Missouri River Energy Services (MRES) has introduced a program aimed at supporting electric vehicle adoption at its member utilities in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
The program has two aspects: education and incentives.
“The MRES EV Program can help position members as the trusted energy advisor for their customers by supporting EVs through education and financial incentives,” Joni Livingston, vice president of member services and communications at MRES, said in the utility’s newsletter.
The program offers monetary incentives for residential and business customers who purchase electric vehicle charging systems, with preference given to ChargePoint systems.
Electric vehicle owners are eligible for a $50 incentive if they complete a survey providing information about their vehicle and charger. If they purchase a ChargePoint Level 2 EV charger, the incentive is $500.. Member utilities are eligible for $3,000 incentive for a ChargePoint Level 2 charger or an incentive that covers 50% of the purchase price, up to $15,000, for a DC fast charger.
MRES selected ChargePoint based on its interfaces, both for customers and utilities, its variable load control capabilities, and its Energy Star certification. Participants in the program are required to allow ChargePoint to acquire EV user information and share it with MRES and the local utility.
“We plan to study the data to learn more about charging habits,” Kurt Hauser, technical coordinator at MRES, said. Most major studies of electric vehicle charging habits are done in major metropolitan areas, he noted, adding that the ChargePoint data would help MRES and its member utilities understand actual charging patterns.
The incentive program will help MRES and its members expand their electrification efforts that can help offset flat electricity sales and reduce overall emissions. MRES has not set a carbon dioxide emissions reduction target at this time, but it is something that is “being developed; it is very important,” Hauser said.
The program was only recently launched. There is a “fair amount of interest,” particularly from utilities in states that have received grants from the settlement regarding VW’s faking of tailpipe emission data, Hauser said. Minnesota, for instance, is slated to receive $47 million over 10 years from its VW settlement.
So far, only one MRES member, the Vermillion Electric Department in South Dakota, has signed on to the program.
“It is something we were thinking about,” James Purdy, assistant city manager for Vermillion, said. Vermilion is a college town and has a lot of environmentally minded people, he said. “We were challenged by some folks in town.”
“The reaction has been very good. We have been pleasantly surprised by how well the community embraced it,” Purdy said.
The other aspect of the program is the education effort, which includes a portion of MRES’ website that offers tools that can help members and customers evaluate the benefits of electric vehicles and determine if an electric vehicle would be appropriate or feasible for them. MRES is also planning to roll out a series of “ride and drive” events at which electric car owners talk about their vehicles and offer test drives, Livingston said.