Maine enjoys consensus on the need to speed up deployment of charging infrastructure.
In this memo, a participant in our Financing and Deploying Clean Energy certificate program suggests guidelines.
The focus here trains on utilities, which hold some sway over how EV rollout rolls.
Maine’s 2021 climate action plan focuses on expanding the adoption and use of electric vehicles (EVs) by residents, businesses, and government agencies. A clean transportation roadmap is currently under development to identify policy actions, incentives, and strategies for expanding EV usage in line with the state’s 2050 climate goals. This memo offers five guiding principles that Central Maine Power (CMP), Maine’s largest retail electricity supplier, can consider for purposes of supporting and accelerating Maine’s EV goals.
BACKGROUND & OPPORTUNITY TO EXPAND EV ADOPTION
Climate change is impacting Maine now with warmer air and ocean temperatures, shorter winters, and the emergence of new pests and diseases. Governor Janet Mills has identified addressing climate change and advancing clean energy as top priorities for her Administration. The Maine Climate Council, a government-appointed assembly of scientists, industry leaders, and bipartisan officials, recently released its “Maine Won’t Wait” Climate Action Plan, which sets statutory targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 45% from current levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The action plan calls for decisive steps across multiple sectors, including dramatically expanding in-state EV sales and usage.
The focus on EVs is critical because Maine’s transportation sector is responsible for 54% of total greenhouse gas emissions. As the graph shows, transportation emissions significantly exceed those of any other sector. Furthermore, although emissions have declined in recent decades, transportation-related emissions have fallen more slowly. This means their share of emissions has increased, up from 44 percent in 1990.
To establish a vision and strategy for achieving the state’s EV goals, Governor Mills recently signed an executive order requiring the development of a Clean Transportation Roadmap to 2030. The Roadmap is currently at an early stage of development, with stakeholders working to build out required components. To quote the executive order, the Roadmap must address, “Topic Areas including, but not limited to: A. Electric Vehicle Market Review and Maine B. Charging Infrastructure Expansion C. Electricity, Grid, and Utility Impacts.”
How can these topics be addressed in a way that makes immediate sense for most Mainers? How will transportation reforms benefit not just rural hunters and urban artists, but also immigrants, farmers, and other communities? In finalizing Topic Area C, CMP and other stakeholders are expected to propose a range of options, priorities, and action steps. This will likely include approaches to establish funding, increase customer awareness, build out charging infrastructure, and much else.
A key challenge is to identify a set of options that makes sense locally, considering distinct economies, physical characteristics, culture, and economic sectors within CMP’s service territory. I offer the five guiding principles below to Roadmap authors as they weigh options, priorities, and action steps. I base them on lessons from EVs’ steady march across the United States, with an eye toward making CMP an effective partner.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR CMP
Guiding Principle 1: Begin Early
EV proponents from around the country are in broad agreement that electric utilities must act now to support vehicle electrification. In Maine, no other local partner has the potential to do as much to speed the EV adoption in the timeframe specified by Governor Mills. For example, CMP should proactively support pilot programs that help communities understand what swapping out gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks means for grid reliability and rates. While multiple uncertainties exist – related to infrastructure deployment, timing of adoption, and technology evolution – aggressive near-term actions by CMP can help secure Maine's position as a national leader in EV adoption.
Guiding Principle 2: Serve All Customers
CMP should advocate for EV-related programs and rate structures that benefit all customers, not just EV owners. To do this, utility officials can work with Maine policymakers in ratecases and other forums to determine the potential for the cost of EV investments to be offset by savings identified elsewhere on the system. CMP should similarly advance ideas for how to reach their customers who might otherwise not purchase an EV, such as farmers, rural residents, people in low-income areas, and customers in cities who have limited access to off-street parking.
Guiding Principle 3: Follow the GHGs
CMP’s EV programs should prioritize actions, strategies, and investments that rapidly and aggressively support decarbonization. For example, CMP can pursue strategies that encourage the use of EVs as assets for “flexible load” that serve a balancing function and assist in integrating higher levels of renewables into the electricity system. One way to achieve this outcome is via adopting time-of-use rates that encourage charging at night, when system demand is low, rather than during hot summer days and other times of peak usage when electricity costs are high. This action can lower the carbon impact of charging an EV while integrating renewables in an efficient manner that optimizes the use of existing utility infrastructure. A separate action that CMP can take to lower the GHG impact of EVs is to forcefully advocate for expedited permitting and interconnection of renewable projects, as well as a rapid buildout of the transmission and distribution infrastructure necessary for tapping into the state's solar and wind resources (both onshore and offshore).
Guiding Principle 4: Collaborate on Charging Infrastructure
CMP should collaborate closely with a broad range of stakeholders to ensure that new investments in charging infrastructure serve Mainers' needs. Key partners include state agencies, the ratepayer advocate, Efficiency Maine, local interest groups, charging companies, and automakers. This breadth of expertise is needed to represent the interests of all citizens, develop easy-to-use charging and payment standards, ensure proper infrastructure siting, and empower Maine consumers to make informed decisions. CMP should additionally support and help test a variety of charging and ownership models, avoiding a "one-size fits all" approach to addressing Maine's diverse needs. By working constructively with stakeholders, CMP can earn goodwill while making a meaningful contribution to Governor Mills's aggressive EV and climate change goals.
Guiding Principle 5: Focus on Customer Experience
A recent national survey of residential customer satisfaction for electric utilities ranked CMP dead last. At a time when new EV models are coming onto the market and gas prices are soaring, CMP’s new President Joe Purrington has a fresh opportunity to engage their customers and ask for input. CMP can go directly to customers and assess locally-appropriate options for charging locations, pricing and cost, time-to-charge, and charger/vehicle compatibility. CMP can similarly ask Mainers about the types of EV programs and resources that are likely to meet their needs. Farmers, lobstermen, urban entrepreneurs, and others use different vehicles at different times and in different ways. Putting Mainers’ culture and priorities first can help CMP optimize for local circumstances and ensure that EVs become more viable and competitive over time. Such efforts to understand and respond to customer attitudes and readiness levels should proceed in a timely manner, allowing customers to move quickly and take advantage of decreasing EV costs and expanding vehicle choice to advance the availability of EV infrastructure.
By following these five recommendations and building from successful experience from around the country, CMP can better serve its customers and enhance its reputation while addressing the paramount threat that climate change poses locally. I hope you will consider these ideas can help you adapt to the changing policy landscape ahead.