February 16, 2022

Groups worry amendment in EV charging bill gives utilities an unfair advantage

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A Nissan LEAF charging at a station in Houston, Texas. - eVgo Network/Wikimedia Commons

A Nissan LEAF charging at a station in Houston, Texas.

eVgo Network/Wikimedia Commons

An Indiana House bill, HB 1221, would allow businesses like gas stations to sell electric vehicle charging without being subject to state utility rules. The bill partly aims to level the playing field between gas stations and electric utilities.

Scot Imus is with the Indiana Food and Fuel Association, which represents gas stations and convenience stores. He said the bill is a good first step.

“But we do need to address some of the roadblocks that stand in our way and that is the expense to put in these systems," Imus said.

Imus said right now there’s not enough demand to make installing EV chargers profitable for gas stations. And they wouldn’t have the opportunity to recover the cost of chargers from a large pool of customers — which utilities would be allowed to do in pilot programs under the bill.

Utilities would only be able to recover those costs for public charging stations, however. They would also have to give lower-income communities and racially or ethnically diverse communities equal access to chargers installed as part of a pilot program.

While some solar advocates support the bill overall, an amendment is giving them pause. The amendment requires businesses that sell electric vehicle charging to get their energy from their local utility.

That could mean businesses with solar panels wouldn’t be able to interconnect them with their chargers. Hannah Jaramillo works for Morton Solar — which sells a brand of EV chargers and has one at its office in Evansville.

She said it’s mostly for publicity — customers barely cover the cost Morton pays for the EV software and cloud technology. Having to buy that energy from the utility could make their charger uncompetitive.

“You want to set it to 50 cents instead of 15 cents per kilowatt hour — which I believe is what CenterPoint charges right now in southern Indiana — you know, nobody's going to come to your charger," Jaramillo said.

READ MORE: Indiana awards electric utilities $5.5 million to build electric vehicle charging stations


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But the bill’s author, Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), said it’s private companies like Tesla that have the advantage.

“The thumb is on the scale of the small installer. He can go out and charge whatever price he wants,” he said.

EV charging is expected to dramatically increase the demand for energy in the U.S. Kerwin Olson with the Citizens Action Coalition said putting all of that demand in Indiana on the state’s utilities is a bad idea.

“Only the utilities will be allowed to provide all of that electricity, meaning we are exposing all customers to enormous amounts of costs,” he said.

Olson said Citizens Action Coalition still supports the overall bill because utilities are more likely to put chargers in areas that private companies won’t.

The bill also allows businesses the choice to sell charging by the kilowatt hour rather than by time. Businesses that offer free EV charging wouldn’t have to buy energy from the utility.

Contact reporter Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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