Wisconsin utility regulators have approved a suite of electric vehicle charging programs that Madison Gas and Electric says will help it prepare for the emerging technology while lowering costs for consumers.
The Public Service Commission voted unanimously Thursday to approve three new charging programs for homeowners, apartment dwellers and fleet managers and cement a program that MGE has been testing over the past six years.
MGE says the programs, which will allow the utility to remotely manage vehicle charging, are needed as vehicle manufacturers spend billions of dollars to roll out hundreds of new models in the next three years.
The company cited projections by the Brattle Group that the number of EVs on the nation’s roads could jump from 1.5 million in 2020 to as many as 35 million by the end of the decade.
If it can manage how and when those vehicles are charged, MGE says it can avoid expensive system upgrades, lowering costs for all customers.
In 2016, MGE launched a pilot program called Charge@Home through which the utility installs a level-2 charging station in the customer’s home for no up-front fee. Customers pay about $20 a month plus the cost of electricity.
In exchange for lower rates, customers agree to let the utility study and manage loads by shifting charging times, interrupting charging, or reducing power. MGE found it could reduce the spikes that typically occur around 5 p.m. when people get home and plug in their cars. Instead the utility can spread out charging throughout the night, taking advantage of lower wholesale electricity prices.
MGE says it has about 170 customers enrolled in the pilot, which will now be offered to everyone.
But recognizing that many customers prefer to buy their own chargers — or simply use 240-volt cords that come with the vehicle — the utility proposed a new program that uses telematic software to manage charging patterns.
Under the new pilot, customers can use an app to track their charging behavior, set “need by” times and opt out of managed charging. Some will receive monthly cash rewards of $4 to $8 if 80% of their charging is done during off-peak hours; others will benefit from lower rates for off-peak charging.
Commissioner Tyler Huebner called the program “very innovative.”
“We’re kind of on the bleeding edge here,” he said. “I think it’s really exciting we have a Wisconsin utility proposing that.”
The PSC approved a second pilot program through which MGE will install up to 50 remotely managed charging stations at office and apartment buildings. Building owners will pay $1.22 to $1.58 per day for the equipment, while drivers will use credit cards to pay for the electricity they use.
Under a third pilot program, MGE will install up to 15 remotely managed charging stations per year for business customers to charge their fleet vehicles.
Participation in all four of the charging programs is voluntary. Each program is designed so that costs are borne only by participants.
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Electric vehicle chargers at Madison Gas and Electric's public charging station on East Washington Avenue. Regulators have approved a suite of programs designed to allow the utility to better understand and manage charging patterns.
This chart illustrates the difference in electricity demand with managed (orange) versus unmanaged (blue) vehicle charging. Gray and yellow lines represents wholesale electricity prices on the corresponding days.