The Future Is Calling. Will Pennsylvania Answer?

April 11, 2018By: Alissa Burger
PEC Blog

The EV revolution is going to hit the car market even harder and faster than BNEF predicted a year ago. EVs are on track to accelerate to 54% of new car sales by 2040. Tumbling battery prices mean that EVs will have lower lifetime costs, and will be cheaper to buy, than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in most countries by 2025-29.

– Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Electric Vehicle Outlook 2017

The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is upon us and, as with any impending transformation, it’s best to be ready when called. Pennsylvania is on the cusp of readiness as the House of Representatives looks to consider HB 1446, The PA Clean Transportation Infrastructure Act.
 

Alissa Burger, Senior Policy Advisor, Energy and Climate

Alissa Burger, Senior Policy Advisor, Energy and Climate

The bill aims to accomplish three things:

  1. Setting a goal for expanding transportation electrification by at least 50% more than 2030 market projections;
  2. Assigning responsibility to the state’s electric investor-owned utilities and charging service providers with creating and implementing plans (i.e. regional roadmaps) that will showcase how they plan to build out charging infrastructure – with a particular focus on low-income communities and multifamily dwellings; and
  3. Allowing utilities to recover costs through customer distribution rates.

 

In addition to HB 1446, the Department of Environmental Protection is leading a complementary effort with the Drive Electric Pennsylvania Coalition. The Coalition looks to “promote electric vehicle adoption are increasing nationally… as more states and cities see the value of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and the potential for new economic opportunities.” The Coalition includes state and municipal government officials, Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Coalitions, EV businesses and consultants, transportation organizations, electric utilities, environmental groups, auto companies, and other interested stakeholders. DEP recently convened the Coalition in Harrisburg, where presentations covered Roadmap updates, scenario modeling, and strategies for aligning electric vehicle efforts with statewide and national trends.

While Pennsylvania lacks a legally binding target for electric vehicles, HB 1446 stakes out a clear commitment to transportation electrification via the deployment of strategically resourced charging infrastructure plans. To provide a snapshot of where Pennsylvania currently ranks, the state has at most a few thousand electric vehicles and 300 charging stations – with Maryland (a smaller state) coming in at 500 stations and New York with 600. California dwarfs everyone with its electric vehicle goals, investments, and rebate program (though states like Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut are not so far behind).

HB 1446 puts electric utilities and charging services providers in the driver’s seat (so to speak), and this is a good thing. With these entities designing and implementing their EV roadmaps, following PUC approval, it means there can be alignment and foresight in electric vehicle infrastructure planning. Ohio, having recently wrapped up a PowerForward initiative convening, saw just how popular a topic electric vehicles are becoming across utility members – “the age of electric transportation is dawning”, writes David Kolata, who goes on to underscore two main takeaways: 1) Electric Vehicle infrastructure must be built in a way that optimizes charging patterns; and 2) Systems should be interoperable and built on open standards.

Put simply, Pennsylvania risks being left behind economically and technologically if we fail to take these steps. But there is a larger risk to consider. Transportation is the largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S., accounting for around 14% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. That means electrifying vehicle fleets could be a major step toward decarbonization — but only if we create the infrastructure to support it.

HB 1446 is a huge opportunity for Pennsylvania and it signals we’re ready to join the revolution in full. Elon, take note.

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