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More electric vehicles are coming. But NH lawmakers are split on charging infrastructure study bill.

EV vehicle charging sign
Dan Tuohy / NHPR
More than 2 million more EVs are estimated to be on the road in New England over the next decade.

The number of electric vehicles on New England roads is growing. But people driving EVs don’t have many charging options in New Hampshire.

A bill introduced in the state Senate would create a committee to study how the state could help fund the development of more charging infrastructure. But legislators are split on the issue.

Though the Senate passed the bill, the House’s Science, Technology and Energy committee was split along party lines – with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. The bill will come before the full House without a recommendation on whether it should pass.

Senate Republican Tim Lang is the primary sponsor of the bill, which would modernize the language around electric vehicle charging in New Hampshire law and direct the Public Utilities Commission to make determinations about how EV charging rates should be designed, in addition to creating the study committee.

Lang told the House committee he introduced the bill because he was concerned about tourism, as more drivers in Massachusetts buy EVs, but don’t see enough places in New Hampshire to charge them.

But, he said, he wants to make sure costs don’t fall to all Granite Staters.

“My biggest concern is I don't want to move forward if it's going to cost every ratepayer more money. I want to find another solution,” said Lang. “And what that solution is may be a surcharge. It may be finding federal dollars, it may be a private partner relationship. I don't know what that looks like.”

New Hampshire has access to about $4 million from a legal settlement with car maker Volkswagen and $17 million in federal funding to help build chargers. The bill also suggests the study committee consider things like the meals and rooms tax and property tax exemptions.

Utility companies like Eversource and Unitil have filed plans with the Public Utilities Commission to help build out charging infrastructure.

The original bill did not include the creation of a study committee, but instead directed the Public Utilities Commission to allow electric utility companies to recover costs from ratepayers for helping to construct public EV charging stations.

Sam Evans-Brown, the executive director of the advocacy group Clean Energy New Hampshire, told lawmakers the state needs to get ready for more EV drivers. But, he said, once things get rolling, charging stations won’t be hard to build.

“Once we reach a level where there are quite a lot of EVs on the road, there will be a business model that will make it so that chargers can be built profitably by private actors. There just aren't enough EVs on the road yet for that to be the case,” he said. “If you build it, they will come. They are coming. We have to build it.”

Opponents of the bill said they were concerned about the cost of charging infrastructure being put on all ratepayers. Some also said the Legislature already had too many study committees and didn’t need another.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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