Warming Up the Car: Va Takes a Step to Lower Rates with EVs

Electric vehicles (EVs) are no longer an abstract, Jetsonian notion: we now see (if not hear) Teslas, Volts, and Bolts zipping around in ever-expanding numbers.

Also not abstract: the bill-saving benefits of lower electric rates that EVs will deliver to everyone that uses the electric grid. Here's how that works: charging cars during our electric grid's "off-peak" downtime lowers everyone's electric rates, because EV charging (i.e. buying more electricity) pumps additional revenue into the system, and that pays down already-embedded grid costs that everyone else would otherwise have to pay.

It's just like having your neighbor chip in on your monthly Netflix payment in exchange for watching shows when you aren't.  Netflix doesn't incur extra cost if you watch at different times, and each of you gets the same service but at a lower cost to each of you. 

Tapping EVs' own cost-lowering benefits is now at the forefront of the Virginia State Corporation Commission's mind, which is spot-on, given that it oversees Virginia's electric utilities, who will be pumping out an increasing number of electrons to fuel our Teslas, Volts, and Bolts.  The SCC rightly asked for public comment to be submitted by today, on how to best incorporate ever-expanding Teslas, Volts, and Bolts onto Virginia's electric grid.

NRDC's own comments to the SCC explained why the outlook for EVs lowering costs in Virginia is very good: based on the years of proven experience in vastly more EV-heavy utility territories of SoCal Edison and PG&E, EVs can indeed be readily incorporated onto Virginia's grid as well, and in a way that lowers everyone's electric rates.

This will certainly take some thoughtful rate design adjustments, especially to ensure EV drivers charge up at night (rather than during "peak" times of higher and more expensive demand on our grid). That's pretty easy: "time of use" rates for EV drivers send a clear signal to only charge midday or midnight (relying on "set it and forget" it charging features), to avoid using the grid when everyone else is also cranking up their ACs or heaters (e.g. summer afternoons). Like EVs themselves, it ain't rocket science.

So there's absolutely no reason we can't get it right in Virginia and zoom ahead to a cleaner and cheaper transportation future.  So here's to the Virginia SCC for warming up the car, with a little bit of voltage!

About the Authors

Walton Shepherd

Virginia Policy Director, Climate & Clean Energy Program

Kathy Harris

Clean Vehicles and Fuels Advocate, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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