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Duke Energy Carolinas asks to study costs, benefits of electric vehicle charging

Duke Energy Carolinas LLC plans to roll out a three-year pilot program that will evaluate the benefits and costs of large-scale electric vehicle charging infrastructure in South Carolina.

The Duke Energy Corp. subsidiary on Oct. 10 filed an application with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina for approval of its proposed electric transportation pilot and to defer related cost recovery until its next general rate case.

Duke Energy Carolinas, or DEC, noted that regulators approved a pilot program in 2011 that allowed the utility to collect data over a two-year period from select residential customers who bought or leased a plug-in electric vehicle.

DEC said it is now looking to build upon what it learned from that analysis by offering four programs within its electric transportation pilot proposal to residential and nonresidential customers. The company said the proposal is tied to the expected "accelerated deployment of [electric vehicle] technology and the potential customer benefits of increased EV adoption in the State of South Carolina."

"Specifically, to ensure the multiple types of charging technologies for EVs are integrated safely, reliably and cost-effectively, the company needs to better understand the grid impacts of serving EV charging equipment, customer charging behavior and the viability of utility-managed charging methods," DEC wrote in its petition. "The company also believes that increased adoption of electric transportation in South Carolina could lead to less expensive energy costs for its customers."

The offerings include a residential EV charging program, EV school bus charging program, EV transit bus charging program and a direct-current, fast-charging program. DEC said the cost of the pilot is about $7.1 million.

DEC is seeking expedited approval of its pilot as part of its plan to advocate to the South Carolina Department of Insurance and the South Carolina Department of Education to "commit to funding the replacement of some of the diesel school buses in South Carolina with electric school buses." The utility said it will ask the state agencies to fund the program through a portion of South Carolina's $34 million share of Volkswagen AG's $2.9 billion Environmental Mitigation Trust tied to alleged diesel emissions fraud.

"The company believes that the availability of funds from the settlement trust combined with the company's proposed rebate would yield a great incentive for [the South Carolina Department of Education] to replace a limited number of the legacy school buses with zero-emission, electric school buses," DEC wrote. The company said it will provide rebates up to $125,000 to assist with the purchase of up to 20 electric school buses and associated charging infrastructure.

DEC also proposed providing rebates and quarterly payments to up to 400 residential customers that install smart, networked charging stations in exchange for the utility's ability to manage the home charging stations during certain hours.

In addition, DEC said it will provide rebates of up to $55,000 each for up to 20 electric transit bus charging stations in exchange for allowing the company to record charging data and perform testing of utility-managed charging.

The final offering involves the installation and testing of up to 20 utility-owned and publicly available fast-charging stations across DEC's service territory.

The fast-charging stations would be located at truck stops, gas stations, restaurants and other retail spaces along key interstate corridors. (SC PSC docket 2018-321-E)