(TNS) — The effort to increase the number of electric cars in Columbus, Ohio, got a boost from state regulators Wednesday.
The Public Utilities of Commission of Ohio gave American Electric Power Ohio approval to spend up to $10 million on rebates and incentives meant to encourage development of as many as 375 electric-vehicle charging stations in AEP's service territory in Ohio.
The $10 million is part of a plan that sets electricity rates through 2024. AEP's 1.3 million customers in the state will pay for the rebate through a charge on their utility bills.
"Expanding our electric-vehicle charging infrastructure and adding renewable energy onto the grid is critical as electric vehicles become the new normal in transportation," said Alex Fisher, president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership.
He noted this is an example of how the private sector is helping to shape the city's future.
Adding charging stations is one step Smart Columbus wants to deploy in changing how central Ohioans travel. Smart Columbus is the organization that oversees the city's work on the federal Smart Cities initiative, which uses government money and private financing to back programs encouraging use of new transportation technologies.
Environmental groups also praised the PUCO's action.
"AEP Ohio's (electric-vehicle) program will result in more electric vehicles on the roads and ultimately cleaner air," said Sam Spoffoth, executive director of Clean Fuels Ohio and a partner organization of Charge Up Midwest, a group of seven environmental groups in the Midwest.
The plan gives incentives to apartment owners, businesses and others to build up the number of charging stations in AEP territory in the state, which at the 375 number would about double the current number.
The plan provides money to help pay for as many as 300 "Level 2" charging stations that are a step up from a basic charger. About a third of the stations will be in locations that the public can access while the rest will be at workplaces, apartments and condominium complexes that might not be open to the public.
AEP also will receive rebates for as many as 75 "DC Fast" charging stations that work much faster than a Level 2 charger. These stations will be open to the public.
The Level 2 charging stations cost $3,000 to $7,000, and DC Fast stations are about $40,000.
The rebates will range from 50 percent to 100 percent of the costs of installing the stations, with the highest rebates reserved for locations available to the public at government-owned properties.
AEP won't own the stations, but will be able to collect a 5 percent fee for administering the rebates, and the AEP name will appear on the stations.
The charging stations are one aspect of a far-reaching plan approved by the PUCO Wednesday meant to guide rates for AEP Ohio through 2024.
Under the new plan, the typical residential customer will pay about 50 cents a month more for the life of the agreement, according to AEP. That includes the cost of the electric-vehicle program along with other costs.
The plan allows AEP to continue with its tree-trimming plan that it says has reduced outages caused by trees by 88 percent since 2010. The plan includes the expansion of technology meant to improve reliability, including automated equipment that routes power around a problem.
"Our decision provides for continued investment in reliable power delivery while also spurring innovation through its support of the Smart City Columbus project," PUCO Chairman Azim Haque said. "This mix of old and new ... continues to strengthen the grid while also taking advantage of innovation."
More than a dozen groups with various interests, including business and environmental organizations, have signed off on the plan.
The plan approved Wednesday will have AEP spending as much as $10.5 million to test microgrids, systems that often use generators and batteries to make areas within the electricity grid self-sufficient.
Also, AEP will have a new charge called the Renewable Generation Rider meant to cover costs tied to renewable energy projects. There will be no actual charge to customers until specific wind and solar projects are approved by the PUCO.
"Our customers want reliability and access to advanced technologies, such as charging stations, microgrids and renewable energy resources," said Julie Sloat, AEP Ohio's president and chief operating officer, in a statement. "Our plan allows us to bring these services, which also will support economic development in Ohio, to customers across the state."
Separately, the PUCO again ordered the state's utilities to take steps to track savings that they receive as part of federal corporate tax reforms with an eye toward returning the savings to customers.
The tax plan reduces corporate tax rates to 21 percent from 35 percent. Rates charged by utilities include what they pay in taxes.
"That (savings) is not theirs," Haque said of utilities. "It is their customers'."
©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.