Colorado’s largest utility proposes to spend $102 million on charging infrastructure
by Allen Best
Colorado will soon get serious about its pivot to electrical transportation. The state’s two investor-owned utilities have submitted plans to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission about how they intend to accommodate but also spur the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
Xcel Energy says in its filing that it wants to spend $102 million through various programs and infrastructure investments.
“The most important thing is the scale,” say Travis Madsen, transportation program manager at the Southwestern Energy Efficiency Program. “I think it is clear this is not a pilot program anymore. This is something that Xcel will really try to do at scale.”
He said Xcel’s program will be critical to Colorado achieving its goal of broad and deep penetration of electric vehicles, altogether 42% of sales within the next decade. Current sales are about 3.65%.
For Xcel’s service territory, this would mean a bump from 24,000 cars today to 450,000 cars in 2030. The company has more than 60% electrical market share in Colorado.
Xcel serves primarily metropolitan Denver, but also Summit County, Leadville, Fairway, Greeley, Sterling, Brush, Glenwood Springs, Battlement Mesa and several dozen more—including Raymer, a town of 110 people between Fort Collins and Sterling.
Black Hills Energy, which serves Pueblo and adjoining areas, also filed plans.
A law adopted last year, SB19-077, authorizes Colorado’s two investor-owned electrical utilities to provide charging ports as regulated services and allows cost recovery.
This electrified future is almost certain to look very different than the corner gas station of today. Likely most of the charging will occur at home in the dark of night, when surplus renewable energy most often is available.
Xcel wants to provide higher-speed Level 2 charging equipment to residential, multi-unit dwellings and work places in exchange for a fixed monthly charge that is included on electric bills of customers. The proposed rates vary between $13.29 a month for a single-family house to $55.38 maximum for fleet and workplace charging sites as well as some shared parking in multi-unit dwelling.
Also different will be price differentials. When you buy gasoline for your car, the rate is unlikely to change much. Week to week, yes, or even day to day. But not hour to hour.
This differential is seen dramatically in the fast-charging stations Xcel proposes to build in places that private companies find financially unfeasible. There, Xcel proposes to charge 90 cents a minute normally but, about 60 hours a year, at $3.75 a minute.
Steven Wishart, manager of pricing and planning for Xcel in Colorado, explained in testimony submitted to the PUC that charging during peaks in system demands could require the construction of new power generation and associated transmission limits. “Therefore, it is critically important to dissuade drivers from charging during peak events on our system,” he said.
The rates per minute—90 cents and $3.75— compare with 26 cents a minute by Tesla, 58 cents a minute by Electrify America, and 30 cents a minute by EVgo.
Xcel says it proposes to subsidize the fast-charging stations with the monthly charges for other customers. “We are proposing to place these chargers to serve underserved lower-income and rural areas,” Wishart said.
An analysis of the benefit-cost of transportation was conducted by E3, a consultancy. That study supports the expectation that the expansion of electric vehicles will put downward pressure on electric rates, as charging of EVs will tend to be focused in off-peak hours. This will benefit all customers.
And then there’s the benefits of reduced air pollution.
But EVs don’t make sense everywhere, all the time. The study found that electric school buses, because they tend to travel relatively few miles on a daily basis and rarely on weekends and during summer, are not cost effective.
To see the filing at the PUC website, search for proceeding 20A-0204E for Xcel and 20a-0195E for Black Hills.
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