Electric Vehicles

Study examines Pacific NW transportation electrification benefits

The Pacific Northwest Utility Transportation Electrification Collaborative, a group of Northwest utilities and public utility districts, on June 19 released a study aimed at better understanding the economic, environmental and other regional benefits related to the electrification of transportation.

Overall, the study found that the region (Washington State and Oregon) would benefit from transportation electrification through lower overall spending on energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, which was performed by Energy and Environmental Economics (E3), was a joint effort by Avista, Chelan County Public Utility District, Puget Sound Energy, Seattle City Light, Snohomish County Public Utility District and Tacoma Power.

The study used the most up-to-date information possible and publicly available forecasts of trends in energy and vehicle prices.

It considered the impacts of plug-in electric vehicle adoption over a 20-year horizon, addressing the costs and benefits of PEVs sold from 2017 to 2036 in Washington and Oregon.

The study considered multiple electric vehicle segments, including personal light-duty vehicles, taxi and transportation network company vehicles, forklifts, buses and parcel delivery trucks.

The PNW Collaborative strived to make sure that the study’s findings would be consistent, so the group tested the sensitivities of the results across a broad range of projections and assumptions.

Costs and benefits of PEV adoption were measured from two perspectives -- the regional perspective, which considers costs and benefits across a broad set of stakeholders, and the ratepayer perspective, which only considers the costs and benefits from the perspective of utility ratepayers.

Typically, the costs of EV adoption (such as higher vehicle costs and charger costs) are incurred in the short-term, and the benefits (lower spending on gasoline) accrue over the longer term, a summary of the report’s key findings noted.

Regional perspective

The regional perspective considers the benefits flowing in and out of the region due to PEV adoption. “This test answers the question: is EV adoption economically advantageous for the region? This includes costs incurred by utilities to serve added load, incremental vehicle costs over a conventional vehicle and the costs of charging infrastructure. The benefits include federal PEV incentives, avoided gasoline, carbon and operating and maintenance costs for vehicles,” the overview of the report’s key findings said.

For Washington and Oregon, PEV adoption provides a Regional Net Benefit of $1,941 per PEV on average.

Ratepayer perspective

The ratepayer perspective considers the impact of PEV adoption on all electric utility customers. It compares the utility’s cost of serving PEV charging load with the revenue from charging PEVs.

The difference between these costs and benefits is the ratepayer net benefit. This net benefit can be applied to reduce rate pressures, invest in programs to support PEV adoption or make other investments, the report overview said.

For Washington and Oregon, PEV adoption provides a $387 ratepayer net benefits per PEV on average. The total ratepayer net benefit is projected to be $278 million.

“Importantly though, ratepayer net benefits vary significantly by utility and vehicle types. For instance, one utility was projected to have negative net benefits but sees broader regional benefits in supporting PEV adoption,” the overview of the report’s key findings said.

The participating utilities are publishing the regional results to assist the entire region in understanding regional costs and benefits of transportation electrification. Some participating utilities are also studying the impacts on their specific service territories.

The collaborative hopes that these efforts inform utility development of programs supporting transportation electrification in their respective service territory, while each utility “may, and should, offer programs that best fit the needs of their customers.”

More broadly, the PNW Collaborative is working actively together to share knowledge and experience in supporting transportation electrification, both among the members as well as utilities nationally.

The PNW Transportation Collaborative is a group of load-serving Northwest utilities that meets regularly to evaluate key trends in transportation electrification, share program experience among the group, examine emerging issues, assess customer insights, explore potential new customer programs, build partnerships and consider policy issues.

The group also works regularly with utilities in California and across the country, as well as non-profits and other organizations advancing transportation electrification.

Energy Northwest-led EV initiative aims to alleviate range anxiety

Meanwhile, driving an electric vehicle across Washington state soon should become a less stressful exercise, thanks to a five-year electric vehicle infrastructure initiative led by Energy Northwest, a public power joint action agency based in Richland, Washington.

Energy Northwest is overseeing a $1 million project to install a network of publicly available EV charging stations spanning an estimated 250 miles along Interstate 90, I-182 and US-395. All nine stations are expected to be operational by June 30, 2019, with some up and running well before then.