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Eversource pauses EV charging rebates, citing 'unpredictable' CT regulatory environment

Stock image of a woman plugging in her car to charge at home.
Witthaya Prasongsin
/
Getty Images
Stock image of a woman plugging in her car to charge at home.

A day after Connecticut regulators approved bill increases likely to drive up costs for customers of electric utility Eversource, the company announced it will soon pull the plug on a rebate program aimed at incentivizing the adoption of electric vehicle chargers.

The decision means customers looking to get a rebate from Eversource for the purchase or installation of an EV charger will instead be put on a waitlist starting May 23, 2024.

In a statement Thursday, the company said it was pausing the rebates due to “unreasonable, arbitrary decisions” from the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, which sets rates for the utility.

Eversource had been offering rebates of up to $1,000 to help residential customers cover the cost of buying and wiring EV charging hardware.

Those rebates can drive down electricity costs for consumers, allowing people to charge an EV overnight when demand is typically less, said Barry Kresch, president of the Electric Vehicle Club of Connecticut.

“It's more convenient if you can charge at home, and you'll pay less for electricity than you otherwise would if you were reliant on public chargers,” Kresch said.

Eversource powers down rebates as some bill charges go up

The decision to pull the plug on rebates came one day after PURA approved a slate of bill increases for both Eversource and electric utility United Illuminated.

Those cost adjustments are expected to drive up some bill costs for consumers across the state.

But Eversource officials said recent rulings from the three-member PURA panel, which have more aggressively policed the utility in recent years, are causing the company to reconsider its investment of over $50 million to expand access to electric vehicle charging programs.

In addition to the $1,000 rebate for residential customers, the program also offers rebates of up to $40,000 for level 2 chargers and up to $250,000 for DC fast chargers.

Those up-front rebate investments are putting the grid in jeopardy, Eversource officials said.

“Continued participation in these programs could place critically needed capital resources at risk and hinder our ability to support electric operations that our customers rely on every day,” Doug Horton, a vice president at Eversource, said in a statement.

Horton said PURA’s “record of unreasonable, arbitrary decisions to deny reimbursements for costs incurred in good faith on behalf of customers is creating uncertainty and risk for new investments.”

But in a statement Friday, a PURA spokesperson said Eversource’s reimbursements were delayed because the utility voluntarily delayed filing an application to properly request compensation.

“Eversource has not yet received cost recovery (because it has not asked for it through a rate amendment application),” Taren O'Connor, a spokesperson for the agency, wrote Friday. “Instead, Eversource … now seeks to modify this long-standing EV cost recovery mechanism to secure cost recovery through an alternative method.”

The utility’s decision to suspend compliance with the rebate program “constitutes a potential violation of the company’s obligations,” O’Connor said.

Sparks fly as lawmakers react

As predictable as current in a circuit, the reaction from lawmakers was swift.

"How does a company with an underlying profit of more than $1.5 billion plead unfair treatment the day after Connecticut's regulators gave them everything they requested?” State Sen. Norm Needleman, a Democrat, said in a statement.

He described Eversource’s actions as “threatening, vindictive and irresponsible.” He also said it’s disrespectful to ratepayers who are facing bill increases.

Republican leadership used the opportunity to question state energy policies and call for an expansion of the three-member PURA panel to five members.

“It's past time for the Democrats and the Governor to get serious about charting a sensible and sustainable path forward on energy issues,” House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora and Senate Republican Leader Stephen Harding said in a statement.

The office of Gov. Ned Lamont did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Eversource’s decision to pause the charging program.

Gregory B. Butler, who is an executive with Eversource Energy, is a member of Connecticut Public's Board of Trustees.

Patrick Skahill is a reporter and digital editor at Connecticut Public. Prior to becoming a reporter, he was the founding producer of Connecticut Public Radio's The Colin McEnroe Show, which began in 2009. Patrick's reporting has appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, Here & Now, and All Things Considered. He has also reported for the Marketplace Morning Report. He can be reached at pskahill@ctpublic.org.
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