Oregon Law Protects EV Charging Choice

Gov. Kate Brown talks with members of the media to preview  legislation for the upcoming session at the Capitol Building, in
Gov. Kate Brown talks with members of the media to preview legislation for the upcoming session at the Capitol Building, in Salem, Ore., on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)

In my experience in energy politics, I've seen many attempts around the country to undermine customer choice when it comes to new clean energy technology. Net metering advocates fought to defend solar choice. Cities battled for the ability to directly provide greener and more affordable power through customer choice aggregation. And now electric vehicle drivers, businesses, and innovators have succeeded in protecting charging choice, through legislation just signed into law in Oregon.

SB 1547, signed by Governor Kate Brown, increases the state's renewable portfolio standard, ends the use of coal in Oregon, and directs utilities to support transportation electrification and deployment of EV charging stations. Though there were serious concerns when this legislation was first introduced, the final version signed into law promotes clean energy policy and importantly supports the competitive development of charging infrastructure across the state.

As it often happens in politics, the original bill was negotiated before the session began, behind closed doors directly between environmental groups and Oregon's big electric utilities, leaving many important voices out of the discussion. The resulting deal threatened charging choice by giving utilities monopoly control over EV charging stations. The proposed bill limited innovation and competition, with no assurances this ratepayer-funded build out would benefit all Oregonians.

This legislation needed changes, and the House and Senate heard that loud and clear. ChargePoint, innovation-focused groups like TechNet and the Electric Vehicle Charging Association, and hundreds of Oregon EV drivers spoke out about the importance of protecting charging choice as utilities enter into the EV market. This means that workplaces, retailers, residents, apartments, cities and universities -- not just the utility -- must retain the ability to choose, from a competitive market, which charging equipment and features are appropriate for the unique needs of EV drivers visiting that site.

Thankfully, in the final days of session, the Legislature made an important amendment with one small but vital sentence. The final version of SB 1547 requires utilities to "protect customer choice, competition, and innovation in EV charging equipment and services." This language will be used by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission to review utility proposals before approving anything that threatens charging choice.

And now that this legislation has been signed by Governor Brown, Oregonians can rest assured that the state will continue to support their ability to choose the EV charging equipment that meets their driving needs, not just those of the utility.