Michigan utility cancels electric-car charging stations after opposition


2017 Chevrolet Volt

2017 Chevrolet Volt

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In multiple states, electric utilities are beginning to establish networks of electric-car charging stations.

But plans for such a network in Michigan recently hit a roadblock.

Last week, local utility Consumers Energy withdrew its request to install public electric-car charging stations at an estimated cost of $15 million.

DON'T MISS: California utilities submit $1 billion of electric-car projects to regulators

The request was withdrawn following concerted opposition from Michigan's Public Service Commission, its attorney general, and private interests including charging-network operator ChargePoint, according to The Peninsula.

Consumers Energy filed its charging-infrastructure proposal in March 2016, as part of a $225 million rate request.

Its proposal called for 30 DC fast-charging stations, and 750 240-volt Level 2 AC stations, to be installed throughout its area of operations.

Michigan state capitol, Lansing (photo by Brian Charles Watson)

Michigan state capitol, Lansing (photo by Brian Charles Watson)

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The utility planned to maintain the stations itself, but the hosting sites would have been responsible for the cost of electricity used by electric-car drivers.

In addition, rebates would have been offered for home charging stations under the plan.

The state government reportedly opposed the plan to due the perceived increased burden on taxpayers, including those that do not own electric cars.

ALSO SEE: SoCal Edison to install 1,500 electric-car charging sites; what's your electric utility doing? (Jun 2016)

Concern that residents of a utility's service area will have to pay for charging infrastructure they may not actually use has dogged similar projects in other states.

However, those debates typically center around rate increases used to pay for charging stations, paid by all utility customers through added "rate-based" costs in their monthly electricity bills.

ChargePoint opposed the Consumers Energy plan because it feared the utility would limit competition in electric-car charging.

2014 BMW i3 REx fast-charging at Chargepoint site, June 2016 [photo: Tom Moloughney]

2014 BMW i3 REx fast-charging at Chargepoint site, June 2016 [photo: Tom Moloughney]

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This is the latest of several cases in which ChargePoint has fought various plans to roll out electric-car charging stations to protect its business, even as it calls for increased investment in charging infrastructure.

It previously opposed a decision by Missouri regulators that removed a requirement that each new charging station a utility installed in its service area be separately authorized.

CHECK OUT: Are Missouri electric-car charging stations like pay phones? Why that's important (Nov 2016)

ChargePoint argued this amounted to unnecessary regulation of charging systems not operated by utilities—which were not given the same exemption.

The company is also one of the most vocal opponents of Volkswagen's "Electrify America" plan, which requires the automaker to spend $2 billion on zero-emission vehicle infrastructure as part of its diesel-cheating settlement.

General Motors Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan

General Motors Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan

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To resolve the current argument, Michigan's Public Service Commission advocated creation of a "Michigan Electric Vehicle Collaborative" encompassing Consumers Energy and other stakeholders.

It also asked the utility to consider deferring rebates for home charging stations.

Consumers Energy said it would not defer those rebates, but would consider joining a charging-infrastructure collaboration.

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