My State regulators brought utilities, customer advocates and charging companies to the table. The result could be the second largest charging network in the nation.

Maryland wants 300,000 electric vehicles on its roads by the end of 2025 — far higher than the 10,000 or so in the state now. But utilities and other stakeholders filed a proposal this year, laying the groundwork and building consensus for parties to work together and meet the goal.

The proposal envisions the second largest EV charging network in the United States. While no one will challenge California on that front anytime soon, the $104 million plan calls for an impressive 24,000 chargers. But it remains an initial step in the state’s broader transportation electrification goals, and importantly establishes not just technical groundwork but industry partnerships as well.

We know Maryland has a very challenging goal for zero emissions adoption,” said John Murach, Baltimore Gas & Electric’s manager of energy programs and services. “That’s a big curve. We have seen the uptake accelerate over last year, but we still have a long gap.”

Last year, the state’s utilities, environmental groups and EV industry reps, came together in a working group to tackle the problem. The outcome was a 150-page “Proposal to Implement a Statewide Electric Vehicle Portfolio” that had 14 signatories.

“Maryland undertook a challenging, year-long open stakeholder process, and the result is the second largest program for EV charging outside of California.”

David Schatz

Director of Public Policy, ChargePoint

Exelon utilities BGE, Delmarva Power & Light and Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco) joined with First Energy’s Potomac Edison Co., ChargePoint, Greenlots, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and several other parties.

“This isn’t about taking over a marketplace, but key parties working together as a catalyst to further drive adoption,” Murach said. With more new EVs hitting the market, the question becomes, “how can we move this forward collectively?”

Noah Garcia, a transportation analyst for NRDC, said the final proposal was “by no means perfect from everyone’s perspective, but certainly stronger” for using such a collaborative approach.

“There was so much work on the front end, to be collaborative and open and essentially share information ahead of time,” Garcia said. “The process did create an environment where everyone felt comfortable sharing ideas.”

David Schatz, ‎director of public policy at California-based charging infrastructure company ChargePoint, echoed those sentiments.

“Maryland undertook a challenging, year-long open stakeholder process, and the result is the second largest program for EV charging outside of California,” Schatz said, noting that the process could well be a model for other states to follow.

The plan

The EV proposal would lead to statewide investment of $104.7 million, spent between the middle of 2018 and 2023. The result is expected to be 24,000 chargers “that will enable smart charging in residential, non-residential, and public settings.”

In the long-term, the proposal is expected to benefit the system as a whole. And the near-term monthly impact is projected to be small: Residential customers are expected to realize a peak monthly impact of: $0.35 at BGE, $0.34 for Pepco, $0.42 for Delmarva and $0.25 for Potomac Edison.

BGE’s $48 million proposal calls for $7.5 million to be spent on incentives for residential Level 2 charging, resulting in 15,000 installations. Another $11 million would go to help install Level 2 and DC Fast Chargers for non-residential customers, with the aim being about 2,100 chargers.

The proposal also includes combined commitments from multiple utilities of more than $10 million for an “innovation fund” that could result in almost 500 chargers in areas typically difficult to serve.

The largest item in BGE’s proposal, however, is $17 million to develop a utility-owned public charging network. Murach said the utility is still deciding how it will invest, though it will be a blend of Level 2 and DC Fast Charging.

“It’s our bucket of dollars that will be the cap,” he said.  “We may not get to a thousand units, but the concept is to work with our municipal customers, our cities our counties, to address those areas they want.” Overall, however, the share of utility-owned charging stations remains at less than a third, he said, leaving plenty of room for competition in the market.

Pepco Maryland’s $32 million proposal includes $3 million for Level 2 workplace charging incentives, $4 million for public DC Fast Charger stations and $6 million for neighborhood Level 2 chargers.

Pepco’s plan also includes expansion of a whole house time-of-use rate, and offers off-peak charging credits for customers with a Fleetcarma device. Both of these programs are testing whether the utility can manage customer charging without the expense of a second meter.

