CHARLOTTE – Duke Energy has filed an additional $56 million proposal of Phase II programs to continue the electrification of transportation in North Carolina, which would lead to more than 1,000 new charging ports or stations for electric vehicle charging in the state.

This proposal comes six months after the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) approved a $25 million Phase I electric transportation project and the NCUC instructed Duke Energy to organize a collaborative stakeholder process, then file paperwork with the Commission on any stakeholder-developed pilot programs.

“Throughout the electric transportation industry, increasing the number of public charging stations and overcoming consumer anxiety about battery range remain obstacles in increasing and sustaining EV adoption,” reads the proposal filed in May 2021. “Given the possible benefits of increased EV adoption to all utility customers, utilities have been and are a natural choice to provide infrastructure that encourages and sustains EV market growth,” it reads.

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The stakeholder group, called the Electric Transportation Stakeholder group or “ET Stakeholder Group,” included government officials, public staff, administrators in the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, along with representatives from the Town of Chapel Hill, the City of Asheville, the City of Raleigh, the City of Charlotte, the City of Durham, the City of Boone, and the City of Greensboro.  Other stakeholders included representatives from the Southern Environmental Law Center, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Regional Transportation Alliance, and the EV Transportation Alliance, among more than two dozen other organizations and entities.

The company stated in its paperwork that its investment is in line with Executive Order 80, which set forth a statewide goal of 80,000 zero-emissions vehicles on North Carolina roads by 2025.  Currently, data shared by Duke Energy finds that there are 26,000 such vehicles.

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The pilot program would provide additional direct current (DC) fast-charging stations along state highways, at multifamily dwellings, and provide financial support to school systems in North Carolina, so they could purchase up to 60 electric school buses, according to the company.

Separate from this filing, the company filed for approval of a make-ready tariff on April 30 which would provide credits to reduce the upfront cost of upgrading electrical systems to install charging infrastructure.

“High upfront costs prevent our customers from unlocking the substantial benefits of EVs, and this challenge is especially prevalent for low- and moderate-income families,” said Lon Huber, Duke Energy’s vice president of rate design and strategic solutions, in a statement. “These new programs remove a key financial barrier to adoption, enabling everyone to benefit from the expanded use of electric vehicles.”

The proposal reads:

“Charging stations will be installed at key publicly accessible locations in Company’s North Carolina service territory to enable charging in the public sector in underserved areas and build driver confidence in EVs, with site selection specifically targeted to low-to-moderate income and rural communities. Company will give priority to installations located in U.S. postal codes that do not have existing access to public EV charging.”

The NCUC approved Duke Energy’s first proposal, writing that it was not sanctioning an open-ended or broad, general participation by Duke Energy in the EV charging infrastructure market.  Instead, the NCUC November 2020 document read, “the goals of the programs are to test public response to wider availability of public charging infrastructure and to acquire data and information on alternative implementation approaches for further analysis, the Commission supports the programs.”

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Duke Energy will continue to convene stakeholders, noted Huber.  The company is also in the process of installing charging stations at all of its workplace locations, according to a statement. That’s one aspect of the company’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. Another is the planned reduction, and consolidation, of office space in Charlotte, where the company is headquartered.

The AP is reporting that higher rates will go into effect for Duke Energy customers today, increasing by an average of 4.7% across all of the utility’s customer groups, or an average of about $6 on an energy bill of $110–$120. The rates were approved by the North Carolina Utility Commission earlier in the year.