Electric vehicle pilot program proposed in Maine

Monday, July 23, 2012

A pilot program proposed by a Maine utility could lead to more electric vehicles on the road.  Central Maine Power Co. has asked the Maine Public Utilities Commission to approve its Electric Vehicle Pilot Project No. 2, which includes a limited number of grants to help customers purchase or lease an electric vehicle. 

As described in CMP's June 21 filing with the Commission, the electric vehicle pilot project consists of grant funding, CMP promotion of electric vehicles, and the collection of data on vehicle usage.  CMP envisions issuing cash grants of up to $15,000 each to ten selected organizations located in CMP’s service territory.  These organizations, selected through a public solicitation process, could use these grants to help them purchase or lease ten electric vehicles.  Each organization can also apply a portion of the grant toward the purchase and installation of a Level 2 (208V or 240V) rapid charging station, if it so chooses.

The project arises out of a requirement approved by the Commission as part of the settlement of a 2008 case over CMP's Maine Power Reliability Program, or MPRP.  As part of a deal allowing CMP to invest $1.4 billion in transmission infrastructure in its territory, the Commission required CMP to develop a process for pilot projects to facilitate the increased use of hybrid and electric cars in Maine, and to promote the storage of renewable and other energy generated off-peak to replace fuels with greater climate impacts.  Using off-peak electricity to power transportation could both save money for consumers and allow the utility to make more full use of its transmission and distribution grid.

Specifically, the stipulation required CMP to bring forward at least three pilot projects to facilitate the increased use of hybrid and electric cars by the end of 2012.  CMP's first pilot project entails integrating a limited number of electric vehicles into CMP's fleet.  This project, which is currently being implemented, is designed to give the utility first-hand experience with EVs, in a manner that minimizes costs and risks.

If approved, CMP's second project would introduce ten vehicles into the broader community.  The utility has said that its objective is to build awareness and lessen consumers' concerns by getting more of the new EV models into the public's hands.  Its ultimate stated goal is to create interest and "buzz" about EVs, particularly among innovative early adopters who would be most likely to purchase an EV.

A third phase is still under development, but CMP has said it will propose reducing barriers to EV use through education, participate in the development of public charging infrastructure, and assess a lower off-peak rate for EV charging.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission is reviewing CMP's proposal and is expected to issue its decision later this year.

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