December 23, 2020
Colorado Public Utilities Commission Approves Xcel Transportation Electrification Plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information:
Travis Madsen, SWEEP | email@example.com, 720-669-7488
Michael Hiatt, Earthjustice | firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-519-9727
[DENVER, CO] – On Wednesday, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved Xcel Energy's first Transportation Electrification Plan. The decision clears a path for Xcel to invest more than $100 million in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and programs over the next 3 years. The decision will be formalized in a detailed written order, forthcoming.
"This is the dawn of a new era for clean, efficient transportation in Colorado," said Travis Madsen, Transportation Program Director at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP). "There's something for everyone to like in this decision. It will save Coloradans millions of dollars. At the same time, it will help clean up our air, protect our health, reduce climate change, and greatly improve energy efficiency."
This decision will help make charging up an EV easier and more convenient for more people. It will also help customers, including public and private fleet owners, identify opportunities to save money by switching to EVs, which are more efficient.
Under its Transportation Electrification Plan, Xcel will assist customers with installing EV chargers at their homes, at multi-family housing, at their workplaces, around town, and along major roadways. Xcel will also launch a variety of education and outreach programs to help customers navigate decisions about switching to electric transportation. Further, Xcel will offer additional assistance and programs designed to offer extra assistance to those who need it most, helping to ensure that the benefits of the EV transition will be widespread, including for income-qualified people and communities exposed to high levels of transportation-related air pollution.
"It is critical that Colorado quickly and equitably transition to EVs," said Michael Hiatt, an attorney at Earthjustice, who represented SWEEP at the Public Utilities Commission. "Xcel's transportation electrification plan is a strong step forward to a future where EVs are widespread across the state and every Coloradan has the opportunity to drive and enjoy the benefits of these vehicles."
Investing in transportation electrification will deliver major benefits for drivers, for Xcel customers, for Coloradans in general, and for the world. Consider:
Electrifying most of the light-duty vehicles in Colorado would save drivers more than $2 billion per year by 2050, because EVs are cheaper to operate than conventional cars and trucks. Driving on electricity is comparable in cost to gasoline at close to $1 per gallon – two to three times cheaper than gasoline has ever been (adjusted for inflation). EVs also do not need oil changes, transmission replacements, or other kinds of maintenance that conventional vehicles require. Those savings add up to thousands of dollars per car over the life of the vehicle.
Increasing the number of EVs charging on the grid will save utility customers money, whether they choose to drive an EV or not. EV drivers pay more for electricity than it costs to serve them, especially if the vehicles are charged at night, when there is spare capacity on the grid. According to analysis by E3, the 21,000 EVs in Xcel's Colorado service territory paid about $10 million more to charge than it cost to deliver electricity to those vehicles this year, in 2020. That extra money is either returned to customers or reduces the need for future rate increases. Because of this effect, electrifying most of the light-duty vehicles in Colorado would save utility customers more than $4 billion over the next 30 years in the form of reduced electricity bills (net present value).
Investing in EVs is also a key step in fighting climate change. Transportation is Colorado's largest source of the pollution that causes global warming. EVs produce no direct emissions; and as the state moves towards increasingly cleaner forms of electricity, EVs will also get cleaner. For this reason, utility investment in vehicle electrification is one of the key steps called out in Governor Polis' Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, and why the Colorado State Electric Vehicle Plan targets full electrification of all cars and trucks in the state by 2050.
Accelerating the transition to EVs will also help clean our air and improve public health. EVs do not directly emit the pollutants that cause smog or soot pollution. As our electricity grid moves away from polluting fuels and towards clean sources of energy, vehicles will get cleaner, too. The Xcel plan approved today is a major step toward getting rid of Denver's Brown Cloud and improving the health of communities across the region, particularly people who live near busy roadways.
SWEEP intervened in the proceeding at the Public Utilities Commission, represented by Earthjustice. SWEEP carefully reviewed Xcel's proposed Transportation Electrification Plan.
"Our key conclusion was that going bigger on EVs is better," said Madsen. "We are wasting tons of energy and causing a great deal of harmful pollution by using petroleum to get around. The more Xcel can do to shift Colorado to cleaner and more efficient forms of transportation, the larger the benefits will be for everyone."
The Commission largely sided with SWEEP, a coalition of environmental groups, a coalition of justice advocates, Energy Outreach Colorado, the cities of Denver and Boulder, a coalition of EV charging companies, and Xcel Energy in approving core elements of the plan and many programmatic improvements. The Commission also adopted many of our recommendations to ensure that the benefits will be widespread, including expanded eligibility for programs for income-qualified people and communities overburdened by pollution.
Additionally, the Commission decided to direct Xcel to establish a $5 million pilot program to provide rebates for income-qualified customers who purchase an EV, with incentive levels at $5500 for new vehicles and $3000 for used vehicles. The subsidy would be limited to vehicles with an MSRP less than $50,000, and it would take the place of the state EV tax credit if claimed.
"This decision is unequivocally a win for the public interest," concluded Madsen. "We thank the Commission for driving toward a cleaner and more efficient transportation system in Colorado."
The Colorado Legislature initiated this process in 2019, when it passed Senate Bill 19-077. To unlock the many benefits of electric transportation, the legislature found that "Widespread adoption of EVs requires that public utilities increase access to electricity as transportation fuel, including for low- and moderate-income and underserved communities." The law directs investor-owned utilities to file transportation electrification plans for approval with the Public Utilities Commission every three years.
The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is a public interest organization promoting greater energy efficiency in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. For more information, visit swenergy.org.
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. It wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. For more information, visit earthjustice.org.