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Portland General Electric 'bullish' on electric vehicles

The Portland, Ore., area could be in for a dramatic shift in the number of electric vehicles on the road over the next five years, Portland General Electric Co. President and CEO Maria Pope said.

During a July 27 call to discuss the company's earnings for the second quarter, Pope said PGE is "really bullish with regard to electric vehicles" and predicted a significant change in places such as the Portland metropolitan region in the coming years.

"I think most of our enthusiasm comes from what we're hearing from consumers and from municipalities as well as from car manufacturers, in terms of their focus on improving electric vehicles and speed to delivery of those," she said.

PGE is investing in electric vehicle charging stations, including six bus charging stations, as part of a series of pilot programs for the company to help accelerate transportation electrification.

As part of that effort, PGE will install, own and manage six electric bus charging stations for TriMet, a bus and commuter rail service in the Portland region. The $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.

PGE will also 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. The company will also spend $2.6 million to expand its "Electric Avenue" project by installing and owning six new fast charging stations in Portland, Salem and other Oregon cities.

Carty settlement helps boost guidance

During the call, PGE officials also said a recent settlement that resolved a dispute related to delays in construction of the 500-MW Carty Generating Station made up the bulk of an increase in full-year earnings guidance. The deal provided PGE $130 million for overruns in the plant's construction costs.

PGE increased its full year earnings guidance by 15 cents, from $2.25 to $2.40, 12 cents of which is associated with the Carty settlement, Pope said. The company expects the settlement proceeds to fully offset incremental construction costs and partially offset other damages, she said.

That settlement resolved an ongoing legal fight with now-defunct contractors over delays in the plant.

In December 2015, PGE declared the contractors in default and ended the construction agreement. The company hired another contractor to finish the power plant, but in the process incurred additional costs. Oregon regulators had approved a revenue requirement based on approved capital cost of $514 million, but Portland General's overall construction costs totaled about $640 million. Pope said PGE plans to withdraw an application to defer the excess capital costs for recovery.

She said the dispute had no impact on Carty's operation. Since going into service in 2016, the plant has provided customers with safe, reliable and cost-effective energy, and is operating at rates that are exceeding expectations, she said.