New program to address EV charging station costs

The New York State Department of Public Service is putting its support behind electric vehicles.

A new report from the department recommends the establishment of a statewide utility-support “Make-Ready” program that would provide incentives to light-duty electric vehicle supply equipment and infrastructure for both Level 2 and Direct Current Fast Charger (DCFC) stations statewide.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on board.

“Accelerating electric vehicle ownership is a key component of New York’s nation-leading plan to fight climate change and grow our clean energy economy,” Cuomo said in a statement. “The Make-Ready initiative will direct the state’s utilities to build the grid infrastructure needed to enable the installation of publicly accessible chargers, encouraging more New Yorkers to choose electric vehicles while creating jobs and ensuring our energy dollars stay in-state.”

The Make-Ready program would improve electric vehicle charging station economics by covering up to 90 percent of the costs to “make ready” a site for EV charging. The costs associated with building EV charging stations present barriers for developers.

Cuomo noted that more than 20,000 rebates have been approved for New Yorkers to buy electric cars under the Drive Clean Rebate initiative, which provides residents with a rebate of up to $2,000 to purchase an EV from participating dealers. In the Finger Lakes Region, nearly 2,100 applications have been received since the rebate initiative began. One-third of all applications statewide were in Long Island.

But while scores of New York drivers embrace the EV driving experience, nationwide last year some 325,000 plug-in passenger vehicles were sold, down nearly 7 percent from 2018, Edmunds reports. That represents just 2 percent of the total number of new vehicles sold nationwide last year.

Experts say the biggest reasons for the lack of enthusiasm toward EVs are cost and range anxiety. Some of that anxiety could be relieved with the state’s new Make-Ready program.

The Department of Public Service report suggests a number of actions to leverage the utilities’ expertise and unique position to promote zero-emission vehicle adoption. The Public Service Commission already has approved initiatives including residential time-of-use rates for charging and annual per-plug incentives to buy down the cost of installing publicly accessible direct current fast charger stations.

The Make-Ready program would run through 2025 to coincide with New York’s goal of deploying 850,000 zero-emission vehicles by the end of that year. The report proposes that utilities be required to incorporate EV charging scenarios into their annual capital planning processes to encourage “thoughtful siting” of charging infrastructure.

The charging infrastructure is estimated to provide New Yorkers with more than $2.6 billion in net benefits, according to the report. Fast-charger stations developed in the first year of the program are expected to have positive financial returns for all regions and site configurations, except for the larger 150 kW stations in Upstate New York. The report recommends that each region in upstate be eligible for additional incentives to make four or more fast-charging locations available in every region.

“The energy system of the future and the transportation system of the future need electric vehicles,” said Department of Public Service CEO John Rhodes. “This report proposes smart, forward-looking utility investments that are good for both electric customers and for car owners, and that accelerate Gov. Cuomo’s clean energy and clean transportation strategy.”

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