The state Public Utilities Commission would have to hold a full array of hearings before the PUC authorizes any sort of electric vehicle charging station program, PUC Commissioner Carla Peterman stated in a ruling posted by the agency.
"We must consider the requirement to protect against unfair competition and the demonstrated costs and benefits of any utility electric vehicle charging station proposal," Commissioner Peterman wrote in her ruling.
San Francisco-based PG&E had proposed the creation of 25,100 electric vehicle charging stations in its service territory, which PG&E believes is what is necessary for the utility to meet its share of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to have 1 million electric vehicles on California roads by 2020.
Residential electricity customers would have to pay an additional 70 cents a month on their PG&E bills to fund it under the original PG&E proposal.
"Expanding the use of electric vehicles is essential to California's success in achieving a reduction in greenhouse gases and a robust charging infrastructure is necessary to make that happen," PG&E spokesman Greg Snapper said.
The increases in electricity bills would start in 2018 and extend until 2022 under the PG&E proposal. The $654 million reflects the cost of the program from 2015 through 2022 and includes $551 million in capital costs, according to a PG&E regulatory filing in February.
Peterman stated the PG&E proposal didn't adequately address the issue of whether the utility could create an anti-competitive market for electric vehicle charging stations, as well as gain an unfair advantage in the arena.
"These elements are necessary when considering a program of such magnitude, especially when combined with the need to evaluate ratepayer costs and benefits, and to protect against unfair competition," Peterman wrote. "We find that a more measured approach to utility ownership in PG&E's service territory is warranted."
San Francisco-based PG&E will not be allowed to deploy more than 2,510 electric vehicle charging stations during the first phase of the program over the first two years of the effort. That equates to 10 percent of the total number of stations that PG&E had proposed.
Private companies involved in the sector were concerned that the PG&E proposal could stifle innovation as well as competition partly because PG&E is seeking approval to wield wide-ranging control over the design of the physical facilities and the support services for the charging network.
"PG&E's original plan was anti-competitive, because you should leave the choice of technology to the charging sites, with reason," said Pasquale Romano, chief executive officer of Campbell-based ChargePoint, which sells charging stations to businesses that set up the facilities in public locations.
The utility noted that 65,000 electric vehicles are registered in PG&E's service territory, or 20 percent of all such vehicles in the nation. And more than half of the electricity that PG&E provides originates from sources with no greenhouse gas emissions.
"PG&E has a long track record of supporting electric vehicles and we look forward to working with the PUC to make this happen," Snapper said.
©2015 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.