NSTAR Electric to kick off electric vehicle program

Massachusetts state regulators on June 23 approved a July 2013 memorandum of understanding (MOU) entered into between NSTAR Electric and the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) that set forth the terms of the company’s proposed electric vehicle pilot program.

The state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) also approved the company’s proposed residential electric vehicle rider and ordered NSTAR Electric to begin its electric vehicle pilot program, including its smart charging program, within six months of the order’s date, according to TransmissionHub.

According to the order, NSTAR Electric filed in October 2012 for approval with the DPU an MOU entered into with the DOER regarding the promotion of electric vehicles in the state. The company and DOER executed the MOU under a settlement — the DOER settlement — between NSTAR Electric and DOER that the DPU approved in the merger proceeding involving NSTAR and Northeast Utilities.

 The DOER settlement required NSTAR Electric to develop and implement an electric vehicle pilot program in collaboration with DOER, with the objective of identifying the most cost-effective approach to establishing electric vehicle charging infrastructure in NSTAR Electric’s service area. On July 31, 2013, NSTAR Electric and the DOER submitted a revised MOU, which supersedes the MOU and restates the terms of the deployment and implementation of the electric vehicle pilot.

The electric vehicle pilot, the DPU added, is organized into three categories: planning studies; infrastructure deployment and customer education/outreach. The company estimates the program costs of the pilot at between $300,000 and $500,000, plus $125,000 annually for maintenance of its electric vehicle technical center. The company said it will not recover any of those costs from its customers outside of base rates currently in effect during the base rate freeze period which was established in a separate DPU proceeding and ends on Jan. 1, 2016.

Of the planning studies, the DPU noted that the company will conduct or participate in three studies related to electric vehicles. For instance, the company will conduct a planning study for direct current (DC) fast-charging stations, or DC fast chargers, to be completed within nine months of the DPU’s approval of the revised MOU. The purpose of that study is to develop an analytical framework for identifying optimal sites for DC fast chargers in the NSTAR Electric and Western Massachusetts Electric Company service territories.

Another study involves the company participating in a vehicle-to-home – two-way power flow – research project organized by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to evaluate the storage capability of electric vehicles. That study is to be completed within 24 months of the DPU’s approval of the revised MOU.

Regarding infrastructure deployment, the DPU said that the company proposes to implement an electric vehicle smart charging pilot program that will allow up to 100 customers to voluntarily test new charging technology that may reduce demand on the distribution system during peak hours and improve load factors, and receive a fixed monthly incentive related to their participation in the test. The program is designed to assist participating customers in managing the timing of electric vehicle charging to ensure that charging does not occur during peak demand times.

The DPU added that the company will conduct the smart charging program under a proposed residential electric vehicle rider that specifies that the participating customers must be served by a residential electric rate, own a qualifying electric vehicle, install company-approved electric vehicle supply equipment and have broadband internet access at the supply equipment site to enable the transmission of data between the supply equipment and the company. While participating customers must buy the supply equipment at their own expense, the company will provide an incentive to reduce each customer’s cost for the supply equipment to no more than $500.

Participating customers may leave the program beginning six months after enrollment, with the program ending 12 months after the enrollment of 100 participating customers, but no later than June 30, 2017. The DPU also said that the company estimates that the cost of the program will range from $2,900 to $4,200 per participant, with the cost funded by NSTAR Electric shareholders.

Regarding customer education/outreach, the company proposes to create and maintain for three years an electric vehicle technical center that will provide a single point of contact – for instance, a toll-free hotline – and a web-based presence with informational services related to electric vehicle supply equipment options. The company anticipates an annual cost of $125,000 to maintain the technical center.

The DPU in its analysis and findings noted that the widespread adoption of electric vehicles will require adding new technologies to the electric grid while maintaining, and in some cases improving, the reliability and safety of the grid.

Having a large number of electric vehicles operating in the state will improve air quality, reduce emissions from transportation and could eventually provide electricity storage and balance system load.

The DPU also said that the widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the state will require an increase in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. To that end, the DPU has begun an investigation into its policies and regulations that will help facilitate and accommodate such widespread adoption, but in this proceeding, the DPU is concerned only with the company’s pilot as proposed under the DOER settlement.

The DPU said it approves the company’s proposed planning studies as part of its pilot, noting that it finds that the proposed planning studies are consistent with the requirements of the DOER settlement.

With regard to infrastructure deployment, for instance, the DPU noted that given that off-peak charging offers potential benefits of improving the efficiency of the electric system and of reducing system and customer costs, it is “very interested” in effective ways to motivate off-peak charging. Accordingly, the DPU said it approves the incentive design approach of the program.

“We find that the company has properly considered the scale of the program and the goals for the program, and has reasonably determined that 100 participants is an appropriate number,” the DPU said.

The DPU also said it supports the use of the technical center as a major point of contact for answering customer questions, and accepts the company’s proposal to assess whether to continue the center at the end of its initial three-year term.

Among other things, the DPU noted that the revised MOU provides that reports on the three planning studies will be submitted to DOER and posted on the website for the technical center. The DPU said it requires that the company file those reports with the DPU at the same time as their submissions to DOER.

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