Gas station owners and charging companies oppose Xcel Energy’s electric vehicle charging plan

A coalition of retailers and charging station companies is opposing a proposal by Xcel Energy to install hundreds of public high-speed charging stations in its Minnesota territory.

Xcel Energy last month asked state regulators for approval to spend $170 million on a rapid expansion of charging infrastructure to help the state meet its goal of electrifying 20% ​​of vehicles light commercial vehicles by 2030.

The utility said “range anxiety” will remain a barrier to that goal until drivers have enough charging options – it predicts a need for 8,300 public fast-charging ports across the board. state by the end of the decade.

Fewer than 100 exist today.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen the market fill in key gaps for needed public charging,” the utility said in its Aug. 2 filing.

A representative for Xcel did not respond to an interview request.

“A good deal” ?

Gas station and convenience store owners, electric vehicle charging companies and conservative and free-market groups say Xcel Energy’s ability to use taxpayer dollars for the rollout would give it an unfair advantage over what nationwide is expected to be a market of nearly $50 billion per year by the end of the decade.

“It’s a great deal to be able to use taxpayers’ money to build the stations and then recoup it through their guaranteed return on investment,” said Ryan McKinnon, spokesperson for the Charge Ahead Partnership, which represents hundreds companies and industrial groups.

Monopoly utilities are typically guaranteed a level of profit when they build infrastructure—such as power plants or transmission lines—that state regulators determine is in the best interest of taxpayers. Xcel and other utilities across the country are looking to apply the same model to electric vehicle charging.

Under the proposal, Xcel would build, own and operate approximately 730 new public high-speed charging stations, each with two ports. This represents about 45% of the projected statewide requirements by 2026. An analysis would identify locations based on traffic and existing infrastructure. The utility said it would partner with web hosts and set prices to encourage off-peak billing. Chargers would be marked with Xcel Energy signage.

The utility said it would hire a vendor to maintain the equipment, which has been a challenge in other parts of the country – a recent study found that around a quarter of public charging points in the San Francisco bay area weren’t working. Xcel said it would sign a service level agreement that guarantees a minimum level of availability for its chargers and incentivizes keeping them running.

“Xcel is basically the 500-pound gorilla,” said Lance Klatt, executive director of the Minnesota Service Station and Convenience Store Association. Its members would like to see a different business model take hold, in which retailers own the charging stations, sometimes in partnership with charging companies. “We just believe in a more open market approach and competition.”

New revenues for station owners

The transition to electric vehicles represents both an existential threat and an opportunity for gas stations and convenience stores. Home charging will be the cheapest and most convenient option for many drivers, eliminating the need for numerous stops at gas stations. And many public chargers are installed in other environments such as parks, office buildings, shopping malls, and even on streetlights.

Gasoline, however, is a notoriously low-margin commodity for gas station owners — most make their money selling snacks, drinks, and other in-store purchases. Electric vehicle charging represents an opportunity to capture a larger share of this revenue. BP said this year that its fast-charging stations were poised to be more profitable than selling a tank of gas.

Lonnie McQuirter, Jr., had a fast charger installed at his south Minneapolis 36Lyn refueling station in 2014. He said he doesn’t think utilities have the expertise to create charging stations that meet consumer needs, because it is not part of their core. Company.

“I’m not sure that’s necessarily the best for today’s consumer,” McQuirter said, “but certainly if I’m a shareholder of Xcel – which I’m not – it would definitely suit me.”

Instead, the Charge Ahead partnership and other critics want Xcel to turn its charging station business into a separate, unregulated affiliate that wouldn’t have access to taxpayers’ money, which would “level the playing field.” rules of the game” with retailers and charging companies, McKinnon said. .

They are asking for a contested hearing before an administrative law judge before state regulators rule on the proposal.

This article first appeared on Energy News Network and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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