The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved San Diego Gas & Electric's (SDG&E) Electric Vehicle Grid-Integration pilot project, signaling the "green light" for the company to own and install thousands of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at businesses and multi-family communities, including in underserved neighborhoods, throughout San Diego and south Orange Counties. An important program benefit is that it should maximize the use of renewable energy to charge electric vehicles and minimize the need for new fossil-fuel power plants.
"Today's decision not only creates an exciting new opportunity for us to better serve our customers, it also delivers a real solution to achieving California's ambitious climate goals," said Jim Avery, chief development officer of SDG&E. "This pilot program will provide us with a unique opportunity to support the increased adoption of zero-emission vehicles to reduce smog and other pollutants created by the transportation sector in California."
In 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown set a bold vision of having 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road in California by 2025. For the San Diego region to meet a mere 10 percent of that target – 150,000 electric vehicles – EV growth and supporting infrastructure must increase at a much quicker pace. SDG&E is now poised and positioned to accelerate the EV race.
Today, the San Diego region has only 19,000 EVs and the barriers to clean transportation are particularly sobering. Fifty percent of SDG&E's customers live in multi-family communities. Without access to vehicle charging, there is virtually no way for these residents to ever become part of the solution to significantly reduce air pollution or to create real personal savings by eliminating gasoline bills. SDG&E's initiative will help address gaps like this in the market and ensure charging is accessible to all customers.
The company will install charging stations at up to 350 businesses and multi-family communities throughout the region, with 10 chargers at each location for a total of 3,500 separate chargers. SDG&E will install at least 10 percent of the chargers in disadvantaged communities. SDG&E's project will overcome many current obstacles to EV growth and reassure local EV drivers that they will have a place to charge their vehicles.
In addition to expanding access to EVs, the pilot features special rates that encourage EV drivers to charge their cars when electricity supply, including renewable energy, is plentiful and energy prices are low. With rates encouraging off-peak charging, vehicles will be efficiently integrated onto the grid, helping to avoid on-peak charging that drives the need to build more power plants and other electric infrastructure.
California has led the way to de-carbonizing electricity over the last several decades, helping to pave the way for the modernization of the transportation sector. With SDG&E's energy portfolio being made up of 33 percent renewable energy and no coal, drivers will be plugging into one of the cleanest electric grids in the country. Furthermore, with the pilot's special rate encouraging drivers to charge exactly at the times of day when solar power is at its height, customers will literally be driving on sunshine.
SDG&E has an extensive track record of promoting electric vehicles, both in the community and for its employees. Last year, the company launched the "Race to 500," an innovative clean transportation program that targets SDG&E becoming one of the first Southern California businesses to have 500 employees driving EVs as their primary form of transportation. To date, 200 employees have purchased or leased an EV, with the company offering incentives paid for by shareholders and easy access to workplace charging to encourage the shift. SDG&E has installed more than 158 electric charging stations at company facilities, which is the most of any location in San Diego. SDG&E also is adding 163 more plug-in EVs to its fleet as part of a five-year purchase plan.