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EEI encourages utilities to spend at least 5% of fleet acquisition budgets on plug-ins

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) released a white paper, “Transportation Electrification: Utility Fleets Leading the Charge,” that focuses on the electric power industry’s effort to accelerate the expansion of electric transportation in commercial and retail markets, beginning with electric utility fleets. The paper encourages investor-owned electric utilities to meet an industry-wide goal to spend at least 5% of annual fleet acquisition budgets on plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) and technologies.

An analysis of utility fleets by Utilimarc shows only about 1.7% of the vehicles purchased by electric utilities in the last five years were equipped with plug-in technology.

The bottom line is that the electric utility industry needs the electrification of the transportation sector to remain viable and sustainable in the long term. While the market has started moving in this direction and the technology has been proven, there is still more to be done. Without active engagement, we may not realize the many benefits that could be derived from widespread electric-based transportation. We must continue to innovate, invest and work closely with regulators, automakers, and other partners to develop policies and best practices that will allow electric transportation to flourish. Electrifying our own fleets is an important first step in moving the industry forward.

The Edison Electric Institute in partnership with and on behalf of its member companies is requesting each member utility to dedicate 5% of its annual fleet purchase plan to plug-in vehicles. In many applications, this choice already makes economic sense. The 5% ask is a starting point. It is an investment in the future of our business. We must lead by example—showing our customers the benefits and possibilities of making the switch.

—EEI white paper

The EEI paper notes that plug-in technologies are available and cost-effective for a number of fleet applications today. Plug-in technologies enable significant operational savings (i.e., fuel cost and maintenance) and typically have longer useful lives than conventional vehicles. The Return on Investment (ROI) will continue to improve as the incremental cost is reduced, EEI said.

By leveraging the utility industry’s collective buying power, utility operators could contribute to a boost in production volumes with a concomitant reduction in price, the white paper suggested.

Typical vehicle configurations and applications in the electric utility fleet. Source: EEI.

The white paper is part of an effort to accelerate the adoption of PEVs and plug-in technologies by utilities, and it was written by a steering committee comprised of utility fleet directors from across the country.

To help guide the effort, investor-owned electric utility CEOs designated Tony Earley, chairman, CEO and president of PG&E Corporation, and Jim Piro, CEO and president of Portland General Electric, as co-chairs of the EEI Electric Transportation Task Force.

The mission of the task force is to champion the issue of electrification by increasing the awareness, opportunities, and activities related to electrification within the utility industry; collaborating with automakers and other stakeholders; and educating the public at large about the benefits of electric vehicles and technologies.

Plug-in cars and trucks can make good business sense whether you’re a utility or any other business that operates a fleet of vehicles. At PGE, we’ve been working hard to support electric vehicle policy and infrastructure in Oregon, but we’ve also done the internal analysis and piloting needed to confirm it’s time to build fleet electrification into our own budget. We encourage other utilities to do the same.

—Jim Piro

According to the paper, electrification of the transportation sector is a potential “quadruple win” for electric utilities and society, and it will enable electric utilities to support environmental goals, build customer satisfaction, reduce operating costs, and assure the future value of existing assets. The expansion of electric-based vehicles in utility fleets will help utilities:

  • Reduce operating costs for fuel and maintenance;

  • Extend useful lives of the units based on their mechanical simplicity;

  • Improve crew safety through noise reduction (i.e., the ability to operate a bucket truck at height and still communicate with crew members on the ground);

  • Extend work hours of crews performing non-emergency work in communities with noise restrictions;

  • Reduce carbon emissions; and

  • Provide another avenue to engage customers about the products and services electric utilities provide.


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