Utilities regulators envision increased adoption of electric vehicles

New Mexico utility regulators are bracing for increased use of electric vehicles in the state and, although they have approved transportation electrification plans for the three investor-owned utilities in New Mexico , they say there is still work to be done.

New Mexico Public Regulatory Commissioner Joseph Maestas spoke of the need for a rulemaking process for electric transportation and said the PRC must budget for the $ 38 million New Mexico will receive. for infrastructure recharging under the Federal Law on Investment in Infrastructure and Employment.

Maetas made the comments at the PRC meeting last week following the approval of two transportation electrification plans.

The Southwestern utility company, the New Mexico utility company and El Paso Electric have been required to submit transportation electrification plans to the PRC by early this year under the PRC Public Security Request Law which was passed by the state legislature in 2019. All three utilities filed these requests in 2020 and these plans are now enacted.

The SPS plan received the approval of the PRC in September and on November 10 the PRC issued final decrees adopting the transport electrification plans of PNM and EPE. It was the first time that the PRC adopted the transport electrification plans presented by the utilities. State law allows the PRC to require utilities to regularly file these plans to expand electric transport infrastructure.

“I think now is the time to focus on making the rules for this status because, I think, as we have discovered, it is very difficult to implement status-based programs alone.” , said Maestas.

He said his goal was to complete the rule-making process by the end of 2022.

He said the electrification of transportation is “part of a new frontier in our quest to decarbonize our economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because we all know that transportation is the second largest source of carbon emissions. greenhouse gases in New Mexico, just behind the oil and gas industry. “

Under the three plans, utilities will invest millions of dollars in electric vehicle infrastructure and education programs across their service territories, including rebates to help low-income customers adopt electric vehicles. PNM, the state’s largest utility, plans to invest $ 10 million in these efforts and SPS plans to invest nearly $ 3.2 million over three years. Meanwhile, EPE plans to invest $ 1.2 million.

The plans will help expand the charging infrastructure in single-family homes as well as multi-family housing complexes, workplaces and public spaces. In addition to making the adoption of electric vehicles more affordable with things like discounts available to low-income households, the plans also aim to reduce the distance between charging stations.

The PRC’s discussions also included incentives for customers to avoid overloading the grid by charging large numbers of vehicles during peak hours of electricity consumption, such as evenings and late afternoons. This can be done by charging higher rates for electricity during these peak hours, which ChargePoint, one of the charging companies, opposed in the PNM case. ChargePoint argued that hosts who install charging stations using infrastructure discounts should be allowed to set rates without being required to pass hour-of-use rates on to their customers. ChargePoint highlighted different types of tariffs used by hosts, including free billing, hourly billing, per session charges, and low cost billing. The final order gives site hosts the flexibility to implement business models and marketing strategies while giving customers time-varying price signals, said Michael Smith, general counsel for the PRC.

Commissioner Cynthia Hall expressed her support for this because “it requires the site host to send the right signal to its customers”.

The adoption of the transport electrification plans was greeted with praise by the advocacy groups that intervened in the cases before the PRC.

“Installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure so that average people can access it is critical to helping our state reduce [greenhouse gas] harmful emissions and pollutants, ”Cara Lynch, lawyer for the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and Prosperity Works, said in a press release. “These programs are a positive first step in helping low-income New Mexico families and customers access electric vehicle charging. Overall, this can result in significant energy savings for families.

Charging electric vehicles is often more affordable than filling up with gasoline, and electric vehicles require less maintenance than vehicles with internal combustion engines.

While the three transportation electrification plans encompass about a quarter of the state’s electricity service area, Maestas said this type of initiative should be expanded to further encompass the state. The PRC also regulates rural electricity cooperatives, many of which are actively engaged in increasing charging infrastructure. Some areas of the state are served by government-owned electric utilities, such as municipalities or counties. These public services do not fall under the jurisdiction of the PRC.

In terms of expanding the use of electric vehicles, Maestas said the state should establish discounts for electric vehicles for low to moderate income populations.

“I still think this is the biggest barrier to owning electric vehicles,” he said, explaining that he was referring to buying electric vehicles and not charging infrastructure.

Maestas said other state departments such as the New Mexico Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources should be involved in the planning efforts.

“They’re committed to really making the state of New Mexico friendly to electric vehicle owners and alleviating their range anxiety,” he said. “There are areas of the state that EV owners really can’t get to because of the limitations we currently have on infrastructure availability. “

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