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    Connecticut and its two biggest utilities launch a broad build-out of electric vehicle chargers


    January 24, 2022 - Stephen Singer, Hartford Courant

     

      Connecticut is embarking on a broad build-out of electric vehicle charging stations, joined by the state’s two largest utilities committing more than $90 million.

      The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority on Jan. 1 launched the nine-year program as part of its grid modernization initiative that includes electric storage, metering, affordability and other programs. Chargers are to be installed at homes, apartment and condominium communities, workplaces and destinations such as hotels.

      In a push to reduce and eventually end tailpipe emissions — a leading cause of carbon pollution that may contribute to rising temperatures — Connecticut joined nine other states in 2013 to support 3.3 million electric vehicles by 2025. For Connecticut, the number of electric vehicles is expected to climb to as many as 150,000 by 2025, up from 21,382 now, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

      It’s a nearly nine-fold increase in just three years, but companies moving into the electric vehicle charging business will contribute.

      Rep. David Arconti, House chairman of the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee, said the initiative by Connecticut regulators is intended to support up to half the 150,000 electric vehicles and the other half “will be filled by the private sector (ideally).”

      If Connecticut is unable to reach its goal, the General Assembly could authorize PURA to hire a third party to administer programs, said Arconti, a Danbury Democrat.

      Chairwoman Marissa Gillett said PURA is supporting the agreement with the states rather than promoting electric vehicle use.

      “It’s not my role or PURA’s role to cause the proliferation of electric vehicles,” she said.

      Connecticut must get out ahead of increasingly popular electric vehicles and scale up the installation of charging stations to avoid “havoc on the grid” that could result from wide-scale electrification, Gillett said.

      “This is about planning,” she said.

      To ease potential burdens on the grid, PURA developed policies that call for “managed charging” that provides for different prices for charging electric vehicles at various times of the day.

      Eversource Energy has proposed to spend $73.6 million in the first three years of the program, and United Illuminating set an $18 million budget. The money, which the utilities can seek to reclaim in PURA proceedings, would be offered as customer incentives for chargers and managed charging programs.

      The cost to install a charging station varies depending on the charger and the extent of electrical work. Typically, a charger will cost $500 to $700, according to PURA. Installation can cost between $500 and $1,200.

      The utilities may offer customers incentives of $500 each for chargers, wiring upgrades and telematics, or the transmission of computerized information. Incentives of $100 also are available.

      PURA will evaluate the program every three years.

      Reducing and eventually ending carbon emissions from vehicles is a top priority to counter climate change. Transportation accounted for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

      Connecticut has a spotty record on clean transportation policies. The General Assembly has rejected numerous attempts to allow Tesla and other electric vehicle manufacturers to sell directly to the consumer and bypass dealerships.

      And Gov. Ned Lamont and legislative leaders balked last year at approving a regional transportation plan to reduce emissions while raising money for low- or zero-carbon initiatives. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker dropped out of the multistate program days later.

      Stephen Singer can be reached at ssinger@courant.com.

      ©2022 Hartford Courant. Visit courant.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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