A move hailed as a major step in the state’s fighting climate change, Massachusetts has approved worth of $400 million plan to install thousands of electric vehicle chargers to encourage bigger numbers of drivers to switch to electric instead of gas cars.
The state’s Department of Public Utilities order, issued last week, allows electric utilities Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil to put a surcharge on the ratepayers’ electricity bills to support the build-out of the needed infrastructure.
Director of clean transportation for National Grid, Jake Navarro said that in the meantime they don’t see as many EV chargers out there as are needed, and they don’t see as many electric vehicles too. Those two things are interrelated.
As of September last year, there were around 71,495 electric vehicles on the road in the state and just 5,401 of the fastest kinds of charging ports. That is compared to the estimated 21,000 public and workplace charging ports that the National Grid estimated would be needed to support Massachusetts’ 2025 climate goal of having more than 300,000 electric vehicles on their roads. The state has since amended its 2025 goal to 200,000.
Executive director of Green Energy Consumers Alliance, the Massachusetts-based clean energy advocacy group, Larry Chretien said that this is what is going to enable the buildout of EV charging to the extent that they think is needed over the next four years.
The last time that the utilities offered rebates for charging infrastructure, they just found themselves without many takers, in part because the business case was not doing well. Without a lot of EV drivers on the road, there was little reason for companies to invest in charger vehicles, even if utilities were going to fill in the costs of laying the wires.
Tilak Subrahmanian, vice president of energy efficiency for Eversource, said that the program was very successful, and he thinks that success will be repeated in Massachusetts.
He also added that they were very bullish and that they were going to get a lot of interest in fast charging.
Under the new scheme, utilities will base demand charges for fast chargers on how much the charger is being used. A little-used fast charger also plays no demand charge. But as more of the drivers plug in, the operator will start to pay an increasing percentage of the demand charge.
Vice president of climate and clean energy policy for Acadia Center Looking Amy Boyd, says she’s hopeful that the new Healey administration will take that approach, citing that the appointment of Melissa Hoffer as the state’s first-ever climate chief is a very strong start. Naming a climate chief is also a good sign that the administration sees these problems as spanning departments.