Ownership of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure
Who should own it?
The surge in electric vehicle (EV) adoption anticipated in the coming decade has sparked a debate over who should take the lead in building the necessary charging infrastructure. On one side, various private business interests argue that retailers, with their experience in selling products and prime locations, are best suited to make the switch to electric chargers. They express concerns about the potential monopolistic control utilities may exert over charging infrastructure. Conversely, some proponents of utility-owned charging emphasize the need for an “all-of-the-above approach,” acknowledging the challenges associated with building a reliable and comprehensive charging network.
Those in favor of supporting private businesses say they are already well-positioned strategically due to their existing operations and customer bases, are more adept at meeting consumer needs. They also cite recent legislation in states like Oklahoma, Georgia, and Texas that limits utility ownership of charging stations. This perspective emphasizes the importance of fostering competition and preventing undue concentration of power.
However, those in favor of utility-owned charging infrastructure contend that utilities possess the expertise and resources to drive widespread EV adoption. They argue that utilities can make targeted and strategic investments that benefit the broader community while leveraging their experience in deploying and maintaining reliable infrastructure. Furthermore, utilities can play a vital role in addressing specific challenges, such as providing charging infrastructure in low-income areas or where no private host is available.
Beyond the question of ownership, another difficult issue revolves around determining fair electricity rates for private businesses installing chargers. Charging infrastructure requires high power capacity for fast charging, yet energy consumption per charge is relatively low. This creates a mismatch between traditional demand charge structures and the specific needs of charging stations.
As the EV industry matures, the debate over charging infrastructure ownership as a natural part of its evolution. The coming surge in EV adoption demands a focused, comprehensive approach, embracing the strengths and expertise of various stakeholders. Collaboration and innovative solutions will be key to building a reliable and extensive charging network that meets the diverse needs of consumers, facilitates market competition, and supports the transition to a cleaner and more sustainable transportation future.