Oregon Votes To Accelerate Transportation Electrification

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Originally published on NRDC.
By Max Baumhefner

Oregon’s legislature has just adopted a bill to get the state off coal and onto renewables, and to use that renewable electricity to power the state’s cars, trucks, and buses. As my colleague, Noah Long, explains in a blog co-authored with Angus Duncan who chairs Oregon’s Global Warming Commission, this is a remarkable milestone.

Focusing here on the provisions of the bill designed to increase access to charging stations for electric vehicles, the bill instructs Oregon’s Public Utilities Commission to order electric utilities to propose programs and investments to “accelerate transportation electrification” by the end of this year.

This bipartisan vote builds upon the consensus in support of similar legislation in California and the recent approval of two widely supported proposals by San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison to deploy charging stations for electric vehicles in a manner that helps soak up solar and wind energy.

Joining the unique coalition of regional and national environmental groups, Oregon’s two largest electric utilities, and the state’s consumer advocate, the transportation electrification provisions of the legislation were also championed by DriveOregon, the state’s electric vehicle industry association.

The bipartisan vote in Oregon also represents the first tangible action in response to a recently adopted resolution of the NW Energy Coalition, an “alliance of about 100 environmental, civic, and human service organizations, progressive utilities, and businesses in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and British Columbia.”

Below is the full text of that short resolution, adopted by unanimous vote of the coalition’s membership in December, 2015:

WHEREAS greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of petroleum fuels for transportation make up a large share of Northwest states’ climate pollution; and
WHEREAS electric vehicles are more efficient at converting stored energy into drive power than vehicles powered by internal combustion engines; and
WHEREAS particularly on the Northwest’s electric grid, the well-to-wheels emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants from electrified transportation are lower than those from diesel- or gasoline-powered equivalents; and
WHEREAS the emissions advantage and public health benefits of electrified transportation will increase as fossil plants are retired and as the Northwest’s electric grid continues to integrate increasing amounts of renewable energy; and
WHEREAS electrification can apply to many transportation end-uses, including battery-powered light-duty (passenger) vehicles, industrial vehicles such as forklifts, shore power and propulsion systems for marine vessels, passenger buses, delivery vans, heavy rail, truck-stops, and cargo handling equipment, among others; and
WHEREAS reducing the number of vehicle-miles traveled and reducing the pollution attributable to each vehicle-mile traveled are complementary measures necessary to meet societal goals; and
WHEREAS especially in the Northwest, the price of electricity as a transportation fuel is significantly lower and more stable than gasoline or diesel, and therefore transportation electrification can reduce fuel costs and keep energy dollars in our local economies instead of sending them far away to pay for oil; and
WHEREAS widespread transportation electrification, by reducing air pollution in populated areas, offers a way to improve human health, particularly in low-income and disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately exposed to unhealthy air; and
WHEREAS low-income households most exposed to unhealthy air and most in need of fuel cost savings have not yet shared equally in the benefits associated with the use of electricity as a transportation fuel; and
WHEREAS the electrification of the transportation sector provides an opportunity to use the electric grid more efficiently and cost-effectively, to the benefit of all utility customers; and
WHEREAS over time, the inherent flexibility of electric transportation loads can facilitate the integration of increasing amounts of variable renewable energy sources onto the electric grid; and
WHEREAS since the days of the New Deal, the natural endowments of the Northwest have brought the benefits of electrification to its inhabitants, and now the customers of privately and publicly owned utilities likewise stand to benefit from the efficient electrification of the transportation sector;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the NW Energy Coalition:
Supports local, state and federal programs and policies that make electrified transportation a more attractive option for drivers of all income levels and that increase access to electricity as a transportation fuel across a diversity of neighborhood and workplace settings, including multi-family housing and areas where homes lack private off-street parking;
Encourages local governments to streamline permitting procedures for the installation of electric transportation infrastructure, both publicly accessible and private;
Encourages state and local governments to promote electric vehicle readiness in new and existing buildings, as practicable, through building codes and retrofits;
Supports providing clear legal authority for utilities and governments to participate in the electrification of transportation and its infrastructure in ways consistent with other provisions of this resolution;
Endorses investment by utilities and governments in programs and services that promote the electrification of the transportation sector and increase access to the use of electricity as a transportation fuel in ways that facilitate a healthy market for charging services and infrastructure, particularly in low-income and disadvantaged communities;
Believes that utility investments and programs related to electrified transportation should be structured to spread the benefits of electrification to all utility customers regardless of whether they are electric vehicle drivers;
Supports utility policies and programs that help minimize environmental impacts and generation, transmission, and distribution costs, while providing customers with the opportunity to maximize savings relative to gasoline and diesel;
Believes customers who charge electric vehicles in a manner that is consistent with the optimization of grid efficiency should realize fuel cost savings relative to gasoline or diesel and opposes the imposition of unfair rates, fees, or customer charges that could undermine those savings; and
Believes programs and investments in transportation electrification should be complementary and additional to programs and investments in energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy.

