PG&E Now Getting On The EV Charging Station Bandwagon

I guess the Bay Area didn’t want to be bested by Kansas City. Now Pacific Gas & Electric, Northern California’s primary investor-owned utility (and the state’s largest) wants to get in on EV charging. As David Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

PG&E on Monday announced plans to install 25,000 electric car chargers across Northern and Central California, in what the company billed as the nation’s largest charger deployment project yet. The utility, based in San Francisco, described the $653.8 million effort as an important step toward reaching Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of having 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the state’s roads by 2025.

So should all ratepayers have to subsidize these installations, even if they don’t drive EVs? Certainly there’s an argument to be made that everyone benefits from cleaner air and a cleaner grid (from EV batteries used as energy storage). And therefore some level of public investment is justifiable. But it seems to me that part of the equation has to be convenient and accurate pricing and payment mechanisms to cover more of these costs.  In California, SB 454 (Corbett, 2014) took a step in this direction by requiring open access to charging stations for those who didn’t sign up for a subscription to a particular charging network.

But ultimately, the charging companies will have to figure out a viable business model, such as the gas station revenue from concessions, that minimizes the need for this kind of public investment. In the meantime, and where such a model just doesn’t work, utility money like this will be necessary to transition all of society to cleaner transportation.


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