There are more electric vehicles in Florida than any state other than California, and we can expect to see the total number to rise rapidly in the future. Unfortunately, the infrastructure needed to charge these vehicles is lagging behind demand.
Thankfully, last year Governor Ron DeSantis announced a plan to expand Florida’s electric vehicle infrastructure and increase the number of charging stations along major highways through competitive grant funding. Applications are due on April 7, and hopefully we will see charging stations pop up across the state quickly afterwards.
We have also seen a host of bills introduced in Congress that support the electrification of our transportation system, including The CLEAN Future Act and America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019.
The CLEAN Future Act promotes progress by supporting private sector planning and investment in charging networks and encouraging states to not classify businesses that provide charging stations as utilities, which would be too burdensome for most small businesses. The bipartisan America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 includes $30 billion in grant funding to help with the creation of charging stations and requires that the grant money be used to contract with private companies to deploy publicly accessible electric vehicle infrastructure.
Unfortunately, some are proposing a less effective way to fund electric vehicle infrastructure- by allowing utility companies to raise rates on their electric customers in order to use those funds to build charging stations.
While utility companies play a critical role in providing the electricity needed for charging stations to function, they should not be building the stations themselves off the backs of their customers. If we allow utility companies to corner the EV infrastructure market, it will chase away private sector investment in this marketplace because companies won’t be able to compete against a utility company that can fund construction without putting their own money on the line.
For example, San Diego Gas & Electric has already spent $70 million of its electric customers’ funds on a program that deployed EV charging stations, and are asking for $58.4 million more. If approved, SDG&E will have spent over $120 million to build charging stations entirely funded by ratepayers. In comparison, SDG&E is asking for more additional funds than the annual revenue of the largest private sector operator of independently owned EV charging stations, ChargePoint, which operates in 14 countries and brings in $42 million a year. This highlights clearly how impossible it will be for private sector companies to compete with utility companies that can fund the deployment of charging stations by raising fees on customers who must purchase their product.
To ensure that the most number of EV charging stations are constructed across the country and our state, elected officials should support private investment, not utility companies raising fees on customers.
Thankfully, Congresswoman Kathy Castor is in a great position to lead on this issue, as Chairwoman of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and as a senior member of the critical Energy and Commerce Committee. Hopefully, when Rep. Castor analyzes legislation that relates to electric vehicle infrastructure, she will support policies that prioritize competition and private sector investment. Without private sector investment in charging stations, progress towards electric vehicle adoption will be stalled.
Paul Jallo is President of Jallo Oil Distributors specializing in commercial oil distribution services, brand recognition, product quality, and branding services.