Top 10 things utilities should do to prepare for electric vehicles in their market

Created by Portland Electric

1. Develop a business strategy on what role your utility will play in supporting the electric vehicle movement. When developing your strategy, consider partnerships, system planning, regulatory strategy (including time-of-day pricing tariff), charging station ownership and maintenance, EV fleet strategy, and customer support and education.

For example, PGE established a Management Development Accelerated Program (MDAP) Team to evaluate the emerging EV market and how it would affect PGE operations, electric system, and customer satisfaction. PGE began development of an EV business strategy and put together a cross-functional team to meet regularly to work on everything from systems planning to customer communications.

2. Establish partnerships with auto and charging station manufacturers so you can be involved in their EV business planning and sharing of information. Your role as a convener will also help position your market as a possible early launch market. Your electric industry expertise can be very helpful in their product and business planning and vice versa.

PGE has partnerships with Nissan, Mitsubishi and Ford to work closely on information sharing, studying how EVs will interact with the system, and customer outreach. PGE is working with charging station manufacturers like Eaton, Coulomb, NEC and Ecotality which are installing or planning to install charging stations in our area. Discussions include station design, placement, system requirements, permitting, etc.

3. Develop an outreach plan for government leaders and business customers to expand the EV infrastructure in your market and develop new business opportunities that create jobs and benefit the environment. Work together on a plan that meets state and city sustainability goals, including developing state incentives.

PGE is working with state and local government, higher education, and businesses to expand EVs in Oregon. We’re also partnering to encourage a burgeoning industry of EV manufacturers and service providers in the state. One outcome of that work is Oregon’s selection for “The EV Project” funded by a more-than $100 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, which will bring thousands of EVs and charging stations to six states and Washington D.C. in the next few years.

Portland State University and PGE have created a strategic alliance to support research, economic development, community projects, and professional training on all aspects of “Urban Mobility,” including EVs.

4. Determine systems requirements and load impacts for EV charging to see if there are needs to perform system reliability and load-carrying improvements (new substations, substation transformers or feeders, etc.) or neighborhood distribution improvements (i.e., line transformers) to support EVs.

For example, PGE’s high-level analysis indicates supply impacts will be minimal (less than 50 MWa by 2020) which means charging station load demand, diversity in charging duration/times, and distribution of charging station load across PGE’s operating area will not impact PGE’s transmission and distribution system in a manner that will require system improvements (driven solely by EV charging station load demand) within the next 10 years. There may be some neighborhood distribution improvements required if we begin to see concentrations of EVs in one area.

5. Understand permitting requirements and codes including understanding the permitting requirements for residential and business customer installations. Work closely with local jurisdictions that have authority over electrical permitting to help streamline the process. Have a set of requirements for building developers to consider in new or remodel construction to address the future installation of EV charging stations

For example, Oregon adapted its one-step statewide electrical permitting process (minor label permit program) to include residential EV service equipment. This process removed the need for electricians to apply for a city permit and inspection before installation. Electricians can now install stations and report those to the state in blocks of 10.

6. Work with your public utility commission or other regulatory agencies to determine your utility’s involvement in the rollout of infrastructure. Ensure you have a time-of-day or other rate structures for EV charging.

Currently the Oregon PUC has an open docket: UM-1461 Investigation into EV Charging Rates and Infrastructures. The parties involved (Idaho Power, PGE, Pacific Power, Citizens Utility Board, the Northwest Energy Coalition, and others) are participating in workshops and commenting on the commission’s straw proposal.

7. Educate customers about benefits of EV ownership and be a trusted source of information to them. Develop a communications plan that can be implemented at all levels of the company from website content and marketing materials to customer service representative training.

For example, PGE has launched a robust EV section on its website covering EV basics, EV activity in Oregon, a map of charging stations, environmental benefits, and how to get plug-in ready at your home or business. All customer service representatives are being trained in how to answer and route EV-related inquiries.

8. Establish a leadership role in your region by participating in and helping lead discussions around transportation electrification. Bring in industry experts, auto and equipment manufacturers to talk with regional and business leaders about how to move the market forward.

Portland State University and PGE have launched a series of EV readiness workshops for regional, education and business leaders to convene and discuss how to prepare the state for the introduction of electric vehicles. PGE is also represented on the Governor’s Alternative Fuel Vehicle Infrastructure Working Group and a number of other regional working groups.

