OLYMPIA, Wash. — Representatives of Seattle City Light and other public utilities spoke Thursday in favor of a bill by Rep Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, that would let public utilities seek private-sector help in installing electric-vehicle charging stations.
The current state law forbids the private sector and public utilities from tackling this as a joint effort. Right now, Tarleton’s bill is designed specifically for Seattle City Light, but it is expected to be expanded to cover all public utilities, including those in rural areas.
“I’d love to see electric vehicles expand to all areas in our state,” Tarleton said. The public utility districts from Snohomish, Benton and Franklin counties testified Thursday in support of Tarleton’s bill.
“Seattle is one of the fastest-growing markets for electric vehicles,” said Craig Smith, conservation resources director for Seattle City Light.
“It’s a great way to reduce carbon in our communities, said George Caan, executive director of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association.
Seattle City Light hopes to install at least 20 charging stations for electric vehicles this year and next year around the city. That would be the first stage of the public utility’s hopes to set up a yet-to-be-determined number of charging stations across Seattle.
Its efforts are linked to Mayor Ed Murray’s Clean Drive Seattle program, unveiled in March 2016. Clean Drive Seattle’s goals are to support the use of 15,000 electric vehicles in the area by 2025, reduce city-owned vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2025, and find other ways to cut transportation carbon emissions in Seattle.
Seattle City Light is still in the beginning stages of calculating the number of charging stations needed, and their locations, said Smith and Brendan O’Donnell, a energy planning analyst at Seattle City Light. A long-range timetable, a budget, plus private and public revenue sources, still have to be identified. Private-sector participation still has to be mapped out, they said.
Other unknowns include how much someone pay for electricity at a charging station and the effects on Seattle City Light ratepayers. Smith and O’Donnell said the utility will try to ensure savings to ratepayers will exceed the charging costs. The City of Seattle has allocated $2 million for installing the initial 20 charging stations. The cost per station is tentatively budgeted at $80,000 each, but that can easily change as details get nailed down, they said.
Also, the first 20 charging stations will be designed to do their work quickly, possibly in a half-hour instead of a few hours, Seattle City Light officials said.
“We need a very robust fast-charging infrastructure,” said Michael Mann, a lobbyist for EVgo Services, which is a New Jersey-based network of nationwide charging stations. EVgo has about 900 stations, he said. Fourteen are in Washington in King and Snohomish counties.
Tim Boyd, representing Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities, held off on support or opposition until his organization can get a better look at how public utilities plan to tackle charging stations. He also voiced concern about the impacts on ratepayers.