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PGE to implement transportation electrification pilot programs

Portland General Electric Co. has announced it will move forward with plans to invest in electric vehicle charging stations, including six bus charging stations, after recently receiving regulatory approval of those efforts.

That approval came Feb. 16 when the Oregon Public Utility Commission signed off on three pilot programs for PGE to help accelerate transportation electrification.

First, the PUC agreed to allow PGE to install, own and manage six electric bus charging stations for TriMet, which is a bus and commuter rail service in the Portland, Ore., region. PGE's $800,000 program will allow TriMet to use grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration to purchase a fifth electric bus to cover an additional bus route. Tri-Met already had launched an electric bus program, but said with PGE's participation it plans to expand its original four-bus electric test fleet.

Second, PGE will conduct a $400,000 education and outreach pilot program to increase awareness of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure and to promote a regional market for those vehicles. That program will include training and support for business customers considering fleet electrification and workplace charging infrastructure, as well as instruction for builders, engineers and electricians on installing, operating and maintaining charging infrastructure. PGE also will provide opportunities for potential buyers to test-drive electric vehicles.

Third, PGE will expand its "Electric Avenue" project by installing and owning six new fast charging stations in Portland, Salem and other Oregon cities. The $2.6 million in new expenditures for the project's expansion will require competitive bidding for equipment, installation, station operations, maintenance, billing and customer service.

The PUC also agreed to allow PGE to propose two additional pilots for the commission's later consideration. Specifically, PGE is to propose a residential home charging pilot that includes rebates and a time-of-use rate schedule for customers who install chargers and a $1 million workplace or fleet charging pilot.

ChargePoint Inc. and the Electric Vehicle Charging Association objected to the PGE plans approved by the PUC on Feb. 16, however, asserting that they would allow that utility to become the dominant provider of public charging stations in its service territory.

However, the PUC determined that the plans basically comply with Senate Bill 1547, which the Oregon Legislature passed in 2016 to increase transportation electrification. To implement the law, the commission directed electric companies to file proposals for pilots such as those developed by PGE.

Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary PacifiCorp has also filed an application for transportation electrification pilots. The latest entry in that PUC docket is a PacifiCorp brief saying ChargePoint "has waged a tedious campaign" aimed at convincing the commission against approving its three modest pilots despite support from other parties.