PSCW Holds Electric Vehicles Workshop

On Dec. 5, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) held a workshop on electric vehicles (EVs). The workshop is part of PSCW’s investigation of EV policy and regulation, an investigative docket that PSCW approved in February 2019. (PSCW Docket # 5-EI-156.) According to the notice, input at the workshop will be used to inform future PSCW action in 2020.

Earlier this year, PSCW asked interested parties to submit comments on the docket and compiled a summary memorandum of initial feedback. The Dec. 5 workshop invited parties and members of the public to convene for discussion on the question, “What are strategies for addressing the infrastructure or other barriers that are impeding the deployment of electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations?”

Opening the workshop, PSCW Chairperson Rebecca Valcq gave a brief introduction welcoming participants and stressing the importance of the investigation. PSCW then gave an overview of the agenda. (PSCW introductory slides)

Next on the agenda were informational presentations from six invited entities.

  1. Madison Gas & Electric’s (MG&E) manager of electrification discussed utilities’ role in EV adoption. MG&E said barriers to adoption include charging access, pricing, and load management. MG&E discussed its own pilot programs to manage EV charging during peak times. Finally, MG&E mentioned its investments in public charging stations, which are powered by wind energy, and the next challenges in EV charging (e.g., charging for commercial trucks and school buses). (MG&E slides)
  2. Wisconsin Power & Light/Alliant Energy named lack of charging infrastructure, upfront costs, and education and awareness as the top three barriers to EV adoption. Alliant said utilities’ role should be ensuring infrastructure reliability, preparing EV charging sites for future growth, and acting as energy advisors to customers. Alliant noted another strategy for EV adoption could be customer incentives like rebates for charging equipment and innovate rate design to benefit both EV and non-EV customers. Alliant noted they have seen EV growth in Wisconsin even without incentive programs used in other states like Minnesota. (Alliant slides)
  3. Greenlots, a charging software company, discussed managed charging and interoperability, as well as the current state of the EV market. Greenlots noted that there is currently not enough market demand to support public charging. According to Greenlots, government support – planning and coordination, clean energy targets, plus incentives like rebates, tax credits, and grants – is key to increasing adoption. Utilities also have a role in addressing harder to reach areas of the market like rural and low income communities. (Greenlots slides)
  4. Wisconsin Paper Council (WPC) presented some counter points to pursing increased EV adoption in Wisconsin. WPC encouraged workshop participants to think about the holistic costs of EV adoption such as subsidies, upfront costs, reduced travel range, durability and reliability (especially in winter weather), lower gas tax revenue for the state, and environmental effects of EV batteries. WPC encouraged PSCW to wait to regulate because Wisconsin may not be the best test case for developing regulation and technology. (WPC slides)
  5. Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) discussed the federal Alternative Fuel Corridor Designation Program, a network of alternative fuel corridors on interstates that includes several in Wisconsin. DOT is also participating in a Central Region EV Corridor Collaboration with other Midwest states. DOT sees its role in EV adoption as providing signage, engaging in interagency discussion, administering grants, and providing data for pilot programs. (DOT slides)
  6. Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) described its role in administering Wisconsin’s Volkswagen settlement funds. In the 2017-19 state budget, $32 million was allocated for bus replacement. In 2019-21 more funding was allocated for buses, and $10 million was allocated for EV charging stations. DOA is working on developing the EV charging station grant program.

After the presentations, PSCW divided participants into six smaller groups for breakout sessions. When the full workshop reconvened, breakout groups brought up issues where PSCW could help address EV barriers, including:

  • Utility pricing, rate design, and cost recovery
  • Information sharing and education between customers, utilities, agencies
  • Service policies
  • Pilots and research
  • Increasing access, especially for rural communities
  • Other alternative fuels
  • Regulatory clarity on time of use and peak solutions
  • Providing strategic clarity on the goal of EV policy, whether it’s to address tourism, economic development, or climate change
  • Proactive managed charging
  • Partnering fast charging with other high demand customers
  • Limiting cross subsidies

PSCW plans to release a document summarizing comments from the workshop. After that, PSCW will announce next steps in the investigation in early 2020, though they were uncertain what next steps would be at this point. PSCW said there would be more upcoming opportunities for public input.