CA Greenlights $436M for EV Charging in Southern California

The California Public Utilities Commission today approved a $436 million program that will deploy approximately 40,000 charging stations for electric vehicles in Southern California Edison’s service territory—the largest charging infrastructure program approved for any single utility in the country so far. The investment will allow the utility to help fill the need for charging infrastructure at workplaces, apartment complexes, and other locations where cars are parked for long periods, while also educating customers about the benefits of driving on electricity.

The approval of this program reflects the support of a broad and diverse group of stakeholders who participated in the Commission’s public process to review the proposal. NRDC, Sierra Club, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, Plug in America, Greenlots, Siemens, EVBox, Enel X, Honda Motor Co., the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and the Association of Global Automakers had all jointly urged the Commission to approve the program. The Union of Concerned Scientists and the Greenlining Institute also played a critical role in recommending improvements to the program and urging approval by the Commission.

Scaling Charging Infrastructure Deployment to Accelerate EV Adoption

Designed to help Southern California meet its portion of the state’s goal of 250,000 charging stations by 2025, the “Charge Ready 2” program builds upon the successes and lessons learned in Southern California Edison’s “Charge Ready” pilot program to ensure drivers are able to charge their EVs where they live, work, and play.

Comprised of three infrastructure components and an accompanying marketing, education, and outreach portfolio, the program aims to address barriers to EV adoption by providing expanded access to charging infrastructure, ensuring that drivers who charge in line with grid conditions realize fuel costs savings relative to gasoline and diesel, and increasing consumer awareness. The program also establishes ambitious targets for deploying stations in disadvantaged communities and apartments, both critical but historically underserved markets.

The program sets out three pillars for expanding access to EV infrastructure: 1) the Make-Ready Infrastructure Expansion; 2) the Own and Operate Component; and 3) the New Construction Rebate. The Make-Ready Infrastructure Expansion, the largest component of the program at $364 million, will install the electrical infrastructure necessary to support approximately 22,000 charging ports at apartments, workplaces, destination centers.

In order to address heightened barriers to EV adoption at apartment complexes, the Own and Operate Component will offer up to 2,500 locations a “turnkey” solution in which the utility would own and operate the charging stations. Further, in recognition that the most economic time to install infrastructure is at the time of construction but that current “EV Capable” building standards do not require installation of the charging stations themselves, the utility will offer a rebate of up to $3,500 per charging port to newly constructed apartment complexes that exceed these building codes and ensure that the new building has operational EV charging upon completion. Finally, nearly $15 million of the program’s budget will go to education and outreach efforts to help make customers aware of Charge Ready 2 Program incentives and the benefits of electric vehicles.

Addressing Barriers to EV Adoption in Underserved Markets

Apartment buildings account for more than a third of households in Southern California Edison’s service territory, but the Charge Ready pilot largely failed to secure participation from these locations—with only three percent of ports in the pilot deployed at apartments. In recognition of this shortcoming and the fact that California will be unlikely to meet its goals if the EV market is restricted to those who live in single-family homes, the utility redesigned the Charge Ready 2 Program to improve participation at apartments and to support more equitable transportation electrification. Accordingly, the Charge Ready 2 Program sets a target to deploy forty percent of ports in the Make-Ready Expansion component and one hundred percent of ports supported by the New Construction Rebate at these locations. In addition, the Charge Ready 2 program expands upon the offerings of the pilot by adding the new Own and Operate Component.

The results of the Charge Ready pilot revealed that many apartment sites and owners were deterred from participation due to the costs, complexities, or lack of interest in owning and operating charging stations. In other utility programs like San Diego Gas & Electric’s Power Your Drive pilot, which included utility ownership of charging stations, over forty percent of all deployments were in apartments—compared to SCE’s three percent—indicating that many landlords would rather have the utility procure, operate, and maintain charging stations. Reflecting upon these lessons, Southern California Edison appropriately proposed the Own and Operate Component to incorporate a similar utility ownership option to better address the unique barriers to EV adoption at these locations.

To further support EV adoption at apartments, the utility also added a New Construction Rebate for participating sites that exceed mandatory California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen) and local jurisdiction building codes by installing EV charging stations. Under the current CALGreen building code, new construction sites are required to be “EV Capable” but are not required to install charging stations. The rebate will provide up to $3,500 per port, designed to cover the incremental cost of infrastructure components that go beyond what is already required by the most stringent applicable building code, as well as the cost of the charging station.

To improve air quality where such improvements are needed most and to enable greater EV adoption in historically underserved communities, the program also establishes a target to deploy fifty percent of the ports in the Make-Ready Expansion program, fifty percent of ports in the New Construction Rebate Program, and one hundred percent of ports in the Own and Operate component in disadvantaged communities.

Setting the Bar for Full-Scale Utility Programs

It’s time for utilities to move beyond small-scale pilots and begin ramping up infrastructure deployment to meet states’ ambitious EV adoption, climate, air quality, and equity goals. The Charge Ready 2 Program, alongside New York’s recently approved $701 million investment across six utilities, sets a new standard for full-scale utility investments in charging infrastructure that other utilities should look to follow.