Connecticut must cut red tape to unleash the electric vehicle revolution

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The electric vehicle revolution is upon us. If there was any doubt, the forthcoming 200-mile range Chevy Bolt and 400,000 pre-orders for the Tesla Model 3 in the midst of record low gas prices shows that consumers around the country are embracing the technology.

In 2013, Connecticut joined seven other states’ aggressive commitments to put at least 3.3 million zero emissions vehicles by 2025 on the road, and now must take steps to ensure the state has a charging network capable of supporting the future.

Creating a robust and sustainable EV charging infrastructure in Connecticut requires engaging private businesses. The House of Representatives just passed File No. 745, previously known as HB 5510 on electric vehicles, which does not go far enough to support the state’s EV market. A handful of  key changes would provide private businesses with the tools they need to spur sustainable and scalable growth in Connecticut’s EV and EV charging markets.

Currently, one of the biggest impediments to private businesses installing charging stations on their own properties is that Connecticut’s existing laws could subject them to being regulated like a public utility if that site charges drivers a fee for the charging service.

Removing this burdensome regulation gives businesses the flexibility to incentivize the most efficient use of each EV charging station. Unfortunately, this legislation fails to fully clarify this legal issue by only exempting site hosts from being considered as three of the five statutorily defined types of public utilities. Exempting EV charging stations from being considered all five types of public utilities will eliminate any legal gray area.

In other states, removing this regulatory red tape has led to a surge in business investment in charging stations and experiments with new business and charging models.

For example, retailers and shopping malls can offer subsidized charging rates for a certain amount of time to incentivize shoppers with EVs to spend that time at their stores and then move their cars when they are done shopping. Employers can create graduated pricing for charging to encourage more efficient use of workplace charging stations.

Other parking lot operators may offer pricing that includes a combination of charging for the electricity used as the station as well as an hourly parking fee. This site host choice in establishing a price for the charging service will help businesses make the most of their investments, can lower the cost of owning an EV for Connecticut drivers and ensure access to and the maximum utilization of available charging infrastructure.

File No. 745 can be strengthened to further encourage – rather than hinder – charging station installations to help Connecticut meet its EV adoption goals. In addition to expanding the exemption for being regulated as a utility to all types of public utility, clarifications are needed on requirements for charging stations owners to disclose data from their privately-owned charging stations.

Importantly, a first-of-its-kind requirement in this legislation requiring charging station owners to pay a yearly fee for inspections must be studied before prematurely setting a price per port that disincentives public stations.

Connecticut has an opportunity to continue its leadership toward a clean transportation future.  Passing this important legislation with the changes mentioned above will create the right environment for EVs to take off.

Damon Conklin is a member of the Electric Vehicle Charging Association.

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