We All Can Benefit from More Electric Vehicles

Jessica Russo, NRDC

Environmental advocates and consumer groups are often at odds with investor-owned electric utilities. In fact, NRDC is currently opposing electric utilities in several active lawsuits. However, we all agree that electrifying our nation’s cars, trucks, and buses can benefit everyone and that the transition must benefit communities most in need of relief from pain at the pump and from toxic, vehicular air pollution.

The Edison Electric Institute, Illinois Citizens Utility Board, National Consumer Law Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club have issued a joint statement underscoring that agreement. The full statement is available here and is reproduced below. This is a landmark accord that unites these groups for the first time on the shared goal of electrifying our transportation system and ensuring those benefits are shared broadly.

This is important because transportation is now the largest source of carbon pollution in the nation.

Electric utilities are currently investing $1.4 billion in programs designed to accelerate the electrification of the transportation sector, largely helping to speed the deployment of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles (EVs). Nearly $1 billion of that collective investment is in programs that prioritize under-served communities, and $345 million is allocated directly to disadvantaged communities and low-income customers.

And the largest utility transportation electrification programs approved to-date will speed the deployment of zero-emission trucks, buses, port equipment, and other vehicles that emit dangerous diesel pollution that disproportionately harms low-income communities.

Utility investments to accelerate transportation electrification also pay broader dividends. Multiple studies reveal that widespread EV charging can provide billions of dollars in reduced utility bills resulting from the fact that EV charging brings in new revenue in excess of associated costs, money that is returned to all customers in the form of lower rates and bills.

It’s not just a theory—it’s been observed in the real world. In the years 2012 to 2018, in the two utility service territories with the most EVs of any in the U.S., EV drivers contributed nearly $800 million in excess of the costs of generating and delivering electricity to those cars and the costs of utility EV programs in those regions. That net revenue was returned to all customers—whether they own an EV or not—in the form of lower rates and bills.

In light of these widespread benefits, we are happy to support the following joint statement by groups representing diverse and often divergent interests:

The Edison Electric Institute, Illinois Citizens Utility Board, National Consumer Law Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club find:

1. There are now more than 1.3 million plug-in electric vehicles in the Unities States. Numerous independent studies conclude that transportation electrification can provide widespread benefits to all utility customers, the environment, and public health; and

2. There is a need for appropriate electric company involvement to accelerate transportation electrification and to ensure that it will provides benefits to all customers. The following principles should inform an electric company effort in supporting transportation electrification:

  • Transportation electrification should benefit all utility customers, including those in communities that are burdened disproportionately by local air pollution from the transportation sector and low-income households that spend a disproportionate share of their income on vehicle fuel and maintenance.
  • Transportation electrification should avoid placing financial burdens related to the transition to electric vehicles on those who can least afford it;
  • Costs associated with utility investments designed to support transportation electrification should generally be recovered over a timeframe that corresponds to the expected realization of future economic benefits from the electrification of the transportation sector;
  • Electric utilities should track metrics within their control that measure the benefits of transportation electrification, such as the following:
  • Success in monitoring, prioritizing, maintaining or improving the affordability of electric service for low-income households and in enhancing household energy security;
  • Success in increasing access to the use of electricity as a transportation fuel in low-income and disadvantaged communities;
  • Success in improving the utilization of the grid to put downward pressure on electricity rates and translating these improvements into benefits for all customers;
  • Success in using the integration of variable renewable, zero-emission generating resources in meeting the growing needs of transportation; and
  • Utility investments that support transportation electrification should be designed to:
  • Lower household expenditures by increasing access to the use of clean and affordable electricity as a transportation fuel, including in low-income and disadvantaged communities;
  • Improve local air quality in communities burdened by pollution from the transportation sector, including by supporting the electrification of medium and heavy-duty trucks, buses, and other vehicles and equipment;
  • Improve the utilization of the electric grid, putting downward pressure on rates to the benefit of all customers, including low-income customers and customers in disadvantaged communities; and
  • Take advantage of the flexibility and energy storage inherent in electric vehicles to facilitate the integration of variable renewable, zero-emission generating resources.

About the Authors

Max Baumhefner

Senior Attorney, Climate & Clean Energy Program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.