New York Charging into 2020 by Electrifying Transportation

Jessica Russo, NRDC


The New York Department of Public Service (“DPS”) released a white paper proposing a bold statewide electric vehicle charging program anticipated to reap $2.6 billion in net benefits to New Yorkers. This program, which was teased in last week’s State of the State, is intended to spur the installation of enough public and workplace stations to support widespread electric vehicle deployment in the state. The white paper was released in response to an electric vehicle proceeding that NRDC, along with the Sierra Club, requested.

New York needs about 850,000 electric vehicles on the road to cut pollution from transportation and satisfy the clean car Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) standards. To support this number of vehicles, the state will need over 100,000 public and workplace charging stations and over 4,000 Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) stations. New York currently only has 4,327 charging ports at 1,568 locations and just under 53,000 electric vehicles. Luckily, with the release of the DPS infrastructure program, together with the additional programs announced by Governor Cuomo in the State of the State, the Empire State is on its way to meet these ambitious, but necessary, goals.

Make-Ready Infrastructure Programs

Governor Cuomo announced the DPS make-ready infrastructure programs in his 2020 State of the State speech, during which New York’s environmental commitments and goals were at the forefront.  The Governor directed DPS to propose “make-ready” programs that will help set the groundwork (literally) for charging station infrastructure and encourage private electric vehicle charging companies and owners to install public charging stations. Make-ready infrastructure means that the utility installs and owns and maintains the equipment and wiring up to charging station, as shown in Fig. 1 below. The proposed incentives will provide up to 90% of the costs of the make-ready components at public charging stations. DPS is budgeting $582 million for this program (which will extend to all six investor-owned utilities in the state) and expects this funding will support over 79,000 workplace charging stations, over 49,000 public Level 2 stations, and over 3,000 DCFC stations—helping the state achieve the number of charging stations necessary to support their ZEV goals.  

Figure 1: Models of Utility Investment in Electric Vehicle Charging Stations. Source: MJ Bradley & Associates

Filling in the Charging Station Gaps

In addition to the work by the DPS and utilities throughout the state, Governor Cuomo announced that the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) will further fill in the charging station gaps by installing and operating charging stations in areas that may not currently be attractive to private investors in underserved areas. By 2022, there will be at least 10 DCFC stations in every Regional Economic Development Council region in the state, all travel plazas will have charging stations by 2024, and over the next 5 years, at least 800 new charging stations will be installed statewide.

Providing Clean Transportation to Communities

Governor Cuomo’s State of the State also announced ambitious plans to electrify transit upstate. Under this plan, five upstate and suburban transit agencies will become fully electric by 2035. Electrifying transit buses provides communities with additional clean transportation options, while also cleaning up communities’ air and improving New Yorker’s health. 

More Still Needs to Be Done  

The whitepaper is a promising start and sets New York on a path toward achieving its clean air and ZEV goals. NRDC will be working to ensure that the Public Service Commission ("PSC") approves the effective implementation of the proposed programs.

In parallel, NRDC will be urging the DPS and PSC to require that utilities set rates that are appropriate for the grid and maximize the benefits for electric vehicle owners. We will also advocate for expeditious efforts to electrifying school buses and freight trucks.

A recent, comprehensive study demonstrates that electric medium- and heavy-duty buses and trucks cut carbon and other air pollution—importantly in areas historically plagued with the worst air quality— while being the least cost to own and operate across nearly all truck and bus classes by 2030, and provide the important job and economic benefits to the state. While the state has some incentives for electrifying medium-and-heavy duty vehicles, we need to ensure that these classes of vehicles are not overlooked by utilities.

The year has just begun, but 2020 is already poised to be a big transportation electrification year in New York.