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Commissioner Blog: Accelerating Transportation Electrification in California

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By CPUC Commissioner Carla J. Peterman


I'm proud of the historic action taken by the CPUC on May 31, 2018, when we authorized California's three investor-owned utilities to spend more than $760 million to accelerate transportation electrification in our state.

With earlier actions taken by the CPUC and other programs advanced by California, our state is at the forefront of electrification efforts, investing more than any other place in the nation.

Thanks to strong leadership from the Governor and Legislature, a supportive public, and hard work by many, we are proving it's possible to fight climate change by transitioning from fossil fuels and grow our economy at the same time. 

As Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB), said after our unanimous vote: "This action by the CPUC makes California's investor-owned utilities full partners in accelerating the drive to a zero emission transportation future. As the network of residential, workplace, and public electric vehicle charging stations expands, more communities will be able to enjoy the pleasures of driving plug-in electric vehicles."

I am especially pleased that the proposals we approved have specific set asides for disadvantaged communities in the utilities' service areas. That's because we want to make sure areas of the state hit hard by heavy vehicle traffic and pollution don't get left behind.

Specifically, our vote authorized Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Edison to install vehicle chargers at more than 1,500 sites supporting 15,000 medium or heavy-duty vehicles.

We also approved rebates to San Diego Gas & Electric residential customers for installing up to 60,000, 240-volt charging stations at their homes. Yet another proposal calls for 234 fast-charging stations at 52 public sites in Northern California.

One-fourth of the SDG&E and PG&E programs must be in so-called disadvantaged communities, and 40 percent of the Southern California Edison programs must go for medium and heavy-duty vehicle chargers in similarly distressed communities.

None of this has been considered lightly or hastily. My fellow Commissioners and I have been working hard to balance costs that would be passed on to utility consumers with benefits to those same consumers. We've carefully considered the impacts on competition and have directed utilities to hire diverse vendors and bring their programs to California communities that have often been overlooked.

Our work began in 2016, a year after passage of Senate Bill 350, California's "Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act," when we directed the state's investor-owned utilities to submit applications aimed at advancing transportation electrification across all sectors. The three utilities eventually submitted plans to spend about $1 billion in ratepayer funds on the effort.

We held more than a dozen hearings and public meetings, including 11 days of Evidentiary Hearings and four Commissioner-led community workshops around California. Almost 30 stakeholders - ratepayer advocacy groups, automobile manufacturers, environmental and environmental justice organizations, utilities, equipment manufacturers, electric vehicle service providers, transit agencies, fleet operators and labor representatives - participated. We consulted our partners at the California Energy Commission and the CARB.

My fellow Commissioners and I understand that the only way to get to a largely carbon-free California is by substantially electrifying the state's vast transportation system.  That's because cars and trucks and related transportation activities account for about 50 percent of California's greenhouse gas emissions. As a member of the CPUC for the past six years, it's been an honor to help shape this historic effort.

 No state has made a commitment approaching this level, and ramifications of this bold move go far beyond California. As with so many of the state's pioneering environmental and energy policies, if we're successful with this and other electrification efforts already underway, much of the nation will likely follow California's lead.

 My motivation throughout this proceeding has been simple and transparent. We want to have utilities invest in these programs and expect more proposals from them in the future.  But as we move to provide incentives to grow the market for electric vehicles, we can never lose sight of the fact that ratepayer money is precious.  We don't want to offer utilities incentives that aren't necessary; nor do we want to over-burden their customers.

Being a CPUC Commissioner requires weighing many different interests as we work to ensure all Californians have clean, safe, and reliable energy. Our transportation electrification programs, like everything we do, attempt to strike the right balance, treat everyone fairly, and keep California a global leader in the fight against climate change. We do that because we believe it's good for California and for our nation and world.

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