Electric Vehicles

Mass. DPU rejects National Grid expansion of EV program

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) recently rejected a proposal by National Grid to set up electric vehicle charging stations.

The DPU’s order, 19-150, disallows recovery of “distribution company ownership or operation of EVSE [electric vehicle supply equipment],” but makes exceptions for other parts of National Grid’s proposal.

The DPU is allowing National Grid to recover costs associated with its proposed off-peak charging rebate, fleet advisory services plan, and part of its research and development program.

The order also notes that the DPU allows electric distribution companies to recover the cost of EVSE ownership and operation for their own vehicle fleet charging and employee vehicle charging and may grant cost recovery for an electric distribution company’s EVSE ownership and operation in response to a company proposal.

In its proposal, National Grid called for a second phase of its electric vehicle market development program. The $166.5 million program had five components: an EV charging program, a fleet advisory services program, a marketing plan, and evaluation plan, and a research and development plan.

National Grid had hoped to deploy 17,700, 240-volt, level 2 charging ports, at both residential and non-residential sites, and 300 direct current (DC) fast charging ports.

The 8,400 non-residential ports were planned for multi-unit dwellings, public parking areas, near work places, government offices, and private fleets, with 600 ports reserved for disadvantaged communities. The DC charging stations were planned for sites near retail areas, highways and near public transit and facilities that house school buses.

National Grid proposed two ownership models, a customer owned model and a utility owned model. The utility also proposed cash rebates, as well as rebates covering a percentage of costs ranging from 50% to 100% for disadvantaged customers. National Grid estimated the costs at $9 million for residential rebates and $18.8 million for non-residential rebates.

The DPU also called National Grid’s proposal “premature” and noted that the utility filed its plan only two months after the DPU approved the first phase of National Grid’s electric vehicle program. The DPU also noted that National Grid had not yet overseen the installation of any EV charging stations nor finalized any evaluation of results from the first phase of its EV program. The DPU said it was, therefore, “unable to adequately measure the success of the Phase I EV Program, and, in particular, those components that are similar to those proposed in the Phase II EV Program.”

National Grid’s proposed off-peak EV charging incentive program, which was approved by the DPU, calls for a rebate for every kilowatt used for EV charging during off-peak hours (9:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.) From June through September, the rebate would be $0.05/kWh; from October through May, it would be $0.03/kWh. National Grid estimated the cost of its residential off-peak charging rebate program at $5.6 million.

In the order, the DPU emphasized that although it disallowed “the majority” of the second phase of National Grid’s EV program, “our findings should be not be construed as opposing the expansion of the Company’s EV Programs when appropriate.”

The DPU left the door open for the utility, saying “may file future EV proposals under the umbrella of the grid modernization proceedings.” But the DPU added that National Grid should not make such a filing until it files an evaluation of the results from year two of the first phase of its EV program with the DPU.

National Grid’s proposal met both criticism and praise. Notably, Massachusetts’ Attorney General, in filed comments, advocated that the DPU defer review of National Grid’s EV program until at least one year or phase one data is available or about 2020 at the earliest. To do otherwise, would not be in the public interest, the AG said. The AG also raised concerns that the utility’s program would give National Grid a large share of the EV charging market in Massachusetts and could lead to “significant over-investment in EVSE relative to true market needs.”

On the other hand, the Conservation Law Foundation, in its filing, argued that National Grid’s program meets a need “not likely to be met by the competitive market and that it addresses barriers to EV adoption that the competitive market alone has not overcome.”

ChargePoint, an EV charging network company, argued that National Grid’s EV program will not hinder the development of the competitive EV market because the utility would offer an option for company owned and maintained EVSE and customer owned and maintained EVSE.

And eMotor Werks supported National Grid’s proposal, arguing that it would catalyze “needed infrastructure investment in a comprehensive range of customer segments and EV charging use cases, while leaving room for other sources of public and private funding.”

National Grid cited the support it received from vendors in the EV industry and said its proposal would only give it about 3% of the EVSE needed in its service territory, leaving ample room for the competitive market to operate.