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Industry Pulls Opposition to Electric Charger Training Bill

Electric vehicle charging infrastructure groups have reached a compromise with California lawmakers and are no longer opposing legislation to add training requirements for workers installing the charging equipment.

Sacramento EV Charging Plaza
The Curbside Charging Plaza in Sacramento, Calif., photographed in April 2020, launched in May 2019, and has now powered some 7,000 charging sessions, with more than 700 unique vehicles using the project.
Skip Descant/ Government Technology
Electric vehicle charging groups are pulling their opposition to a bill making its way through the California Legislature that would add training requirements on workers who install charging equipment.

Groups like the Electric Vehicle Charging Association (EVCA) and ChargePoint, a charging infrastructure supplier, were able to work through concerns about Assembly Bill 841. The legislation is designed to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure in underserved communities as well as create a new program within the California Energy Commission (CEC) to fund school upgrades through electric ratepayer-funded energy efficiency efforts. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, also contains provisions related to training certifications for electric vehicle infrastructure installers.

Charging infrastructure leaders like EVCA, found the requirements well intentioned, but faulted requirements related to electricians' compliance with the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP), a trademarked curriculum, which industry officials originally described as lacking proper oversight. They also aregued that the requirements would impose a significant burden on electrical installers in rural areas outside of the Bay Area or Los Angeles who would have less access to the training program.

“Our position is that if the state is going to mandate EVITP for training content on EV charging, then we would like government oversight of the program to ensure the curriculum is up to date and inclusive of higher speed technology; available statewide including north of Sacramento and in the Inland Empire; available online and quickly to avoid slowing down installations when the bill goes into effect; and affordable to all participants,” wrote Anne Smart, vice president of public policy at ChargePoint, in an email to Government Technology in August before the bill was amended. 

Negotiations among the parties and Ting’s office led to changes to the bill which would place more state oversight over the program, allow third-parties to provide required training, open up more training opportunities in other parts of the state, and would also delay the requirement for a year.

Of the more than 30,000 state-certified general electricians in California, most have the skills to install charging infrastructure, say industry officials. However, only about 1,400 of them have been certified through the EVITP, with only about 40 certified trainers in the program, according the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

“Together, these amendments will better ensure charging station deployment is not unduly slowed while achieving your goal of instituting safety standards,” wrote a coalition of officials from ChargePoint, EVCA and Enel North America in an Aug. 24, 2020 letter to Ting’s office.

The changes come as the state is set to rapidly expand its EV charging infrastructure in southern California with the announcement by electric provider Southern California Edison to invest $417.5 million toward deploying charging infrastructure across its service area.

The move, which will install thousands of charging spots in the southern third of the state, will add to the employment opportunities for electricians and other workers affiliated with EV charging infrastructure, as well as greatly add to the overall charging network.  

“The Los Angeles region is an electrification hot spot not only because of its population and tremendously busy roadways with resulting air-quality challenges, but because it is a place where the electric car market is already beginning to thrive,” said Gennet Paauwe, communications advisor for Veloz, an EV advocacy group based in Sacramento. “Expansion of the charging network will lead to its visibility and more widespread acceptance that owning and charging an electric vehicle is not just possible, but easy — easier and less costly than stopping at the gas station.”

The program to expand charging infrastructure, outlined by SCE “directly aligns with ChargePoint’s mission to accelerate the buildout of essential EV charging anytime a driver needs and everywhere they go across the state’s metropolitan areas, rural and disadvantaged communities, and on the highway,” said Anthony Harrison, head of utility partnerships at ChargePoint, in a statement.

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.