PRC approves first utility EV infrastructure proposal

By Cara Lynch, Coalition for Clean, Affordable Energy

On September 22, 2021, New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission approved Southwestern Public Service Company’s Transportation Electrification Plan — essentially a state-required plan for adding electric-vehicle infrastructure — with some important improvements your actions helped secure.

Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and Sierra Club fought hard to make sure that the plan provides New Mexicans adequate rebates for installing home EV fast chargers and ease of payment at public charging stations.

Legislation passed in 2020 requires New Mexico’s three investor-owned utilities – PNM, Southwestern Public Service and El Paso Electric — to submit these plans that will make driving an EV more affordable for all New Mexicans.

SPS (which provides service to southeast New Mexico) was the first to propose a plan. Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy intervened in the case and used experts from Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and Prosperity Works during hearings to propose improvements that the hearing examiner recommended the commission adopt.

One aspect that wasn’t present in the hearing examiner’s recommendation: A requirement that charging companies put traditional credit-card readers on public charging stations. Most charging companies want users to subscribe and pay for charges through their membership services, and after CCAE and Prosperity Works pointed out that public chargers should be as easy to pay for as gas, the recommendation was to only require contactless readers on public charging stations. But many Sierra Club supporters offered remote comments to urge the commission to require swipe and chip readers, as most New Mexicans — especially low-income New Mexicans — don’t have contactless cards. After hearing your comments, Commissioner Cynthia Hall advocated for a change to the final order for tradtional readers, and commissioners unanimously approved both the basic plan and the credit-card requirement.

CCAE advocated for increased rebates for home wiring for low-income and other customers to cover the costs of chargers and electrical panel upgrades. And we got an increase in the budget for outreach to low-income customers. Further, now customers can be assured that they will be charged a per-kilowatt rate, instead of an arbitrary amount set by site hosts. SPS customers should keep their eyes out for additional public chargers going up in their communities. This will increase accessibility to electricity as a transportation fuel.

Some highlights:

  • SPS customers can receive up to $500 rebates for home rewiring upgrades and installing a fast charger.
  • Low-income customers may qualify for up to $2,500 in rebates for home wiring upgrades and installation of a fast charger.

This program is a positive step to get more EVs on the road and reduce climate pollution.

Featured image from Earth and Main, via Flickr.

PRC approves first utility EV infrastructure proposal