The number of charging stations for electric vehicles in Maine will increase by 120, roughly 50 percent, following action Tuesday by the Public Utilities Commission.

Through a rebate program run by Efficiency Maine Trust, 60 rebates will be provided for $4,000 each, for a total of $240,000. These rebates will be for so-called Level 2 electric charging stations. Eighty percent of the rebates will be offered to customers in Central Maine Power’s service area and 20 percent to customers in Emera Maine’s service area.

A separate program run by Central Maine Power will provide $4,000 in “make ready” work for the electrical infrastructure required to provide for 60 Level 2 charging stations, for a total of $240,000. This program will be offered as an alternative to Efficiency Maine’s rebate program, to learn which approach is preferred by customers.

A Level 2 charger is a 220-volt connection, like a clothes dryer, and takes about eight hours to charge an electric vehicle. It’s usually located at workplaces, stores or homes.

“The commission is pleased to make these awards today to support electrification of the transportation sector,” said Philip Bartlett, the PUC’s chairman. “All four initiatives will benefit and support electric vehicles in Maine consistent with the statute. As pilots, each program will provide valuable information to inform future policies to support EV deployment in Maine.”

Last year, the Maine Legislature enacted a law that, in part, directed the PUC to solicit proposals for pilot programs to support the beneficial electrification of Maine’s transportation sector.

The new charging stations are a component of Maine’s climate action plan, part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions from transportation. Cars and trucks account for more than half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Vehicles fueled by an electric grid that’s slowly transitioning to clean generation, such as wind, solar and  hydro, is seen as a way to cut those emissions.

Maine has roughly 240 public charging stations, with 40 or so of them in the Portland area, according to PlugShare, an online mapping site for plug-in cars.

In addition, the PUC approved a series of communications developed by Efficiency Maine that include two “how-to” manuals for prospective EV owners and a series of instructional videos to show the crucial elements of EV ownership.

Also approved was a rate design program in CMP’s service territory that will provide reduced-demand charges to encourage the installation of Level 3 electric vehicle charging stations.

A Level 3 charger can charge an EV at a much faster rate, generally around 20 minutes. They are more expensive and generally are placed at a public location, such as a highway rest-stop.

The PUC’s action drew a mixed response from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, a strong supporter of electric vehicles. The group said the approved pilots were a welcome step, but that the PUC fell short because it didn’t select a proposal to fund Level 3 or DC Fast Chargers.

“Maine needs a comprehensive network of EV charging stations so that drivers build confidence in owning electric cars – although they are almost entirely charged at home overnight,” said Sue Ely, NRCM’s clean energy policy advocate. “This decision moves us a step closer to that, and also shows that Maine will need complementary policies and sources of funding to capture the benefits of electrification.”

By contrast, Level 1 charging is done via a standard, 120-volt wall plug and generally takes overnight to fully charge a car.

 

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