Ruling opens door for Oregon utilities on EV charging
By Lee van der Voo
Sustainable Business Oregon contributing writer
A decision by the Oregon Public Utility Commission paves the way for utilities in the state to get into the car-charging business.
Oregon’s Public Utility Commission has paved the way for utilities to enter the electric vehicle charging market.
The commission’s decision, made last month, comes over objections from purveyors of EV charging stations, chiefly ECOtality Inc., the San Francisco-based transportation and storage technology company. ECOtality argued that large utilities like Pacific Power, Portland General Electric and Idaho Power could have a marketing advantage in the new sector and should not be allowed to recoup infrastructure through rates — something competitors can’t do.
The decision puts Oregon squarely in the middle of policy tracks being carved out by states as power commissions across the country grapple with what role — if any — utilities will play in the car-charging market.
California has excluded utilities from entering the sector. In Michigan and Virginia, utilities are allowed to own charging infrastructure, with some crafting pilot programs to test variable rates, according to PUC utility analyst Adam Bless.
In Oregon, utilities will now be allowed to offer EV charging stations, but the PUC will set a high bar before allowing the utilities to recoup infrastructure costs from rates.
The decision is in part designed to respond to the issues raised by ECOtality and also answer concerns about whether rural areas of the state will be adequately served by private companies alone, particularly as early adoption of electric vehicles takes place around cities.The PUC has been mulling the matter since 2009.
ECOtality officials said in a statement they respected the decision “and look forward to working with our utility partners to promote and grow the EV market in Oregon."
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