Ohio Plan Could Lead to $10 Million Investment in Electric Vehicle Charging

In late August, several parties announced a settlement agreement on a multi-faceted proposal filed by American Electric Power Ohio this past spring. The settlement includes a $10 million investment in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure to be made in AEP Ohio’s service territory. The settlement is still subject to approval by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). While there is broad consensus around the program, the Columbus Dispatch reports some, including the Ohio Consumers Council, remain opposed to the EV portion of the agreement.

I provided testimony from Clean Fuels Ohio in support of AEP Ohio’s program on behalf of three interveners – Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Law and Policy Center. This step is the result of months of hard work by AEP Ohio, all of our organizations, the Electric Vehicle Charging Association and many others. The PUCO and Commission Staff deserve tremendous credit for their willingness to engage around this through the spring and summer despite a heavy case load and the complexities of their Power Forward grid modernization initiative.

This is an extremely positive development for the EV market and EV owners in Ohio and beyond. First, AEP Ohio’s program would be the first approved by state regulators in Ohio or any Midwestern state. For scale, AEP’s spending by customer ($10M for 1.5M customers) would be on par with programs approved to date for California’s investor owned utilities ($195M for ~22.5M customers). If approved, AEP Ohio would initiate a four-year rebate program, incentivizing the installation of 75 dedicated cast chargers and 300 level 2 chargers in multi-unit dwellings, workplaces, and public locations, with a carve out for disadvantaged communities. Rebates would be provided to site hosts who would own the equipment. These hosts would be required to select equipment from among multiple charging station providers. All stations would need to support demand response and customer-friendly open standards and protocols. AEP Ohio would be permitted to take a 5% fee to administer the rebate program and submit regular reports.

The program would be considered a pilot. PUCO staff have indicated they are still interested in gathering more information about the appropriate roles of utilities in the EV charging market, effective program models, and additional needed policies. Clean Fuels Ohio and others have submitted a proposal for how this might be done through the Power Forward proceeding, which is expected to resume in 2018. A key question will be whether a rebate program, which relies on third parties, will succeed in moving the market to deploy and reliably maintain charging stations where needed.

The AEP Ohio program comes at an ideal time. Since EVs were introduced into the mass market in 2011, demand has grown continuously despite low gas prices. In Ohio, consumers now have a wider array of plug-in vehicle choices, and 200+ mile range EVs entering our market will further accelerate demand. Battery costs have decreased 73% since 2010, and will decline significantly more. Over the next 10 years, EVs will be less expensive than internal combustion vehicles. Consumers will respond to the lower cost of ownership and superior driving experience.

Educational efforts through Drive Electric Ohio and Smart Columbus will accelerate consumer adoption. The need for investment in charging infrastructure is critical to overcome this most significant market barrier and avoid backups at inadequate charging stations today.

By Sam Spofforth
Executive Director
Clean Fuels Ohio