Oregon PUC Approves PGE’s Transportation Electrification Program

On February 16, 2018, the Oregon Public Utility Commission (Oregon Commission) adopted an opposed settlement and allowed Portland General Electric Company (PGE) to undertake three pilot programs designed to accelerate transportation electrification, including increased PGE ownership of charging stations. The Oregon Commission, however, modified provisions in the stipulation addressing future meetings and processes related to developing specific learnings from PGE’s pilot programs to allow broader participation.  

The 2016 Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1547, which adopted a state goal to increase the use of electricity for transportation. The legislature found that transportation electrification was necessary to reduce petroleum use, achieve optimum levels of energy efficiency and carbon reduction, meet federal and state air quality standards, meet Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, and improve the public health and safety.

PGE filed an application proposing programs to accelerate transportation electrification, including a pilot with TriMet, an education and outreach program, a proposal to build six new utility-owned charging stations, and the ability for PGE to propose additional programs in the future. PGE and most of the parties to the proceeding entered into a settlement making minor modifications to PGE’s proposals.

The Electric Vehicle Charging Association (EVCA) and ChargePoint both opposed parts of the settlement. EVCA is a non-profit organization that brings together leaders throughout the value chain of the electric vehicle charging industry to advance the goal of a clean transportation system in which the market forces of innovation, competition, and consumer choice drive the expeditious and efficient adoption of EVs and deployment of EV charging infrastructure.

Both EVCA and ChargePoint opposed PGE’s Electric Avenue program to install and own six new charging stations in its service territory, each of which contain up to five chargers. EVCA and ChargePoint acknowledged that utilities play an important role in promoting transportation electrification, but contended that role should not include ownership of EV service equipment. They noted that transportation electrification is not an area of utility expertise. EVCA explained that PGE’s role should not just be to provide cheap, reliable power to EVs, but rather to “stimulate innovation and competition, provide customers with increased options in the use of charging equipment and in procuring services from suppliers of electricity, [and] attract private capital investments. . . .” Ultimately, ChargePoint and EVCA cautioned that the pilot would allow PGE to become the dominant provider of public charging stations in its service territory.

The Oregon Commission approved PGE’s program on the grounds that it was only a pilot and that the stipulation did not contemplate further expansion of PGE’s role in the public charging market. The Commission emphasized that its decision to adopt the Electric Avenue pilot is based on the state of the EV charging market as it exists today, and acknowledged the continuing need to monitor that marketplace to examine the proper role of utility participation. The Commission affirmed the need for PGE to continue to assess its role to determine whether its participation is necessary as presently structured, if another model or intervention strategy would be better for the market, or if PGE should exit the charging market. In addition, to ensure a structured and dedicated review of the status of the EV charging marketplace, the Commission also committed to revisiting a requirement that electric companies file for Commission review of a Transportation Electrification Plan that outlines the company’s long-term framework to accelerate transportation electrification.

EVCA also recommended that any acceptance of the stipulation be conditioned on PGE including (rather than excluding as the settlement dictated) non-settling party participation in future meetings and processes concerning PGE’s pilot programs. EVCA argued that such processes should be open to all parties to the docket—not just those who joined the stipulation.

The Commission concluded that, with regard to future meetings related PGE’s pilot programs, it shared EVCA’s belief that all processes should be open to all parties to the docket—not just signatories to the stipulation.

Sanger Law represented Electric Vehicle Charging Association, which is the electric vehicle charging industry’s collective voice that is advocating for clean mobility through innovation.



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