“What we’re trying to look at, is can we eliminate the need for revenue-grade metering, can we eliminate the need for billing and even time-of-use rates,” said Rob Stewart, Pepco’s smart grid and technology manager. “If we could just develop a way to indicate whether the customer is charging off-peak, that is valuable to us.”

In developing the proposal, Garcia said one of NRDC’s key concerns was “making sure areas that are traditionally a harder nut to crack were adequately addressed. … A lot of the value in the proposal comes from deploying infrastructure that is needed in areas that haven’t traditionally been well served.”

Among those are multi-family dwellings like apartments, and low-income areas. The proposal calls for thousands of chargers outside single-family home installations, including neighborhood charging banks, apartment buildings, workplaces and public fleets.

Proposal lays groundwork for wider adoption, managed charging

The move toward electric vehicles, and electrified transport more broadly, will add demand to utilities’ systems. That is one of the major benefits utilities are eyeing, and one reason Garcia says the proposal will ultimately benefit all consumers.

Over time, EV adoption will lead to increased load. Managed correctly, it can have the effect of reducing average energy costs for all customers.

“But it is important to shape this new EV load,” Garcia said.

Maryland utilities, and the sector as a whole, are focused on making EVs a flexible resource. Through time-of-use rates, demand management programs and incentives, utilities are aiming to push charging to off-peak hours. As long as they can do that, meeting the demand will not be a problem, Murach said.

“We are taking this opportunity to bring the concept of managed charging to our residential customers,” he said.

The utilities are trying to walk a thin line in rolling out charging infrastructure that is neither so complicated nor expensive that it drives customers away. Installing a second meter is pricey, and finding ways to incentivize off-peak charging without one could help drive EV adoption.

But once the adoption curve picks up, utilities must have the equipment and rate structures in place to manage the new load. Managing the load can mean fewer expensive upgrades to the distribution system, like larger transformers, in turn helping to keep utility costs and customer rates low.

“If we start the education early, you don’t have to go back and unlearn behaviors,” Murach said. He likened the process to the learning curve for energy efficiency and demand response, both of which have required customer education to increase adoption. “In this case, we have the learnings of those experiences and we can start the conversation early in support of our customers,” he said.

“As EV volume comes up, it will be a high load center but we’ve been there, we’ve done that.”

John Murach

Manager, Energy Supply & Services, BGE

Educating customers is key, and the utilities have committed more than $5 million to the effort.

“Eventually, we see residential being most beneficial for managed charging,” Pepco’s Stewart said. “We don’t have to turn the charger on or off — we can just turn it down a little.”

Pepco is also considering a trial to couple DC Fast Chargers with energy storage, potentially up to 1 MW on the utility’s system. As automakers and charging companies move toward faster and higher-capacity equipment, Stewart said microgrid technology will come into play. Future fast charging stations could be constructed with energy storage and generation on site, possibly including solar or micro turbines.

Next steps

The proposal went to the Maryland Public Service Commission in January, with the 14 signatories and more than 40 letters of support. “It is a very powerful package,” Murach said.

The proposal is framed as a petition, and the docket is currently a “legislative” proceeding as compared with a more rigorous “evidentiary” proceeding that might be used in a utility rate case. The PSC is taking public comment through March 16, and the working group is hoping for a decision by June. A key to that schedule is keeping the proceeding’s legislative status.

“This is more of a discussion around policy than around arguing facts — how many cars and how many chargers are needed,” Murach said.

As for the total demand EVs might add to Maryland’s electric grid, Murach said it’s too soon to make an educated guess, in part because the technology is just beginning to take hold and utilities are unsure if the behavior of early adopters will be similar to the next wave of EV drivers. Whatever the amount, Murach said the industry has experience with the situation and there is ample available capacity — after all, only a few decades ago, residential air conditioning was only beginning to be common.

“As EV volume comes up, it will be a high load center but we’ve been there, we’ve done that,” Murach said. “This is our bread and butter. If it helps our customers with their business or lifestyle, we will do it in a way that makes sense for them.”