California Energy Markets
Community choice aggregators in California are well poised to promote widespread electric-vehicle infrastructure adoption, especially to support post-pandemic economic recovery, according to a May 29 webinar hosted by the California Community Choice Association.
Panelists discussed how communities can support the installation of EV charging stations by applying to the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project, the California Energy Commission’s incentive program for expanding the state’s charging network. Approximately $50 million in funding is available for 2021 under the CALeVIP program. The CEC will select its next group of grantees sometime in June or July, pending approval of the state budget.
While California has made great strides in reducing carbon emissions from the electricity sector, emissions due to transportation remain high. “Transportation has been the hardest nut to crack,” Kielan Rathjen, special advisor to the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, said during the webinar. Permitting and related costs are higher in California compared with other states, and local permitting offices take far longer to respond to applications; Electrify America said in its third-quarter 2019 report to the California Air Resources Board that the average permitting time in the state exceeds the national average by 70 percent. Rocky Mountain Institute found in a January report that installation costs in the U.S. are three to five times the cost of the charger, and that the greatest opportunity for cost reduction is in “soft costs” such as permitting time.
To address the bottlenecks, California legislators in 2015 passed Assembly Bill 1236 to streamline the permitting process. The CALeVIP program weighs AB 1236 compliance in determining future projects. “You are most competitive to receive CEC funding if you streamline,” Rathjen said.
East Bay Community Energy has committed $14.5 million in funding to match CALeVIP’s grant, which requires a 1-1 match, Jessie Denver, EBCE’s transportation electrification manager, said of the CCA’s effort to bring the CALeVIP program to Alameda County. CCAs are well equipped to implement the streamlining processes outlined in AB 1236, she said.
“Because CCAs like EBCE are not-for-profit public agencies, we are a joint-power authority of Alameda County, and the JPA is made up of each of our government partners . . . we’re well suited because we have that direct line of communication,” Denver said.