Electric Vehicles

Electrification of transportation should be top priority: LADWP GM

The most important long-term thing that public power utilities should be championing, alongside investor-owned utilities, is electrification of the transportation sector, said David Wright, general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, on Dec. 11.

He made his comments at the American Public Power Association’s Public Power Forward Summit in San Francisco, Calif., where he participated on a panel that examined how public power utilities are proactively addressing the increased number of EVs and the resulting utility impacts.

He said that “We should be looking at anything we can do to improve the amount of sales we get from electric vehicles.”

“Our revenues in L.A., if everything changes over, will increase fifty percent,” he said. “That’s a long-term, positive business model,” Wright told the conference.

LADWP EV initiative

At a later point, Wright, who said that LADWP’s long-term integrated resource plan relies on the significant electrification of the transportation sector, offered details on LADWP’s EV initiative, “Charge Up LA!”

“There’s a five-year goal,” he noted in reference to Charge Up LA!. “Our goal is to have 15 percent adoption of electric vehicles – so 15 percent of purchases, essentially, are happening over that time.”

Wright added, “We currently have 1,000 chargers. I’ve tasked staff to go from 1,000 to 10,000 chargers in the next five years.”

The LADWP general manager said that the only way “we will see adoption for electric vehicles is when somebody doesn’t have to worry about charging their vehicle when they go to the grocery store, the movies, the mall or even 7-11.”

Collaboration with Southern California Edison

While LADWP can take steps to expand charging infrastructure within Los Angeles, LADWP customers will lose out if they cross the city limits and have nowhere to charge their EVs, he pointed out, so LADWP reached out to investor-owned utility Southern California Edison, which surrounds Los Angeles.

Wright met with the head of Southern California Edison to discuss “how are we going to do this jointly and that’s not what we usually do. We don’t as publicly-owned utilities sit with investor-owned utilities and create strategies. I will tell you they are already thinking of this because this is a long-term revenue model.”

Referring to this collaboration, “it’s one of those few where we absolutely have a greater power by numbers and actually have to do that for our customers’ benefit and our customers’ convenience.”

EV business plan strategies

Meanwhile, Wright also detailed various strategies tied to LADWP’s EV business plan.

On the education and outreach front, for example, activities include community presentations and events. For example, LADWP attended the L.A. Auto show, he said.

One of the things that the utility has discovered is the need to educate auto dealers on EVs. At a lot of car dealerships, salesmen “don’t know as much about electric vehicles as you and your staff might, especially when you get to the used car market,” Wright told the gathering of public power utility officials. LADWP has created educational material for car salespeople, “so that they are brought up to speed.”

LADWP itself is also demonstrating visible support for EV adoption. LADWP currently has 114 plug-in sedans and six plug-in hybrid bucket and digger trucks and the utility has a goal of 100% of its new light duty vehicles being EVs.

Local building ordinances

In terms of residential customer charging, Wright emphasized how important it is for new construction to be built with EV infrastructure in mind.

With respect to local building ordinances, he said this is crucial when it comes to LADWP’s long-term business model.

“When I look out in my office, I can see literally thousands of apartments that have either been built in the last five years or under construction,” he said. In Los Angeles, the city has adopted a building ordinance “where you have to essentially prep the multi-family residence to eventually have chargers.”

When it comes to LADWP’s long-range business, it is crucial “to make sure that all new construction is essentially wired so all you have to do is drive up and drop the charger there.”

In the commercial customer charging area, Wright said that LADWP is taking a look at creating charging hubs.

“I’d like to see us go by an old gas station that’s out of business next to a transmission line and just put in a couple of hub-type chargers where you can charge five or ten vehicles at a time in a real fast charging approach,” he said.


Mathew Ide, executive director for Energy and Financial Markets at Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company, also participated on the panel. MMWEC is a joint action agency.

Ide said that around three years ago, MMWEC launched an emerging technologies group “to essentially learn from the solar experience” that its members went through in the state “so that we could get out ahead and look forward to oncoming technological changes that may create some challenges to the business model of our members and electric vehicles is identified” as one of those.

He noted that when the state’s investor-owned utilities began to pursue solar, “our municipal light departments kind of were hit with a tsunami” as public power customers began pressing for rooftop solar as an option.

MMWEC’s EV program was rolled out in May 2017. The program is offered under residential energy conservation programs and nine Massachusetts Municipal Light Plant utilities are currently participating. There is a potential target market of around 57,000 potential drivers.

Ide noted that one of the things MMWEC has done on behalf of its members is create “essentially the ability to take in the calls” from customers inquiring about free chargers or related information, “we at the joint action agency facilitated that to happen.”

In the first year of the program, MMWEC projects 104 tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be avoided.

Association issues report on EVs

The Association recently unveiled a new report for member utilities, A Public Power Guide to Understanding the US Plug-in Electric Vehicle Market.

The report describes the growing plug-in electric vehicle market by examining several topics including market trends and technologies and challenges to adoption.

The report is available on the Association’s Product Store and members can download the report at no cost.

A webinar related to the report will take place on Dec. 13, 2017. For more information, click here.