Aug. 19—Growing the state's electric vehicle infrastructure will require more than installing additional charging stations.
In some areas, the grid itself will have to be updated to add service.
Earlier this week, Eversource had its $2.1 million "EV make-ready infrastructure program" approved by the Public Utilities Commission. The investment supports the state's effort to create a fast charging corridor.
"You can't just buy (a fast charger) and plug it into the wall," said state consumer advocate Donald Kreis. "It takes a significant amount of investment."
Eversource is the largest electric utility in the state.
The PUC also approved special rates for commercial customers who provide chargers for public use known as demand charge alternative — a rate that evens out pricing during peak hours. Both are seen as necessary in further development of charging stations.
The make-ready program will lower the costs for those seeking to install EV charging equipment, according to Eversource's plan. The improvements will be made to sites in Eversource's service territory as chosen through part of a 2017 settlement with Volkswagen, in which the state got $31 million after the automaker was caught cheating on federal emissions tests with its diesel vehicles. The state set aside $4.6 million of the settlement for EV charging infrastructure.
Eversource will provide new service connections such as wiring, conduit and sub-panel breakers, while third-party contractors will install the meters themselves. PUC approval was needed to charge ratepayers to recover some of the capital costs.
Chris Skoglund, director of energy transition at Clean Energy NH, said multiple agencies have worked since 2019 to negotiate terms of the program.
"We realize this is a modest, but critical step," he said. "More investment will be needed, but this will prime the pump."
He said Eversource's plan is only a supplement to the Volkswagen settlement.
Eventually developers will be on the hook to pay for their own "made-ready" infrastructure, but right now the chargers don't bring in enough to justify the cost, Skoglund said. EV chargers will eventually operate like gas stations.
"We are in the middle of a transition," Skoglund said.
In the next decade, New England is expected to see a 3,000% increase in electric vehicles. New Hampshire likely will see a 1,000% increase.
The demand charge alternative was approved after it was determined the chargers "will likely collect sufficient revenue to avoid unjust cost shifting among customer classes," according to the agreement. Eversource must submit an analysis in three years.
In May, the commission rejected a made-ready plan by Unitil, which has a smaller territory, for more than $2 million. The commission said Eversource's plan had a more clear cap on expenses.
The increase in electric vehicle infrastructure will help reduce "range anxiety" for those looking into buying an EV, Kreis said. He noted how the cost of EVs is going down while tax incentives for those who buy them are increasing.
Both Kreis and Skoglund said New Hampshire is a "charging desert" for EVs, which could impact travel and tourism.
"You want them to be able to charge and not drive elsewhere or pass right through," Kreis said. "We want travelers to stop and spend money here."
Skoglund said most EV owners plan their trips based on chargers.
"If they look at New Hampshire (as an) EV desert they might look to other states and bring their dollars there," he said. "We have to make sure people can move."