California considers transportation electrification

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

California utility regulators are considering proposals by electric utilities to electrify the transportation sector.  If the three largest electrical corporations' proposals are approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, it could represent an investment of about $1 billion in transportation electrification in California over about 5 years.

The transportation sector is a major consumer of energy and emitter of carbon dioxide.  In California, the transportation sector accounts for 37 percent of statewide greenhouse gas emissions.  Electrifying transportation -- converting vehicles and trips from direct consumption of fossil fuels to EVs or electric vehicles -- can reduce emissions, particularly where the electricity supply is sourced from renewable or low-carbon resources.

To address energy and climate matters, in 2015 the California legislature enacted Senate Bill 350, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act.  SB 350 codified Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.'s clean energy and climate change goals, establishing a statewide 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target of 40 percent below 1990 level.  SB 350 calls for pursuing those goals through a variety of measures, including the promotion of "widespread transportation electrification," defined as "the use of electricity from external sources of electrical power, including the electrical grid, for all or part of vehicles, vessels, trains, boats, or other equipment that are mobile sources of air pollution and greenhouse gases and the related programs and charging and propulsion infrastructure investments to enable and encourage this use of electricity." 

The legislation requires the California Public Utilities Commission to direct electrical corporations to file applications for programs and investments to accelerate widespread transportation electrification.  That process is now underway.  On September 14, 2016, the Commission issued an order directing the state's three major investor-owned utilities to prepare and file applications describing their proposed transportation electrification projects and programs.

On January 20, 2017, the three utilities -- Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), SouthernCalifornia Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) -- filed their applications.  As summarized by the Commission, PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E submitted proposals to invest $1 billion in transportation electrification over an approximate five year period.  Onroad medium and heavy-duty charging infrastructure proposed by SCE accounts for roughly half of this total; residential charging infrastructure proposed by SDG&E and "FleetReady Make Ready Infrastructure" proposed by PG&E round out the largest-ticket items.  Other projects include electrification of cranes and forklifts at ports, terminal yards, and airports.

The cases remain pending before the Commission, with evidentiary hearings held earlier this month.  Other cases before the Commission address proposals by three smaller utilities.

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