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State regulators approve Eversource’s electric vehicle infrastructure plan

Noya Fields
Creative Commons

A plan from Eversource to spend about $2 million helping to build out electric vehicle charging infrastructure in New Hampshire was approved by the Public Utilities Commission late Monday.

As more electric vehicles hit the road, many Granite Staters are hoping more public charging stations will pop up, too. But in addition to the plugs and wires that deliver power to an electric car, those stations could also require upgrading parts of the grid – things like poles, wires, substations, and transformers – to provide electricity service in a location that hasn’t had it before, or to meet additional demand at that site.

That’s mostly what Eversource’s proposal – called a “make-ready plan” – will help with. The utility’s funds will work in tandem with a pot of money from a Volkswagen legal settlement dedicated to building charging stations across the state, along with capital from the developers of charging stations.

In 2019, a report commissioned by New Hampshire’s Department of Business and Economic Affairs highlighted “make-ready” investments by utility companies as the most commonly recommended policy that could help develop EV infrastructure in New Hampshire.

A commission convened by the state also recommended authorizing these utility-run programs in 2020.

None of the funds New Hampshire got from the Volkswagen program – about $4.6 million of which are going to EV charging infrastructure through an award program – are available for these programs that would enable utilities to update grid infrastructure for EVs. That’s been a barrier in the past for some towns hoping to install chargers.

In Gorham, Eversource estimated the cost of upgrades at more than $1 million, according to Melissa Elander, who works with North Country communities for the advocacy group Clean Energy New Hampshire, which supported Eversource’s proposal.

For Chris Skoglund, director of energy transition at Clean Energy New Hampshire, building out public charging using these kinds of supports is particularly important right now, as the number of electric vehicles on the road is projected to grow.

“For New Hampshire's economy, which is highly dependent upon travel and tourism, it's really important that we have a public charging network built out in advance. And currently, New Hampshire is a bit of an EV charging desert,” he said.

New Hampshire has also submitted a plan for $17 million in federal funding from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program.

State regulators rejected a similar proposal from Unitil in May that also totaled more than $2 million, though that utility has a smaller territory than Eversource. Then, they expressed concern that EV charging would only benefit Unitil’s wealthier customers, and worried that the utility’s charging stations could compete with those built by businesses or municipalities.

In their order approving Eversource’s plan, commissioners said the difference with Eversource’s plan is that there’s a clear cap on expenses, and it’s proportional to the company’s large customer base.

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

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