Proposal to Charge Electric Cars in Southern California Gets the Green Light

The California Public Utilities Commission has unanimously approved a pioneering program that will deploy 1,500 charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) in Southern California Edison's service territory, one of the largest in the nation, and educate customers about the benefits of driving on electricity.

The "Charge Ready" program targets sites where there is a dearth of charging infrastructure, namely workplaces, apartment complexes, and other locations where cars are parked for most of the day.

This combination should tap pent-up demand for EVs outside of single-family homes, increase the number of miles driven on electricity, and ensure that cars are plugged in when the sun is shining and solar generation peaks. The $22 million pilot phase approved today will run for approximately 18 months. A future phase of the program will aim to deploy another 28,500 charging stations, building on the lessons learned in the pilot phase approved today.

By targeting apartment complexes and underserved communities exposed to harmful air pollution, and by educating customers as to the benefits of EVs, the "Charge Ready" program should expand the market for the cleanest vehicles on the road throughout Southern California, birthplace of drag racing and still the epicenter of car culture.

The proposal approved today was put forward in a settlement agreement supported by Southern California Edison and 16 organizations, including environmentalists, consumer groups, environmental justice advocates, EV drivers, automakers, EV charging companies, and labor unions. Just like in trial courts, if consensus can be reached between interested parties at the Public Utilities Commission, those parties can propose a deal that, if approved by the court (or in this case, the commission), avoids the need for a long and adversarial process.

Here's what a few of those who negotiated and supported the settlement agreement had to say:

"Drivers need access to electricity, a cleaner and cheaper alternative to gasoline, where they live, work, and play. Today's decision marks a critical step toward realizing that vision in Southern California, ground-zero for America's love affair with the automobile." -Max Baumhefner, NRDC

"More and more low-income Californians and Californians of color drive electric cars thanks to policies like Charge Ahead California, and we need the charging stations to make electric driving a real choice for them," said Joel Espino from the Greenlining Institute. "SCE's pilot represents a great way to drive EV growth in communities that urgently need the clean air and economic benefits that EVs provide."

"We are pleased that the CPUC's decision would help make charging an electric car convenient and cheaper than gasoline, while ensuring that charging infrastructure is built and maintained safely with highly skilled union electricians, technicians & linemen." - Pat Lavin, Business Manager, IBEW Local 47

"This green light from the Commission will go a long way towards building a more sustainable, cleaner California by helping the state reduce harmful pollution, integrate more renewable energy, and enhance electric grid reliability. - Larissa Koehler, Environmental Defense Fund

"As we transition away from a petroleum based economy, the decision today by the Public Utilities Commission, along with Southern California Edison's innovative approach will help drive the change to cleaner, more affordable, domestic electricity as our major transportation fuel. Drivers across Southern California will be able to plug in more and more, maximizing the benefits of electric vehicles." - Jay Friedland, Plug In America

"We applaud the Commission on today's decision, which puts Southern California on the road to healthier air and a more reliable electric grid by improving drivers' access to our cleanest and cheapest transportation fuel -- electricity." -Joe Halso, Sierra Club