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Chelan County, Wash., PUD Plans for Electric Future

The county’s public utility district began mapping out a strategy for a future that relies heavily on electric vehicles. The planning session follows on the heels of the Washington Clean Fuels Standard law, which took effect this year.

(TNS) — Chelan County PUD is strategizing how to accommodate increased electric vehicle use and trying to maximize customer benefit as the state implements the Washington Clean Fuels Standard law this year.

Mitigating utility costs for its customers and itself from electric vehicle load growth, and alignment of costs and revenues, while maintaining fuel savings were identified by Chelan PUD as some electric vehicle strategies at the Jan. 23 board meeting.

The Clean Fuel Standard, which began Jan. 1, requires fuel suppliers to gradually reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels to 20% below 2017 levels by 2034.

"Knowing EVs (electric vehicles) are going to continue to be adopted, so what does that look like for infrastructure? What's interesting is the availability and affordability of electric vehicles... those numbers are increasing," said Andrew Grassell, customer energy solutions manager, at the meeting. "From a few years ago in 2017, all anyone could talk about was a Tesla; now there's a whole range of cars. Prices are coming down."

A guiding goal for the utility is to support customers who are adopting electric vehicles, while minimizing impact to non-participating customers, according to Grassell.

"We've got... wholesale electric prices (to keep an eye on), especially DC fast charging units; we want to make sure we're charging appropriately there," Grassell said. "And volatility of gasoline prices; someone who charges in their home in Chelan pays about 30 cents (per) gallon compared to $3 or $4 down the road at the gas station."

According to Grassell, the PUD has developed a DC (direct current) fast charging cost-of-service rate, since, "most (out of town) people traveling through town are going to use a DC fast charger." DC fast chargers deliver a large amount of electricity at a fast rate, like Tesla Superchargers. The PUD is also exploring incentivizing customers to charge at non-peak hours.

"But we want our resident customers to charge at our current rates, so if you're charging at home, that's a benefit of living in our community and our county," Grassell said.

The PUD was also prompted to make the moves by the Washington Clean Fuel Standard, also referred to as the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, implemented this year. According to Grassell, the legislation targets emissions from the transportation sector and assesses carbon intensity from different fuel sources, with credits available.

"(We're) trying to put some plans in place to take advantage of any opportunities that might be there, but also try to identify any pitfalls that might be there, as well," Grassell said. "So clean fuels from electricity from our hydro(project) can generate credits. Fuels met with higher intensity would need to purchase credits themselves in some other way or reduce those emissions."

A system is in the works that will enable the utility can gather and monetize the credits earned and spend them within the county. "Whereas if some other third-party aggregators came in (and scooped up the credits), which is possible under the law, we don't know where those are going and could go outside" of the county, Grassell said.

An aggregator tracks companies' consumption and transmission system operators' requirements in real time.

The aggregator would be selected by the Department of Ecology after reviewing proposals, wrote Jim White, PUD senior engineer in an email. The third party aggregator would collect and distribute "the Clean Fuel Credits in accord to a plan they work out with the Department of Ecology."

"They would likely take a percentage of the funds to pay for their overhead costs and they would not be obligated to spend the money in the communities where they collected the funds," White wrote.

According to Grassell, the credits are generated either way and the PUD wants to ensure the value of the credits stay within Chelan PUD jurisdiction.

"We can use funds towards our own fleet vehicles, so if we wanted to electrify our own fleet we could use some of those funds toward that," Grassell said, as an example of spending the funds, at the meeting. "Funds do need to be spent toward continued electrification."

The legislation designates how certain percentages of the funds are allocated, said White. The legislation requires 30% of the funds to go toward low income or disadvantaged communities, 50% to a group of projects earmarked by the state Department of Ecology and Department of Transportation, and 20% is up to the PUD to spend for projects like distribution system upgrades to help move forward transportation electrification.

"50% goes to this big list of projects (earmarked by the state Department of Ecology and Department of Transportation)... so we get to choose from that list which ones the district wants its money to go to," White said.

Some of the projects listed by the state departments include customer benefit-driven incentives, like a rebate for used vehicles. Funding for low income communities include assisting Link Transit with buildout, White said.

Commissioners will have input on how that money is spent.

©2023 The Wenatchee World, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.