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February 21, 2018 Noah Garcia 

A coalition of 40 organizations, including NRDC, submitted a formal petition to the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) today, requesting that it do more to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) adoption by turning to utilities to be more proactive in supporting transportation electrification.

The petition enjoys the broad support of automakers, bus manufacturers, EV charging service providers, labor groups, business associations, environmental justice organizations, environmental NGOs, and other organizations. The signatories range from Siemens to Sustainable Hudson Valley. (Full list below.)

Recent analysis by M.J. Bradley & Associates demonstrates New York has the potential to reap $17.8 billion in cumulative benefits by 2050 from lower utility customer electric bills, reduced vehicle fueling and maintenance costs, and decreased GHG emissions if New York meets its 80 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction target. To achieve these benefits and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ambitious—yet achievable—climate goals, New York’s electric power sector must proactively enable the electrification of the transportation sector in a manner that benefits all New Yorkers.

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Chevy Bolt Flickr

The Petition

The petition seeks to address two fundamental challenges that limit utility engagement on transportation electrification issues:

  • Utility rate case processes, in which utilities submit proposals to the PSC that set rates for electric service, do not allow for sufficient treatment of issues like electric vehicles, energy efficiency, and other clean energy technologies that are needed to meet state climate and clean energy goals; and
  • To date, the PSC, which regulates utilities in New York, has not given utilities strong guidance on the role they should play in accelerating transportation electrification.

To address these challenges, the petition recommends that:

  • The PSC open a proceeding or a pathway to address a broad array of transportation electrification issues outside of rate cases for simplicity; and
  • The PSC accept, review, and approve utility proposals to accelerate transportation electrification, including the deployment of charging infrastructure, education and outreach campaigns, and other market acceleration programs to reach state goals. In a rate case, these proposals often get swamped by other issues that utilities and other parties bring to bear.

Wheels in Motion

New York has several complementary goals intended to accelerate EV adoption and reduce transportation sector emissions.

  • The state has committed to reducing economy-wide GHG emissions by 40 percent in 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. With transportation sector emissions comprising over one-third of state GHG emissions, any meaningful steps taken to achieve New York’s climate goals must reduce emissions from cars, trucks, buses, and other things that move. The best way to do that is by electrification: the process of powering all these vehicles by plugging into the electrical grid.
  • In 2014, under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York joined the multi-state Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) agreement that requires the deployment of at least 3.3 million EVs by 2025,with New York’s portion at approximately 850,000 EVs by 2025.
  • In his 2018 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo also announced the expansion of the existing Charge NY program with a new goal of 10,000 public EV charging stations in the state by the end of 2021. There are less than 2,000 now.

The state already has several policies and programs in place to encourage transportation electrification to achieve the goals above, including NYSERDA’s Drive Clean Rebate Program, which offer rebates up to $2,000 for the purchase of a qualifying EV. Though programs like Drive Clean have clearly helped spur EV adoption, it is clear that more needs to be done to reach the state’s 850,000 EV goal: the state currently has roughly 30,000 EVs.

In addition, as noted in my colleagues' blog, the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) process has not been an effective forum to date for concrete action on transportation electrification. (Nonetheless, Consolidated Edison has begun to take steps to provide charging infrastructure to support EV adoption and reward customers for charging their vehicles at times that benefit the grid.)

Electric Utilities Can Fuel Transportation Electrification

A growing number of utility regulators, automakers, charging service providers, environmental organizations, labor groups, consumer advocates, business associations, and other entities across the country recognize that electric utilities have a role to play in accelerating transportation electrification for the benefit of all utility customers.

Utilities and regulators in a handful of states have already taken action to address barriers to widespread EV adoption. These include charging station deployment, customer education and outreach, and effective load management so that EVs don’t crash the grid. Of note are developments in California, where the state’s three investor owned utilities have collectively received approval to deploy well over 12,000 charging stations and implement other market acceleration programs to plug in cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles. The California Public Utilities Commission is reviewing $1 billion in  new utility transportation electrification. Without robust utility programs to deploy the infrastructure that complements existing state EV incentives, New York risks ceding ground to Massachusetts, Maryland, and other Northeastern neighbors that are already ahead of the curve.

Next Steps

Without sufficient action to develop the EV market, New York stands to leave billions of dollars worth of electrical grid, driver, and climate benefits on the table. The petition filed today presents an opportunity make meaningful progress toward the state’s fast-approaching climate and clean energy goals. We hope the Public Service Commission will take action and ensure that electric utilities have a role to play in creating a clean, accessible, and reliable transportation future for all New Yorkers.

Petition Signatories

  • Albany Capital District EV Drivers Group
  • ALIGN – Alliance for a Greater New York
  • All Our Energy
  • Alliance for Transportation Electrification
  • Bedford 2020 Coalition
  • BYD
  • Catskill Mountainkeeper
  • Ceres
  • ChargePoint
  • Citizens for Local Power
  • ColorBrightonGreen
  • EarthKind Energy
  • Electric Auto Association of Hudson Valley
  • Environmental Advocates of New York
  • Environmental Entrepreneurs
  • EVBox
  • EVgo
  • Hudson Valley Electric Vehicle Drivers Group
  • IBEW – International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (Third District)
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • New York City Environmental Justice Alliance
  • New York State Electric Auto Association
  • New Yorkers for Clean Power
  • Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson
  • North Country 350 Alliance
  • Pace Energy and Climate Center
  • Plug In America
  • Proterra
  • Rochester Pachamama Alliance
  • Rochester People’s Climate Action
  • Siemens
  • Sierra Club
  • Sustainable Hudson Valley
  • Sustainable Westchester
  • TechNet
  • Tesla
  • Tri-State Transportation Campaign
  • Vermont Energy Investment Corporation
  • Vote Solar
  • WESPAC

Source: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/noah-garcia/ny-petition-urges-greater-faster-action-evs