The Michigan Public Service Commission is seeking comments by Nov. 17 on developing pilot programs related to plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) deployment and the infrastructure needed to meet growing user demand.
The commission added on Oct. 25 that it is committed to developing electrification programs within the PEV industry by addressing regulatory issues within its authority. The commission said that seeking input from various stakeholders will help it with implementing decisions.
Pilot programs will be helpful to answer questions around:
- Rate design – encouraging charging at off-peak times with lower rates
- Impact on the electrical grid – location of chargers, utility deployment of charging infrastructure
- Customer education – direct from utility or working through vehicle dealers
- The role of the utility in infrastructure deployment/cost recovery – cost-benefit analysis, customer benefits, cost recovery from customers
The commission added that it expects that utilities, automobile manufacturers, environment groups, clean air organizations, transportation consultants and charging equipment companies will contribute to the potential pilot programs.
The key topics to be addressed were developed by stakeholders at an August technical conference and individual meetings, which furthered the commission’s understanding of PEV trends and the market barriers that might discourage the purchase of an alternative-fuel vehicle, such as range anxiety, or the concern that chargers will not be available before a vehicle’s batteries run low, the commission said.
As noted in the commission’s Oct. 25 “order and notice of opportunity to comment,” the commission, beginning in 2010, initiated the Michigan Plug-in Electric Vehicle Preparedness Task Force to help facilitate and support the adoption of electric vehicles in the state. Participants included representatives from automobile manufacturers, electrical contractors, environmental advocates, electric utilities, and state government, among others, the commission said.
The efforts of the task force at that time included working to update the Michigan Building Code regarding installation of electric vehicle charging stations, as well as analyzing the impact of electric vehicle adoption and usage on the electric grid, the commission said.
The commission also approved initial electric vehicle tariffs for several regulated utilities, including DTE Electric Company, Consumers Energy Company, and Indiana Michigan Power. Ultimately, the commission added, the task force’s activities were turned over to “Plug-in Ready Michigan,” which is an organization that sought to build on the initial activities of the commission and its partners by creating an electric vehicle preparedness plan.
More recently, in Consumers’ last electric rate case, the utility proposed to include about $10.6m in its rate base to install 30 fast chargers and 750 charging stations. The company also proposed to offer a $1,000 incentive to its electric customers who purchase or lease a PEV and install an at-home charging station. The commission added that the company ultimately withdrew its PEV proposal, but agreed that it would be willing to participate in a future collaborative on PEV-related issues in Michigan.
In a Feb. 28 order, the commission noted its preference for the use of a technical conference, instead of the suggested collaborative workgroup, to engage stakeholders on the topic. Accordingly, the commission opened the current docket to announce the beginning of the effort to collaboratively address PEV issues through a technical conference as discussed in its Feb. 28 order.
The commission added in its Oct. 25 order that it and the Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) in August hosted the Michigan Technical Conference on Alternative Fuel Vehicles, which included subject matter experts from the utilities, the auto industry, PEV charging equipment suppliers, environmental advocates, transportation planners, vendors, and other experts.
The commission noted that given its role as a utility regulator, it is not in a position to promote the adoption of PEVs. Notwithstanding, the commission said that it is committed to proactively identifying and addressing regulatory barriers within its authority related to charging infrastructure, and to providing guidance to utilities and other stakeholders to ensure that any utility programs and rates can provide a benefit for all customers through the transition.
The commission said that it must gain additional information relative to such topics as rate design and customer education to form a more complete understanding of its regulatory role, and the role of the regulated utility, in those areas.
Accordingly, the commission said that it seeks comments on whether utilities should initiate a series of targeted pilot programs designed to further explore issues related to the deployment of PEV charging stations and associated infrastructure. If targeted pilot programs are appropriate as a means to guide future commission and utility decision making, then the commission also seeks input on the focus of such pilots so that they could strategically identify and reduce barriers, as well as inform future investment and regulatory strategies, the commission said.