The Energy Consumer's Bulletin- a New England energy news blog

$400 Million For Electric Car Charging in Massachusetts!

Posted by Anna Vanderspek on Thursday, January 12, 2023 @ 06:45 PM

$400 million EV charging blog header

Way back in the summer of 2021, the electric utilities in Massachusetts – Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil – proposed bold new electric vehicle programs to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). For the next year, the DPU engaged in a formal process to weigh the utilities’ proposals. Green Energy Consumers served as an official “intervenor” in this docket, which means we advocated for what we thought the DPU should approve. Now, finally, a year and a half later, the DPU has issued its order, unleashing hundreds of millions of dollars for electric vehicle charging infrastructure over the next four years via Make Ready programs and rebates for charging installation (those are two separate but complementary things, as we’ll talk about below!).

Make Ready Extended 

The term “Make Ready” refers to a type of program where the electric utility pays for work needed on the utility side of the electric meter. That means, for example, if you are a supermarket owner and want to install charging stations but need to lay new conduit, the electric utility would cover the costs of bringing electric service to the charging pad. National Grid and Eversource have both had Make Ready programs in the past, but for some months now, those programs have been fully subscribed. In these dockets, National Grid and Eversource both proposed to expand their Make Ready programs, both in terms of the segments served and in terms of the budget.

ev at supermarket

In the past, Make Ready was available only for public, workplace, and multi-unit (5+) dwellings. Both electric utilities proposed to offer Make Ready support to 1-4 unit households and fleets. Intervenors like Green Energy Consumers succeeded in convincing the DPU that (a) the Commonwealth must build out charging infrastructure to support the level of EV adoption that is needed to achieve the mandated greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2030 and (b) that financial incentives like Make Ready will be needed for the next couple of years.  

The DPU concludes by saying “the Department approves the Companies’ make-ready rebate proposals” with the exception “that make-ready rebates must not exceed actual make-ready installation costs” (see p. 101 of the final order). Hurray! 

Rebates for Charging Installation

The electric utilities also proposed to offer rebates for the other half of the costs to install charging: the actual charging unit and the labor to hook it up to electric service. Here, the DPU had more to say. Basically, the Department set up a sliding scale system where low-income customers or sites in environmental justice communities qualify for higher rebates while customers or sites in other locations qualify for no or lower rebates. The following table summarizes what they approved in each program segment.

  Make Ready Support (Infrastructure Side)  Charging Station Rebates 
(Customer Side
Residential:  
1-4 unit homes 
Up to 100% of infrastructure costs  Only for customers enrolled in the low-income discount rate and managed charging program; Rebate of up to 100% of EVSE costs (see page 117 of final order) 
Residential:  
5+ unit homes (AKA “multi-unit dwellings”, or MUDs) 
Up to 100% of infrastructure costs Sliding scale for MUDs in different communities (see page 119 of final order) 
  • Meet the EJ criteria based on income: Up to 100% of EVSE costs
  • Meet a different EJ criterion: Up to 75% of EVSE costs
  • MUDs in non-EJ communities: Up to 50% of EVSE costs
Public and workplace  Up to 100% of infrastructure costs

Only for publicly accessible sites, using MassEVIP’s definition of publicly accessible (see page 119 of final order) 

Sliding scale based on community location (see page 114 of final order):

  • Meet EJ criteria based on income: Up to 100%
  • Meet a different EJ criterion: Up to 75%
  • Municipality-owned sites, ports 3-10: Up to 50%
  • Non-municipality-owned sites, ports 5-10: Up to 50%
Fleets  *Only National Grid*: Up to 100% of infrastructure costs 
  • Eversource: Only for public fleets enrolled in the fleet assessment pilot program (see page 121 of final order) 
  • National Grid: Only for public fleets (see page 121 of final order) 

The combination of incentives means that, in some places and for some customers, the costs of installing charging stations will be completely covered by the utility, through a combination of the Make Ready and charging rebates. In others, they will only be partially covered.  

(However, more help should be coming. The state already has its MassEVIP program that offers rebates for public charging installation and 2022’s economic development bill put $50 million into a Charging Infrastructure Deployment Fund, which is an entirely separate pot of money for EV charging. The DPU order instructs the electric utilities to require customers to apply for all available state and federal funding in order to participate in the utilities’ EV program.) 

