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Wisconsin Wants To Open Up Electricity Sales For EV Charging, But Restrict Solar-Powered EV Chargers

There are two new Wisconsin bills with a focus on solar-powered electric vehicle chargers making their way through the Wisconsin state legislature. AB 588 and SB 573 both want to emphasize that selling electricity by the kilowatt-hour to electric vehicles doesn’t subject EV charging station owners to utility regulation. Currently, EV charging is sold by the minute instead of by the kilowatt-hour. The bill, however, has been amended with several provisions that are of concern, SolarPowerWorldOnline has noted.

The key requirement is that all electricity that is sold through an EV charger needs to come from the local utility. This prohibits EV chargers that get their electricity from rooftop solar or solar-plus-storage systems from being available to the public if they charge a fee.

For example, if Tesla Superchargers were to use solar and a Megapack to generate electricity for the charging stations, Tesla wouldn’t be able to sell its Supercharging services to its customers on a kWh basis.

The bill further emphasized that no city, town, county, village, school district, or state agency is allowed to own, operate, manage, or lease a publicly available charging facility. Municipalities are, however, allowed to authorize a utility or private entity to do so on their own property.

On February 2nd, the Senate Committee on Utilities, Technology, and Telecommunications held a public hearing on SB 537, and the Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities scheduled an executive session to vote on AB 588 on February 3rd. For now, we don’t know the results of that vote. However, RENEW Wisconsin submitted testimony on the bill. The group supports the first goal of the bill — allowing non-utility entities to sell electricity to EVs without violating the state utility laws.

Non-utility-owned EV charging stations are currently charging by the minute and not by the amount of energy delivered. This results in the owners of slower-charging vehicles paying more for energy than the owners of faster-charging vehicles. RENEW noted that the bill would solve one problem but would then create a new problem, which is significantly limiting the uses of solar-plus-storage EV charging equipment in Wisconsin.

In the testimony, RENEW noted that this was an important emerging technology that could make EV charging stations practical and affordable in areas of the state where the local utility infrastructure is inadequate. In some cases, the utility finds the cost of upgrading too high and prefers to keep the energy cost down. The testimony listed the benefits of solar-plus-storage EV charging stations as follows:

• Facilitates EV chargers in rural areas. Allows the placement of EV chargers in locations that have inadequate power infrastructure. Rural areas like State parks, tourist areas, and small towns with lower capacity grid infrastructure could host EV chargers that otherwise would not exist.

• Reduces infrastructure cost. If there is insufficient energy capacity at any location, a solar+storage system can sometimes be less costly than upgrading the power lines and infrastructure.

• Limits demand charge spikes. Some businesses that would like to host EV chargers are at risk of large spikes in energy demand over short periods of time which could create much higher peak demand charges on their utility bill. Solar+storage can reduce this problem, while also reducing the need for costly peak demand generators on the grid, saving all ratepayers money. EnTech installed just such a system at Bergstrom Ford in Neenah after John Bergstrom discovered after plugging in some of his new EV’s that “Their electric bill was almost 3 times what a normal bill would be.”

• Increases resilience and safety. When the power grid goes down for any reason, solar+storage EV chargers can be a critical emergency resource, not only for the emergency vehicles and first responders who switch to electric vehicles but for the general public as well.

You can read the full testimony here.

In December, Joseph Daniel contributed a guest post for CleanTechnica titled “The Magic Math Of Solar Plus Storage.” In that post, he dives into the benefits of solar plus storage from the perspective of a mathematical standpoint. It’s a good read.

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