California's latest tactic to promote electric-car adoption is to involve electric utilities in the installation and operation of charging infrastructure.

Utilities in other states were previously allowed to own and operate electric-car charging stations, but that wasn't the case in California until a state Public Utilities Commission ruling in December 2014.

After approving charging-infrastructure projects for two Southern California utilities, the Public Utilities Commission on Thursday approved a third project for utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

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Under the approved plan, PG&E will deploy 7,500 electric-car charging stations in its service area in northern and central California, at an estimated cost of $130 million.

The plan specifies that PG&E must deploy at least 20 percent of the charging stations at multi-unit dwellings, and aim to place at least 50 percent of the stations at these locations.

Multi-unit dwellings have received less attention in recent deployment of charging infrastructure, which have tended to focus on non-residential locations.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

At the same time, the shared spaces may make installing charging stations for personal use more complicated for residents of these buildings than residents of single-family homes.

PG&E will also deploy at least 15 percent of the new charging stations in disadvantaged communities, and will aim to increase that amount to 20 percent.

This provision in particular drew praise from the Greenlining Institute, which was involved with the negotiations that led up to the approval of the project.

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Joel Espino, Greenlining Institute Environmental Equity Legal Counsel, said expanded charging infrastructure would make electric cars a practical alternative to more Californians, and dispel "the myth that electric cars are just for the wealthy."

The final plan stemmed from a settlement between PG&E and multiple stakeholders.

These included: the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Center for Sustainable Energy, the Coalition of California Utility Employees, General Motors, the Greenlining Institute, Greenlots, Honda, Marin Clean Energy, the National Resources Defense Council, Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and Sonoma Clean Power.

2017 Nissan Leaf

2017 Nissan Leaf

"This program will help California build healthier communities and sets a strong example for utilities across the country," Sierra Club attorney Joe Halso said in a statement.

PG&E will own and maintain charging stations in multi-unit dwellings and at workplaces in disadvantaged communities, although they will likely be installed by third-party vendors.

MORE: SoCal Edison to install 1,500 electric-car charging sites; what's your electric utility doing?

The utility will also oversee electrical infrastructure and supply rebates to employers at workplaces outside disadvantaged communities, but will not own or maintain the stations.

Approval of the PG&E project follows the commencement of projects led by utilities Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), which will encompass a combined 5,000 charging stations.


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