These Are Big Budgets 

The scope of the expansion is incredible. Previous iterations of Make Ready were funded at the scale of $40 million (Eversource) and $25 million (National Grid). Now, the utilities have gotten the green light for about $400 million over the coming years. 

Electric Utility 

Approved Funding 

Program Term 

Eversource 

$188 million 

4 years 

National Grid 

$206 million 

4  years 

Unitil 

$1 million 

5 years 

About half of the approved funding for National Grid and Eversource will go to public and workplace charging, with a little less than a third for residential charging and eight percent for fleets. 

budget allocation blog chartThe incoming dollars from this order dwarf contributions from other places.

EV Charging Funding (in millions)

Where is this money coming from? The electric utilities will assess a very small fee per kilowatt-hour on customers’ electric bills. The bill impact will be less than $5 annually for the average consumer (see p. 197 of the final order). And all those new EVs that start charging thanks to the new charging stations will all be paying into the system for the electricity they use. In California, EVs have paid more into the electric grid than they have cost, and we can expect a similar dynamic here. So we agree with the DPU that this rate is “just and reasonable.” 

The Impact Will Be Huge 

Right now, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, there are 2,322 public Level II and DC Fast Charging stations in Massachusetts with 5,434 charging ports. That’s already a lot more than most people realize (check out PlugShare to find charging near you!). National Grid estimates that their new EV programs will enable up to 32,000 additional charging ports (~7,000 public/workplace, ~24,000 residential, and 600 fleets). Eversource estimates (3,350 public, 2,750 workplace, 16,000 for 1-4 unit homes, 2,100 for 5+ unit homes). Together, that's about 75,000 new charging stations – that's huge! 

The final Clean Energy & Climate Plan for 2025 called for 15,000 public charging stations by 2025. With 2,000 public stations already, 3,500 coming from National Grid (assuming half of the 7,000 public/workplace end up being public), and 3,350 more from Eversource, we'll get to roughly 8,850. Add in the NEVI program and state funds, reaching that 15,000 target is in sight.

If you have been hesitating to replace your gas car with an EV because you haven't seen enough charging infrastructure, please start shopping - over the next four years, we will all see a growing number of stations along highways, at shopping centers, in multi-unit housing, and at workplaces. 

Some Downsides 

Though overall, the order from the DPU is good news, we were disappointed by a couple of the Department’s decisions: 

  • Off-peak charging rebates: Despite our arguments that National Grid should increase its off-peak charging rebate to more accurately reflect the actual benefits of charging on peak (summarized on p. 89 of the final order and available in more detail here) and extend it to weekends, the Department declines to require Grid to do so (or Eversource to offer an off-peak charging rebate at all). We see off-peak charging rebates as a critical tool in the toolbox to incentivize EV adoption and also manage EV demand on the grid. 
  • Electric school buses: National Grid had proposed to offer a rebate for 300 electric school buses in environmental justice communities. We strongly supported this idea, bringing in our friends from the Massachusetts Public Health Association to testify on the public health and equity benefits of electrifying school buses. Unfortunately, the DPU did not approve this program because the Department felt it was duplicative of other funding sources, particularly federal. (We disagree – there isn’t nearly enough funding to go around!) 

What’s Next? 

There is more we could say about the 250-page ruling from the DPU, but this blog covers the main highlights. The next step in the process is that the electric utilities have to submit compliance filings that will detail the rules of the approved programs. After that, they can actually set programs up and start offering these resources! Once that happens, we’ll be sure to post again, update our website, and host a webinar. Stay tuned! 

In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this thought: the order of operations on this whole process is not conducive to good climate planning. We started off, way back in 2021, with the electric utilities proposing a plan for the utilities. Their ultimate goal is to protect their business, not meet the state’s required emissions reductions. We need to move towards a world where the STATE sets the agenda and makes sure the utilities’ work is in line with our mandate to reduce emissions. Last year’s climate bill set up an intergovernmental council on EV charging infrastructure – that's a good first step. But, as always, there’s more work to be done. 

 

Tags: Energy policy & advocacy, Electric vehicles/Transportation

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