NJ Spotlight- Rate Counsel last month tried to block utility’s proposal, contending that private sector instead of utility customers should build out infrastructure
A proposal to block the state’s utilities from investing hundreds of millions of dollars into building out the infrastructure for electric vehicles conflicts with law, policy and common sense, according to Public Service Electric & Gas.
In a response to a filing last month by the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, PSE&G urged state regulators to move ahead with its $364 million proposal to help build out the electrification of the transportation sector in New Jersey.
In its 35-page response filed Friday, the utility argued Rate Counsel mischaracterized applicable law and would hamstring the Board of Public Utilities’ ratemaking authority as well as jeopardize the latter’s ability to meet legislative mandates for statewide electric vehicle (EV) deployment.
The goal of electrifying the transportation sector — the largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions — is generally backed by a wide array of groups: businesses, clean energy advocates, labor, and utilities. What role state utilities should play is a much more contentious issue, particularly at a time when their customers are being asked to transform to cleaner sources of energy and to pay for modernizing an aging electric grid.
Rate Counsel director Stefanie Brand has argued it makes little sense to have utility customers pay for building the infrastructure for electric vehicles when there is a robust private sector willing to do so. Her office also has opposed a separate but similar filing proposed by Atlantic City Electric (ACE) to spend $42 million on EV infrastructure in its territory.
In its response, PSE&G contended a recently adopted Energy Master Plan “made clear the state policy to move toward complete electrification of the transportation sector and that would be a clear role for the utility sector in this important and challenging transition.’’
Achieving goals of Plug-In Vehicle Act
Also, the utility noted the approval of the Plug-In Vehicle (PIV) Act this past January, which mandated aggressive goals to transition to electric vehicles. In approving the bill, the Legislature chose BPU, instead of the Department of Transportation, to implement the law, PSE&G noted.
In another filing by Karen Reif, a vice president of PSE&G, the utility noted that law requires 400 so-called fast chargers, which can mostly refuel a car within 20 minutes, to be located on heavily located travel corridors by 2025. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, there were only two existing fast chargers on those corridors and only three others planned by the end of this April.
To achieve the goals of the PIV, the act’s “statutory goals cannot be realistically achieved without the active involvement and investment of New Jersey’s utilities like PSE&G,’’ the company asserted.
In general, both PSE&G and ACE are seeking to finance installation of charging equipment at homes, workplaces and multifamily dwellings, as well as fleets of vehicles and help the state electrify buses in urban areas.
In its filing, PSE&G noted New Jersey lags behind other states in switching to electric vehicles and installing refueling infrastructure. Registration for EVs in New Jersey decreased year-over-year in the state from 2018 to 2019. In addition, New Jersey ranks last among states that have agreed to comply with California’s clean car program in installing charging equipment.
PSE&G seeks to install 40,000 charging stations over a six-year period under the filing it submitted to the BPU.