Electric Vehicles

Missouri court reverses PSC decision on EV charging stations

A Missouri Court of Appeals ruling could set the stage for state regulators later this year to reconsider investor-owned Kansas City Power & Light's request to include electric vehicle charging stations in rate base.

The appellate court on August 7 reversed a Missouri Public Service Commission decision last October that found the charging stations are not "electric plant" under state law and, as a result, cannot be placed in rate base where all KCP&L customers would pay for them.

The court remanded the matter to the PSC for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

PSC spokesman Kevin Kelly declined to comment this week on the ruling, noting the agency does not talk about pending litigation. He said, however, parties have until August 22 to file motions with the court to rehear the case.

As of Wednesday, no such request had been submitted.

A KCP&L spokeswoman declined to comment on the ruling. KCP&L and KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations Company have launched an initiative to install and operate more than 1,000 EV charging stations throughout the greater Kansas City region as part of a budgeted $16.6 million project. Last year's PSC order essentially placed the project on hold.

The commission took the position that it lacked statutory authority over the proposed charging stations "because they are not used for furnishing electricity for light, heat or power." Therefore, they do not qualify as "electric plant" under state law.

In last year's order, the PSC said EV charging stations "are facilities that use specialized equipment, such as a specific cord and vehicle connector, to provide the service of charging a battery in an electric vehicle. The battery is the sole source of power to make the vehicle's wheels turn, the heater and air conditioner operate, and the headlights shine bright. The charging station is the product being sold, not the electricity used to power the charging station."

The commission also expressed its concern that, if it recognized charging stations as "electric plant," the large number of KCP&L ratepayers who do not operate electric vehicles would end up subsidizing the automobile usage of a small number of EV owners. Furthermore, KCP&L would be given a competitive advantage over non-utility operators of similar charging stations, and KCP&L would "construct wasteful and unnecessary facilities, because it would not face the same risk of monetary loss that unregulated entities experience."

But the appellate court disagreed. The PSC's findings "cannot withstand scrutiny," opined the court.

Just as in the case of a self-service gasoline station, what takes place at one of KCP&L's EV charging stations "is not the service of charging a battery," said the court. "It is the sale of electricity to the vehicle owner, for use to power his or her electric vehicle."

While the vehicle's batteries may store the purchased electricity temporarily until that electricity is needed to power the vehicle, the court added, the battery is "merely a storage device - it is not 'the sole source of power' driving the vehicle. The charging station customer purchases nothing from KCP&L other than electricity."

The court concluded that while the PSC's policy concerns may be well-founded, nothing in Missouri's legal definition of "electric plant" authorizes the commission to exclude EV charging station equipment from the definition based on such concerns.

The PSC issued a similar order involving Ameren Missouri in 2017.