Loading page...

Inquiry into EV charging - tell the Utilities Commission what you know

Tom Hackney - BCSEA Policy Advisor
Friday, March 23, 2018

The BC Utilities Commission has begun an inquiry into how – or whether – the charging of electric vehicles (EVs) should be regulated. This March and April, the Commission is holding community input sessions around BC, seeking public input on any and all issues around EV charging. This will be followed by a more formal process aimed at recommendations and conclusions.

How you can be involved

This inquiry is a great opportunity for anyone who knows or cares about EVs to help shape the development of the EV sector in BC. Some believe EV use is poised to expand dramatically and replace fossil fuel powered transportation. Others see challenges of building EV infrastructure, including how EV users should pay for the power they use. Wherever you stand, you can help the Commission by describing your experience and suggestions.

You can address the Commission in person at any of the community input sessions listed below (register by email or phone 1-800-663-1385, or just show up):

  • Castlegar: Monday, March 26, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
    Sandman Hotel, Brilliant Ballroom, 1944 Columbia Ave.
  • Victoria: Monday, April 9, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
    Sandman Hotel, Orchid Room, 2852 Douglas St.
  • Nanaimo: Saturday, April 14, noon – 3:00 p.m.
    Grand Hotel, Crystal Room, 4898 Rutherford Rd.
  • Vancouver: Monday, April 16, noon – 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
    BCUC hearing room, 12th floor, 1125 Howe St.

Alternatively, you can register as an intervener or an interested party or simply send a letter of comment.

How BCSEA will be involved

The BCSEA will be intervening in the inquiry, representing the public interest and the interests of its members in sustainably sourced electricity that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases. We will look at all the issues and the following paragraphs summarize the ones we consider to be most important.

In BCSEA’s view, the most critical issue is whether parties who dispense electricity to EVs for compensation should be granted a special exemption from regulation by BCUC. Stations installed by BC Hydro in cooperation with municipalities charge by the kilowatt-hour. These are exempted from regulation under the Utilities Commission Act. Whereas, providers of EV charging services who are not municipalities and who want to charge for the electricity they provide technically fall under the definition of a “public utility” and should therefore be regulated. The Commission should consider whether to recommend that cabinet exempt some or all classes of charging service providers from the definition of public utility.

A second issue BCSEA will focus on in the inquiry is the role BC Hydro and FortisBC (electric) should play in providing EV charging. A regulated public utility has the resources to develop a network of charging stations, even in the early stages when there are not yet enough EV users to make it profitable. This would support EV uptake. BC Hydro is already doing this, and FortisBC has obtained interim approval to do so, but the Commission will be looking closely at whether it is appropriate for utility ratepayers to subsidize EV charging. This raises several questions: Should all ratepayers contribute to EV charging when most don’t own EVs? What about transit users who don’t have a gas vehicle to replace with an EV? What would the impacts be on lower income ratepayers?

A third critical issue is about timing.  EV charging hardware, payment systems and business models are evolving rapidly and BCSEA suggests there is a need for a two-stage approach to the Commission’s consideration of these issues: Some decisions need to be made immediately, to help establish EVs and EV charging services in BC right now. Other decisions may need to be revisited in 5-10 years, once the situation has matured, for example: What roles should the big utilities play in promoting EV charging? Should purchasers of EV charging have some form of regulatory protection?

How BC is supporting EVs

The provincial policy context is that the government supports EVs, in particular through incentives to purchase EVs and EV chargers, such as the following:

The CEVforBC Program offers $5,000 to EV buyers.

The Charging Solutions and Incentives Program provides rebates toward the cost of EV charging equipment.

For EV owners in condos, the Strata Property Regulation was recently amended to clarify that stratas can impose reasonable user fees for EV charging. If the inquiry leads to an exemption of stratas from the definition of “public utility,” they will then be relieved of the burdens of regulation and presumably free to go ahead to implement the payment systems they want for EV charging.

Stay tuned for updates on what promises to be an interesting inquiry!