New York Mayors and Businesses Back Electric Transportation

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Mayors, business executives, and union leaders are pushing New York regulators to adopt bold new policies to spur the sale and use of electric vehicles (EVs) in the state. In separate letters to the New York Public Service Commission yesterday, this wide swath of stakeholders—including NRDC—say that the state can become a national leader in support of a clean transportation future.

The Commission should encourage utilities—as the stewards of the electricity grid—to expanding the vehicle-charging infrastructure and adopt pricing incentives to get consumers to charge-up in the middle of the night when electricity is cheap. That and other changes would help the state achieve its goal of having 800,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025. There are now roughly 30,000 EVs in the Empire State.

The first letter, signed by 14 political leaders including the mayors of Rochester and Yonkers and county executive of Westchester, says the policies are important to help reduce the impact of climate change on their communities.

Separately, a group of nearly 30 organizations submitted a set of recommendations highlighting the need for a robust utility role to drive transportation electrification in coordination with automakers, technology companies, and other stakeholders.

New York is moving to accelerate the deployment of clean energy technologies that will play a central role in decarbonizing New York’s power sector, including energy efficiency, battery storage, and offshore wind. In the transportation sector, programs like the state’s Drive Clean Rebate and EVolve NY will be essential for catalyzing the growth of the electric vehicle market and reducing the state’s dependence on imported petroleum fuels, but more needs to be done to overcome barriers to widespread transportation electrification—including the limited number of charging stations available to plug in where New Yorkers live, work, and play.

In response to a petition submitted by automakers, bus manufacturers, environmental and environmental justice organizations, labor, clean technology companies, business associations, and other groups to address these barriers above, the commission held a two-day “technical conference” on the role of the state’s electric utilities in accelerating transportation electrification on July 18 and 19. From there, its staff will produce guidance on how utilities should engage in transportation electrification and the Commission can issue an order laying out concrete steps utilities should take in this area. The letters today are meant to help the commission develop its order.

In their letter, the city and county officials emphasize several key points:

  • Electrification of transportation is needed to reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions;
  • vehicles without harmful tailpipe emissions are critical for improving health and reducing local air pollution, particularly in the greater New York City and Long Island counties;
  • transportation electrification can drive economic growth and strengthen New York’s commitment to clean energy jobs; and
  • utility initiatives should reduce barriers to electric transportation access and complement existing state programs.

Similarly, the stakeholder letter makes the following main arguments:

  • Accelerating transportation electrification is not only critical for state ZEV and climate goals; it also advances the power sector goals set forth in the commission’s Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding;
  • the Commission should clarify in current proceeding how the state’s electric utilities will engage to develop the EV market in service of meeting state goals; and
  • utility transportation electrification programs that reduce barriers to clean transportation are in the public interest and should include some foundational elements, including but not limited to:
    • education and outreach initiatives to raise customer awareness of EVs;
    • deployment of charging stations that are accessible to all drivers, including for fleets of medium and heavy-duty vehicles;
    • initiatives that enable low income and disadvantaged communities to experience the benefits of transportation electrification; and
    • rate designs that ensure that EVs won’t crash the grid, or otherwise cause stress on the electricity system;

Raising awareness, building charging stations, increasing equity and access, and developing smart rates are all critical for getting more New Yorkers inside electric cars, buses, and trucks. Many other states in the region have already approved or considered these utility initiatives (here, here, and here), and New York can learn from those experiences as it adopts its own “no regrets” policy for developing the EV market.

With clear policy guidance from the commission and robust engagement of utilities, automakers, advocates, labor, technology companies, and other players, the Empire State can get on track toward meetings its goals and create a cleaner transportation future for all New Yorkers.