Reprinted with permission.

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11 thoughts on “Oregon Votes To Accelerate Transportation Electrification

  • A desirable place to live.

    • Not a fan of there highway design, too curvy for the speed in spots, unsafe in adverse conditions. An odd complaint I know but it’s one of the first things I think of about the state. Other than that though I agree, beautiful natural scenery as well.

      • Slow down and enjoy the scenery.

        • Or get a self-‘racing’ car..

  • I can’t really can’t tell what this law does, other than making s formal statement that the state “encourages” policies that promote EVs. But what is tangible out of this?

    • “..the bill instructs Oregon’s Public Utilities Commission to ORDER electric utilities to propose programs and investments to “accelerate transportation electrification” by the end of this year.”

      We used to have governments who told businesses what we need, not the other way around.

      • Thank you for that insight (since I didn’t have the time and patience myself to parse that out).

        Often these seeding programs and small things to affect the playing field have surprisingly effective leverage down the road. It will be good to watch this play out.

        Will this motivate Subaru to start selling electric?. :D. (A little humor for the natives….)

  • I read that in the voice of Saul Williams, accompanied with a pounding drum n bass beat. Not that catchy though.

  • Here in Oregon, we enjoy and back our liberal politicians. Our senators take on the biggest issues of the day boldly and responsibly. Many local towns are addressing their part in climate change, looking for ways to mitigate and adjust to it. As we electrify transportation (especially local), coupled to community solar and wind farms and distributed roof-top solar, we’ll increasingly be driving on clean, free, ongoing sunlight. Besides early and ongoing ethical motivations, we will begin to keep in town all that money that was leaving to pay for fuel. Similarly, we intend and plan to end all buying of coal-generated electricity by 2030.

    • Agree with all, but especially local wealth not being siphoned off to pay for fuel to run the local economy.

  • The major news outlets see the “Coal to Clean” bill primarily as a way to reduce GHG in the production of electricity which it will certainly do. But as Max points out it may well be that the sleeper in the bill the Oregon Legislature just passed is the provision on transportation electrification.

    About half of our annual GHG production in Oregon is related to transportation fuels, all of which is imported. About 40 percent of Portland Oregon residents live in multi-unit dwellings (MUDs), primarily condos and apartments and that percentage is increasing. Next year several 200 mile entirely electric cars will be coming on to the market.

    In my view, as the cost of EVs comes down and range of reasonably priced ones goes up, the greatest bottleneck to getting general adoption by the public is the difficulty of charging at home at night. The cost of retrofitting parking lots and structures for EV charging will be high as it requires the installation of much larger electric service, conduits, wiring and finally the EV chargers themselves. The “Coal to Clean” bill’s major contribution may well be the end of this bottleneck.

    The bill requires the big private utility companies to plan for installation of electrical service and EV charging in those MUD parking structures and allows them to charge the cost back to the rates everyone pays for electricity. That spreading of the cost means that apartment dwellers will be able to buy those new EVs and charge them at night while they sleep paying only for the electricity and not for the chargers themselves (except as part of the rates everyone pays).

    How much will rates go up? Perhaps not at all. In Oregon we have been working for decades on increased efficiency in the use of electricity through conservation. (The cheapest electricity is the electricity you don’t use.) As a result, the big power companies have facilities (including transmission lines, transformers, and generating facilities) they have to pay for while selling fewer kilowatt hours than they planned for and expected. Therefore, each kWh becomes more expensive to cover those fixed costs. Suddenly, there is a new demand for power, EVs. With the sale of more electricity from cleaner sources at night the cost per kWh declines even with the increased facility cost to pay for the new charging infrastructure! Electric bills for EV users go up because they are using more electricity. But with no more trips to the gas station they will save money overall. Everyone else pays about the same or less than they do now for electricity. EV drivers are happy; they are driving EVs. Other electric customers don’t notice because their bill changes very little or not at all. The private for-profit utility companies profits stay the same or even increase.

    Oh, and that GHG pollution from transportation fuels? It declines too. Less gasoline and diesel is sold, and the grid gets cleaner as the coal fired power plants go off line. If EVs are adopted as fast as some of us think, the most important result of this bill will be a sharp reduction of GHG resulting from transportation fuels which will leave cities with much cleaner and more healthful air. Who is left sad? Big oil. No one could not figure out a way to get big oil on board. Fortunately, we did not have to to pass the bill.

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