Infrastructure

Advocates Urge Connecticut Utility Regulators to Plan for EVs

Citing the importance of meeting state emissions goals by 2030, the Connecticut Electric Vehicle Coalition called on utility regulators to plan for charging infrastructure in grid modernization efforts.

by Luther Turmelle, New Haven Register / October 2, 2018
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(TNS) — A group of clean-energy proponents are calling on state utility regulators to make sure plans for modernizing the state’s power grid include the necessary components to accommodate the expected increase in use of electric vehicles.

The Connecticut Electric Vehicle Coalition made its request in a letter to the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority Monday. PURA officials are in the first phase of a review of the current state of Connecticut’s electric grid and what needs to be done to improve it to meet future usage demands.

The Electric Vehicle Coalition is a group of more than 30 clean-energy advocates, organized labor and environmental justice groups.

“EVs are a key piece of Connecticut’s clean energy future, and the state’s utilities can play a role in advancing these vehicles,” said Emily Lewis, senior policy analyst for Acadia Center, a regional environmental group with an office in Connecticut. “Through this grid modernization proceeding, PURA can set the stage for utility engagement that supports EV deployment, protects consumers, and shares the benefits of EVs more equitably.”

Claire Coleman, a climate and energy attorney with the New Haven-based Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, said PURA’s docket on electric grid modernization began at the end of last year. Several technical meetings on the subject already have been held, she said, but there has been no date set for completion of the process.

“One of the things we’re saying is let’s be sure to take a look at the role the (state’s electric) utilities should be playing,” Coleman said. “The cost of EVs is dropping dramatically and battery technology is improving. Right now, we are at a tipping point (in terms of increasing the usage of electrical vehicles in the state).”

Increased use of electrical vehicles in the coming years is a critical component of the state’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Connecticut would need to have 500,000 zero-emission vehicles — a category that includes electric cars — on the road by then in order to achieve the goals of the transportation component of that goal, according to Coleman.

The Westport Electric Car Club recently reported that 6,264 electric vehicles were registered in Connecticut this year compared to 4,636 last year, a 35 percent increase. But even with that increase, electric vehicle usage is dwarfed by the nearly 3 million gas-powered cars on the state’s roadways currently, she said.

Officials with both of the state’s large electric utilities, Eversource Energy and The United Illuminating Co., say the companies are doing what they can to support the increased use of electric vehicles.

Mitch Gross, a spokesman for Hartford-based Eversource, said the company “strongly supports the future of electric vehicle adoption and are actively engaged with state leaders to explore EV opportunities.”

“We expect to have more to share on this topic in the coming months,” Gross said.

Ed Crowder, a spokesman for UI, said the Orange-based utility is “looking at a lot of different options” in ways it can continue to support increased electrical vehicle use. Crowder said the company already has shown its commitment to expanding electrical vehicle use by a $2 million donation made by its corporate parent Avangrid to help keep a rebate program for zero-emission vehicles operating.

Avangrid’s donation was made to the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate program. The program, launched in 2015, provides direct financial incentives up to $5,000 for Connecticut residents who buy or lease a new zero-emission vehicle.

Spanish energy giant Iberdrola is Avangrid’s majority shareholder. Crowder said Avangrid has 9 electric vehicles in its automotive pool that are available for employees to use.

“We share the view that EVs are going to be important and change UI’s load profile, including the amount of energy that people draw from the grid,” he said.

The company also has installed four electric vehicle charging stations in New Haven, Bridgeport and Fairfield in recent years, Crowder said.

©2018 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.