Oregon regulators require public utilities to adopt plans for electric vehicles

By Chet Edelman

While electric vehicles only make up a small share of the current U.S. vehicle fleet, by 2040 they are expected to comprise approximately 55 percent of all new vehicle sales. Accommodating for growing EV demand, however, will require major changes in how utilities supply electricity. At the moment, the electrical grid is simply not equipped to handle widespread EV adoption. In Oregon, regulators are attempting to address this problem. The state Public Utility Commission recently implemented a new rule requiring all public utilities to create a transportation electrification plan. By pushing public utilities to incorporate EVs into their long-term strategies, government officials hope to not only accelerate EV adoption but also ensure current utility infrastructure can meet new demand.

Within each transportation electrification plan, public utilities must outline a number of actions including investments in infrastructure, rate design, programs, and services. The Public Utility Commission aims to use these reports to gain a better understanding of what an EV-centric future in Oregon might look like. How much public charging will be needed? How should charging costs be allocated among customers? Currently, no state is in a position to answer these questions. While places such as Hawaii and California have explored transportation electrification plans, there remains a substantial coordination gap between utilities and regulators.

Given that EVs are likely to proliferate in the near future, Oregon’s new rule may set a precedent for other states to take a proactive approach to transportation electrification. Thinking about how to address transportation electrification now ensures utilities are not scrambling to meet demand in the future.

Chet Edelman is a Project Assistant at SSTI.