Assembly Committee Holds Hearing on Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

This week the Assembly Committee on Energy & Utilities held a public hearing on legislation (SB 236/AB 233) that would incentivize the installation of electric vehicle charging stations across Wisconsin.

Authored by Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) and Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) as part of the Assembly Republicans’ environment and energy proposals, the bill would authorize the Public Service Commission (PSC) to use funds from the Volkswagen emissions settlement to provide matching grants to businesses to help pay for the purchase and installation of electric vehicle charging stations. Uses of the Volkswagen settlement funds are limited to specific eligible mitigation actions, including electric vehicle infrastructure.

The bill authorizes PSC to award up to $10 million in total grants. The grants must be awarded for charging facilities on a specific highway corridor, designated by PSC, which connects Wisconsin to a neighboring state.

One point of contention at the hearing was a provision in the bill requiring utilities to remit 20 percent of their revenue from the grant-receiving charging stations back to PSC. PSC would then deposit those funds into a new appropriation for transportation debt retirement. Rep. Loren Oldenburg (R-Viroqua) asked whether the 20 percent remittance should apply to revenue from all electric vehicle charging stations, not just those receiving state grants. There were also concerns from committee members and environmental and energy groups as to who should pay the 20 percent remittance and how it should be calculated. Some groups also took issue with allowing charging station owners to charge a “parking fee” for the amount of time spent charging instead of by the amount of energy used. Authors Neylon and Cowles said they would be open to making changes to these aspects of the bill.

Testifying in favor of the bill were RENEW Wisconsin, Customers First, and the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum. Testifying for information only were Wisconsin Utilities Association and Clean Wisconsin, with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers submitting written informational testimony. Koch Companies registered against the bill.

In the Senate, SB 236 has been referred to the Committee on Utilities & Housing. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Gov. Tony Evers has also proposed using the Volkswagen settlement funds for an electric vehicle charging stations grant program administered by the Department of Administration. The Joint Finance Committee has yet to take up Evers’s plan.