Pennsylvania Goes Electric with New EV Program

Pittsburgh is primed to accelerate transportation electrification.
Credit: Image Credit: Flickr

Christmas came a little early this year in the Keystone State when the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission authorized the state’s first utility-administered transportation electrification program—Duquesne Light Company’s proposed Chargeup EV Pilot for the Pittsburgh area.

The $2 million pilot, which NRDC advocated for during a Duquesne rate case, puts Pennsylvania on the map of more states and utility regulators recognizing the health and other benefits of emissions-free transportation electrification for customers, the grid, and the environment. It also complements the Commonwealth’s recent announcement to support a regional policy to cap transportation-sector pollution and ongoing efforts to advance a clean transportation bill in Harrisburg.

Policymakers in Pennsylvania should seize this momentum and continue to make greater commitments to a clean, modern, and accessible transportation future. A recent analysis commissioned by NRDC demonstrates that if the Commonwealth rapidly accelerated electric vehicle (EV) adoption, Pennsylvania drivers and utility customers could see billions in cumulative benefits from reduced vehicle operating costs and more efficient use of the grid out to mid-century.

Although modest in size relative to utility investments in other northeastern states, Chargeup will help spur investments to support transportation electrification throughout Duquesne’s service area in the greater Pittsburgh region beginning next year, including:

  • $1.3 million in infrastructure and incentives to deploy publicly accessible charging stations for light-duty EVs;
  • $500,000 for Fast Charging stations to support the Port Authority of Allegheny County’s first electric transit buses;
  • Funding for customer education and outreach about the benefits of transportation electrification; and
  • A modest bill credit for drivers that register their EVs with Duquesne so that the utility has the information it needs to plan future grid upgrades related to transportation electrification.

NRDC also secured a requirement that Duquesne submit a plan in its next rate case to encourage charging at times that are beneficial to the grid, as well as public reporting on key metrics of the EV pilot. These provisions will ensure that the utility’s investments are transparent, and that they generate information that will serve the public’s interest in a cleaner transportation system.

In her statement on the Commission’s December 20th decision, Chairman Gladys Brown specifically highlighted Chargeup as a noteworthy component of Duquesne’s grid planning efforts and declared “there is still more work to be done to facilitate charging station access in an economic manner.” We agree, and we urge the Commission to continue to define utilities’ role in supporting transportation electrification across the Commonwealth.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania, along with eight other Northeast states and D.C., outlined their commitment to a market-based policy that would cap transportation-sector emissions and invest in solutions that modernize the region’s aging transportation systems. Transportation electrification is one critical tool in the toolbox for slashing emissions and ultimately reducing our dependence on petroleum-based fuels; Chargeup will play a role in driving that transition.

But there are also legislative efforts to look forward to: Republican state Senators Robert Mensch and Robert M. Tomlinson have also expressed interest in introducing legislation that would create a more comprehensive charging station network across Pennsylvania, making it even easier to access electric fuel where residents live, work, and play. Electrification is a bipartisan issue in the Commonwealth, and Pennsylvania can build on the Public Utility Commission’s progress by adopting legislation like this to ensure that the state’s electricity distribution sector can support a smooth and efficient the transition to electric cars, buses, and trucks.

As we head into the New Year, Pennsylvania is well positioned to become a regional leader on electric transportation, growing its economy while cutting emissions.