9. Be active in the utility and EV industry through participation in industry associations, industry events, speaking opportunities, and information sharing with other utilities. Through individual company efforts, as well as through these various associations, advocate for federal policy incentives that will lay the foundation for long-term widespread consumer adoption of EVs.

PGE is represented on EEI’s CEO Electric Transportation Task Force and represented in a number of national groups working on EVs including The Electrification Coalition, the Rocky Mountain Institute, and the Electric Drive Transportation Association. PGE strongly supports the pending Dorgan-Alexander-Merkley bill in the Senate, which would provide enhanced federal incentives for vehicle purchase and deployment in key communities nationwide. We encourage other utilities to look at that legislation and lend support.

10. Link electric vehicles to a sustainable energy future to strengthen your reputation as a utility committed to the environment. Implement a robust communications plan to announce all EV-related activity and milestones through news releases, press events, social media discussions, etc. Work closely with national partners on media outreach and provide expert spokespeople to the media on EV-related topics.

Does public EVs charging infrastructure matter?
By Roberta Bigliani

In my previous blog, we examined how PEVs can help the European Union achieve its “20-20-20″ goals by 2020. In this post we will divulge into the infrastructure, specifically charging infrastructure that is being put in place, which could be public and private (private homes, parking garages, hotels…). It should be mentioned that while in the United States electric utilities seem still somewhat on the sidelines of PEV deployment, in Europe, PEV deployment is being very strongly pushed forward by electric distribution companies, which are leading the charging infrastructure deployment. As IDC Energy Insights, we wrote a report on the differences between the US and European markets, and how it will affect PEV rollouts.

But let’s go back to infrastructure. A lot of emphasis is given to public charging infrastructure. If you look at Europe we have some near-term plans and some more long-term plans for rolling-out. Here are some examples of utility led initiatives:


  • Rheinisch-Westfälisches-Elektrizitätswerk (RWE) Germany Power Utility: 240 already installed; 1,000 charging points to be installed by the end of 2010
  • Vattenfall (Germany): 33 already installed; another 50 to be installed by the end of 2010
  • E.ON (Germany): 20 charging stations in Munich, 20 stations in cities around Munich, 100 total by 2010
  • Endesa, Iberdrola, and other Spanish utilities through the electric mobility plan “MOVELE”: plan to have installed 546 charging points in Seville, Barcelona, and Madrid by the end of 2010
  • EDP (Portugal): 1,000 charging stations by 2011
  • Ireland ESB (Ireland): 1,500 charging stations by 2011
  • Enexis, Liander, Delta, Westland, NRE Netwerk, RENDO, Cogas and TenneT (Netherlands): 10,000 charging points by 2011
  • In the UK Currently over 200 charging locations in London; 25,000 charging points to be installed by 2015, various utilities involved
  • Enel (Italy): installation of 400 charging stations (including private ones) started last summer

The list could continue with other examples and gives an indication about Utilities commitment.

While all utilities have a share of charging stations that are for public use, we expect that the majority will be installed in private homes, parking garages, etc. The best situation entails PEV drivers to charge their vehicles at home, also because ideally PEVs should not being charged during the day, enhancing peak loads, but rather at night or in off-peak hours, with the surplus energy created by renewable sources. However, most utilities acknowledge the fact that at least at the beginning public charging infrastructure will be necessary to overcome anxiety about driving distances, as well as to allow customers without dedicated parking areas to use electric vehicles.

In order to promote confidence and widespread adoption of PEVs, certain key aspects including the plug and sockets, need to be standardized. Under the coordination of EURELECTRIC’s Task Force on Electric Vehicles, experts from the electricity distribution business have been working with automotive companies and OEMS. Overall, there is a strong commitment of European Distribution System Operators (DSOs) for the development of grids suitable to PEVS, and for standardization, as demonstrators by the declaration organized by EURELECTRIC, and signed by 50 electricity companies and associations in October 2009. The signatories to this declaration support the development of pre-standards for vehicle charging, with a view to driving forward market deployment. They are committed to applying these pre-standards when developing infrastructure and vehicle connection.

Obviously, plug and sockets are not the only facets that need to be standardized. The standardization of batteries for instance directly affects the viability of certain business cases currently being evaluated (battery swapping stations. For more information, check out our post “Electric Vehicles and Business Models: Updates from Italy.”). And last but not least ICT comes into play.

To find out what OUC––The Reliable One is doing, read some of the press releases below:

OUC Drives Innovation with Electric-Vehicle Charging Stations

OUC to Add New Zero-Emission Nissan LEAFs to Fleet