SEPA Report Helps Utilities Develop Strategies For EV Infrastructure

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SEPA, also known as the Smart Electric Power Alliance, recently put together a report to help utility companies develop and implement strategies for EV infrastructure deployment. The report noted that there are an estimated 2 million public EV charging ports needed in the US by 2030.

This report is the second in a two-part series from SEPA. The first report was published in 2019 and it introduced the idea of preparing for an EV future for utility companies. It called for utilities to start planning for a variety of EV infrastructure deployment scenarios, addressing internal and external program challenges. The second report expands on how to organize effective utility teams and plan for EV adoption.

Erika Myers, Principal of Transportation Electrification at SEPA, stated, “Utilities often focus on infrastructure deployment because it is commonly cited as one of the largest barriers to EV deployment. With billions of dollars of charging infrastructure being installed in the United States, it is critical that the utility industry share best practices to quickly and efficiently build the necessary charging network.”

The SEPA report is a blend of results from industry surveys, six utility case studies, and stakeholder insights. It offers recommendations and deployment ideas to improve utility EV programs, link third-party EV infrastructure all while putting the focus on the customers’ experience. Some key points from the report include:

  • Utilities need to start planning EV infrastructure now.
  • Utilities need to put together a strong, cross-functional dedicated EV team to lead the company through program launch and implementation. This team needs to have a broad scope, access to funding, and authority to make decisions.
  • Make sure your customers have the best experience at each level–this needs to be the top priority.
  • Look at EV programs and process improvements that could benefit lower-income and underserved customers while supporting transportation and health equity.
  • Make sure that infrastructure id deployed–through utility programs or with the ability to participate in utility load management programs.
Image courtesy Volta

The report also reflected that EV charging is projected to increase U.S. electricity consumption by 11% by 2040 — more if the market grows more than forecasters expect, of course, which is the point of view of many CleanTechnica readers and writers.

“There is no ignoring the importance of EV infrastructure to electric utilities,” the report stated. In April 2020, there were almost $3 billion in transportation electrification investments that have either been approved or are pending approval by state utility commissions nationwide.

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A Quick Look at Parts of the SEPA Report

Why Utilities Need A Transportation Electrification Team

The report emphasizes that the most successful utility EV programs are those that have worked cross-functionally to leverage the skills of internal alignment and leadership as a program is built, launched, and implemented. Some things that this team could do include:

  • Guiding and facilitating the internal and external roll out of EV programs and activities.
  • Help with developing programs and activities undertaken by the utility via an EV strategic plan.
  • Emphasize the importance of the utility’s transportation electrification efforts to employees on a regular basis.
  • Secure regulatory approval for new EV program designs and funding.
  • Lead outreach efforts to community-based organizations working with leaders representing low-income and underserved communities.
  • Ensure that governmental and other key stakeholders understand the benefits to residents and businesses.
  • Coordinate outreach initiatives to local media as well as social media marketing and blog posting.

Best Practices For Utility-Led Charging Infrastructure Programs

The report gives some ideas that can help utilities to proactively support the deployment of EV charging infrastructure. These include funding, owning, designing, and installing all electrical and civil infrastructure on both sides of the meter for EV charging.

Setting up infrastructure rebates — in which a utility funds all or part of the make-ready infrastructure with a rebate but the project is managed and owned by a customer. EVSE rebates are an idea as well, in which the utility provides a rebate for chargers consumers buy without the utility owning any of the infrastructures. Full utility ownership is where the utility funds, deploys, owns, operates, and maintains the make-ready infrastructure and chargers. The last idea is for the utility to fully electrify their own fleet whether it’s setting up workplace charging for office employees or switching to all-EV fleets.

To support and manage these ideas and best practices, the report gives a quick outline:

  1. Planning the site prioritization: approval requirements, vendor qualifications, employee training.
  2. Customer Engagement: marketing and outreach as well as transparency regarding sales.
  3. Evaluation: assessment and approval of applications.
  4. Design and Construction — making sure all the permits are in order, setting up the install of charging infrastructure on the customer’s side of the meter.
  5. Customer Follow-Up — ensuring positive customer experience.
Photo by Zach Shahan, CleanTechnica

Final notes from the report include developing a holistic EV strategic plan that understand EV market conditions, identifies the utility’s role in the market, and includes some of the recommended must-do activities. There are other should- or could-do activities as well and you can read them here.

Setting up a transportation electrification team that works cross-functionally is something that is emphasized throughout the report as well as incorporating best practices for utility-led EV charging infrastructure projects.

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Johnna Crider

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

Johnna Crider has 1996 posts and counting. See all posts by Johnna Crider