The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin on Aug. 27 voted 2-1 to solicit comments by Sept. 28 from interested parties on a draft order that would require regulated public utilities to submit plans to the commission for electric vehicle (EV) pilot programs for regulatory review and approval.
The Aug. 27 commission statement also noted that under the draft order, utilities with more than 100,000 customers would be required to submit plans by May 15, 2021, for at least one residential EV pilot program or indicate the continuation or expansion of an existing EV program. Programs would have to address rates related to EV charging and electric load management efforts to control the timing of charging, the commission said, adding that utilities could also include initiatives to address upfront purchase costs of EVs and chargers.
As noted in the draft order, the commission in February 2019 issued a notice of investigation to consider present and future policies and regulations of EVs and their associated infrastructure as they pertain to electric utility service in Wisconsin. The commission said that its staff in April 2019 issued a request for comment to interested parties, utilities, and the general public with a series of 28 questions soliciting commenters’ general views on EV issues, and asking specific questions on identified policy and regulatory considerations.
The commission noted that its staff request for comment asked commenters to identify the barriers they perceived to EV adoption in Wisconsin, with limited availability of charging infrastructure being the most frequently cited barrier to EV adoption for utilities, parties, and public commenters, followed by upfront purchase costs of EVs for customers, as well as limited public awareness and education on EV issues.
The commission also said that multiple topics received significant interest, led by access to charging infrastructure, as well as, for instance:
- The appropriate pricing and design of rates for the electricity used for EV charging
- Load management of the increased electric use that would be associated with greater proliferation of EVs, including opportunities to cost-effectively incorporate the increased load through “managed charging” approaches to shift charging away from periods of peak demand
- EV-related subsidies and incentives that could be provided through utility programs
More than 60 participants attended a follow-up December 2019 workshop, with attendees split into six breakout groups, which reinforced that the priorities identified by written comments were key strategies for addressing deployment barriers. For example, the commission added, multiple groups reported that effective rate design and development of load management approaches could support EV deployment by helping to address questions about costs and operations faced by EV owners, utilities, and other actors considering EV investments.
Under findings of fact, the commission, in its draft order, said that barriers to EV adoption in Wisconsin include insufficient charging infrastructure, the upfront costs of EVs and associated charging equipment, as well as limited customer awareness and education.
Other findings include that commission and utility policies and regulations related to electric service in Wisconsin can significantly influence EV deployment, with issues including regulating the electric rates applicable to EV charging; load management of the increased electric use resulting from EV deployment; and defining the role of regulated utilities supporting charging infrastructure, customer programs, as well as customer awareness and education.
The commission noted among the findings of fact that it can influence EV deployment by providing regulatory clarity to reduce the uncertainties that could discourage electric utilities and other EV market actors from taking action. In addition, the commission said, initiating EV pilot programs can help electric utilities serve existing customers with EVs and improve utility and commission understanding of effective EV-related policies and regulations in advance of future increases in EV deployment.
Among other things, the commission said that any utility submitted proposal for EV pilot programming, including proposed programs submitted under the order, is to include certain information, which the commission will review in considering whether to approve the program, such as a program description that identifies the target customers to be served, barriers to the deployment of EVs and EV charging infrastructure the program is designed to address, the approaches the program will use to address the barriers for participating customers, as well as the pilot duration and end date.