies to the entire premise, not just the load associated with plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) charging, which is a program design issue that many investor owned utilities are assessing as they try to shift PEV load off-peak, the company said.

Among other things, the company discussed future DR activities, noting that understanding adoption rates, net load impacts, and the extent to which grid services can be provided are important factors for PEVs and EV supply equipment (EVSE). However, as a new type of load, it will be important to understand and map out use cases specific to different types of PEVs, EVSE, and customer types; and equally important to understand customer expectations related to PEV usage along with customer capability and tolerance to accommodate flexibility in charging patterns in order to interact efficiently with the electric grid, the company said.

Over the next five to 10 years, the focus for planners will be to prepare for the management of the additional distribution system load imposed by PEVs and EVSE in conjunction with other changed uses on the distribution and transmission networks, the company said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3058 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.