The Role(s) for Utilities in Public Charging Infrastructure

(Rick Sander, CEO, Tuesday June 8, 2021)

Last Friday I attended a White House Zoom call on “Expanding Federal EV Infrastructure”. The meeting was hosted by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and attendees included personnel from a variety of government agencies (including DoE, DoT, and DoD), leading charging network operators, and leading utility companies and their lobbying arm, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). As the federal government moves forward with vehicle electrification, charging infrastructure becomes an important question (one person in the conference said that they might need 350,000 chargers!). How investor-owned utilities (IOUs, also known as “regulated electric companies”) can help expand the availability of public charging infrastructure for federal EV fleets (and the rest of us, for that matter) is one part of this critical question. The other critical question is to what extent “Buy America” will figure into these procurements, with more than a few people in the conference stating that EV charging infrastructure will become a national security issue as EVs become more widespread.

Today, the typical way for utilities to help promote electrification (which they stand to significantly profit from) is either state-administered grants funded by the IOUs to purchase and install charging stations at workplaces, public spaces, multi-family housing, and for EV fleets. An additional role that the IOUs fill in this equation is providing electrical access to these charging stations (regardless of who operates them), including “blessing” the equipment that is connected to the grid. New proposals for the expansion of these mechanisms include modifying current contracts to provide “charging-as-a-service”, leveraging/expanding DoD Utility Privatization Contracts to cover EV charging, and expanding existing DoE Utility Energy Services Contracts to include EV charging. Southern California Edison (SCE) spoke about their “Charge Ready” program, which simplifies the deployment EV charging infrastructure. And of course, maximizing the “Made in America” content of charging systems was a large part of the conversation, as it has been for EVs purchased by government agencies with federal dollars.

And if you are looking for made in the USA high-power DC fast charging systems for those EVs, look to Rhombus Energy Solutions. Our market-leading bi-directional EV charging systems (which are designed from the start for the needs of fleet operators) are designed and built in the USA. Rhombus also excels in the design of high-power smart inverters for next-generation renewable energy and energy storage deployments. Our expertise in energy management system (EMS) software is also embedded in our VectorStat EMS controller and software which is embedded in our EV charging systems and smart inverters. We have built over a thousand V2G-capable high-power, high-reliability chargers and bi-directional smart inverters for a variety of different sizes and classes of EVs. Find out how we can help you by contacting us at news@rhombusenergy.com, or by reading our Vehicle to Grid Solution Brief.