The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities just approved National Grid’s $25 million proposal to support electric vehicles (EV) in the Commonwealth by providing charging infrastructure where residents live, work, and play. As one of the largest utility initiatives approved outside of California, National Grid’s EV program paves the way for more states to take bold steps needed to wean ourselves off the gas price roller coaster and mitigate climate change.
The move represents a major milestone as the state’s second major transportation electrification program, following the Department’s approval of Eversource’s similar EV program last year. (Together, Eversource and National Grid cover much of the state.) If fully implemented, these two initiatives will help put Massachusetts on the right track toward meeting its clean transportation goals.
The EV program approved Monday for National Grid—which serves approximately 1.3 million customers in Massachusetts—contains the following key elements:
- Rebates and electrical infrastructure to support the deployment of 600 Level 2 (medium-power charging stations that can fill up a battery over the course of a work day) and 80 fast- charging stations that provide a quick boost during longer trips. These stations will be installed in publicly accessible parking spaces, workplaces, and apartment complexes.
- Funding for program marketing activities to increase customer participation. Unfortunately, the Department of Public Utilities denied additional program funding directed toward general EV awareness and outreach—a role utilities are well-positioned to play.
- Collection and evaluation of key program metrics to gain insights into the program’s performance—including effects on EV purchase decisions, charging patterns, and impacts on the electric grid, and qualitative customer feedback.
If Massachusetts is going to achieve its emissions reductions targets defined in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008—which required the Commonwealth to slash all carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050—electrification of the transportation sector is a critical component. Analysis from M.J. Bradley & Associates finds that EV penetration would need to scale to approximately 90 percent by 2050 to reach those reductions. Currently, less than 1 percent of Massachusetts’ light duty vehicle fleet has a plug.
Moreover, the state’s Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) program requires that automakers to sell a growing number of EVs in the state by 2025. Massachusetts’ ZEV program are adopted from California’s clean car standards, which NRDC is defending as the Trump administration tries to roll them back. In order to hit the state’s estimated target of 300,000 EVs, up from roughly 16,000 today, utilities must partner with automakers, technology companies, advocates, and other organizations to overcome remaining barriers to EV adoption.
The Department of Public Utilities could have better prioritized the development of charging infrastructure in areas that need it most to incentivize EV adoption, such as workplaces and apartment complexes where cars are parked most of the day over other public locations. It also could have done more to ensure that EV charging doesn’t stress the grid by incorporating demand response pilots and time of use rates that encourage charging during off-peak times; instead, it required the utilities to collect data on charging patterns to inform future pilot efforts.
Taken as a whole, however, the program approval marks a decisive step in limiting the Commonwealth’s dependence on oil and encouraging the adoption of vehicles that benefit the grid, utility customers, and the environment. Massachusetts can and should continue to lead the region toward a clean transportation future.