BCSEA asks Government to Let BC Hydro and FBC Invest in Public EV Fast Charging Stations
August 2, 2019
BCSEA met with the BC ministry of energy in July to encourage the government to cut through the regulatory uncertainty that is hampering BC Hydro and FortisBC (electric) from expanding their networks of public EV fast-charging stations. Currently, BC Hydro is temporarily not charging EV drivers for fast-charging and FBC is charging $9 per half hour with interim approval from the Commission.
The ball landed in the government’s court after the BC Utilities Commission released the final report of its inquiry into the regulation of EV charging services in BC in June. BCSEA intervened in the inquiry and asked the Commission to allow BC Hydro and FBC to recover their net costs of public EV fast-charging service (after revenue from EV drivers) from all ratepayers, subject to reasonable limits. Unfortunately, the Commission did not agree.
The inquiry panel concluded that if the government wants BC Hydro and FBC to roll out fast-charging stations at the expense of general ratepayers (which the government does) then the government will have to issue a legal direction allowing it. The inquiry panel took a traditional regulatory approach in its 50-page final report.
For example, BCSEA and many other interveners argued that EV fast-charging stations operated by BC Hydro and FBC would help kick-start the EV market in BC, which would in turn reduce GHG emissions from traditional fuels. However, the panel found there was “insufficient evidence” that investment by BC Hydro and FBC in fast-charging stations would actually provide a kick-start in the EV market.
Similarly, BCSEA and many other interveners argued that BC Hydro and FBC have a crucial role in providing fast-charging service in the short- to medium-term because there aren’t enough EVs in BC yet to make it profitable for private companies to own and operate public fast-charging stations (except to attract customers to their own businesses, like Tesla or Petrocan). However, the panel found that – in the absence of a legally binding direction from the government – BC Hydro and FBC should not be allowed to implement public fast-charging stations without “careful consideration” by the Commission of the financial risk to general ratepayers and proof that that investment by BC Hydro of FBC would not have been undertaken by the private sector. While the panel acknowledged that the government could require the Commission to allow BC Hydro and FBC to invest in fast-charging stations, it said such regulation should be done “sparingly if at all.”
The BC government has not yet officially responded to the Commission’s final report, to BCSEA’s knowledge. However, BCSEA encourages the government to act quickly. Cabinet could approve a regulation allowing BC Hydro and FBC to recover their net costs of fast-charging stations up to a reasonable limit. In addition, the Legislature could add “low-carbon transportation” to the BC energy objectives in the Clean Energy Act. The Commission would then have to take this objective into account in applying traditional regulatory principles to public EV fast-charging investments by BC Hydro and FortisBC.
By Bill Andrews, BCSEA’s lawyer in BCUC proceedings