A proposal to increase investment in electric vehicle charging stations began moving through the House on Tuesday, despite concerns that state regulators are being asked to set prices and work outside their jurisdiction.
The House Tourism, Infrastructure, and Energy Subcommittee voted 13-3 to approve a bill (HB 737) that would direct the Florida Public Service Commission to propose rules by the end of the year to establish “competitively neutral” standards for the addition of electric vehicle charging. infrastructure, including “just and reasonable” utility rates for electricity. The commission would have until January 1, 2024 to adopt the rules.
Sponsor David Borrero, R-Sweetwater, said without the proposal, utilities such as Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy Florida will quickly dominate the electric vehicle charging arena.
“If we do nothing, it will allow investor-owned utilities to price base and eliminate all competition in the marketplace,” Borrero said.
But several lawmakers and the influential business lobby group Associated Industries of Florida have questioned the proposal.
Adam Basford, vice president of government affairs for Associated Industries, said the proposal would increase the number of companies that could have standing to litigate tariff cases before the Public Service Commission, which could open cases to “persons outside the State”. Additionally, Basford said the bill, beginning in 2024, would prohibit utilities from charging customers up front for electric vehicle charging stations.
“They’ve led the way in terms of investing in EV (electric vehicle) development, and they’re really in the best position to keep moving forward,” Basford said of private utilities. “We believe this ban would slow down that investment and EV infrastructure will be limited in its ability to handle the grid.”
Rep. Rick Roth, a Republican from West Palm Beach who voted against the proposal, questioned the need for government, rather than individual companies, to regulate the market.
“My problem here today is trying to figure that out,” Roth said. “After hearing about it for the first time yesterday, we are going to ask a regulatory commission to try to encourage private investment. To me, it just seems a little weird.
Rep. Randy Fine, a Brevard County Republican who voted for the measure, said more work is needed on the bill, such as removing references to establishing incentives that support private investment. .
“While I’m not sure you’ve got it all figured out here, I think you have legitimate concerns there,” said Fine, who drives an electric vehicle. “We need more of these (stations). And we want a significant number of businesses in the same way that there is not just one place to fill up with gas. There should be plenty of options for you to fill your car with electricity.
Over the past two years, the Public Service Commission has given approval to Tampa Electric Co., FPL and Duke Energy to set up and operate charging stations, including a pilot program in which FPL could also charge 30 cents per kilowatt hour for motorists who charge vehicles at utility-owned sites.
An analysis of the House bill said the commission says it has no jurisdiction over non-utilities providing electric vehicle charging.
“It is unclear whether the PSC, through rule-making, could prioritize and encourage private investment, or drive competition and customer choice in the electric vehicle charging market. , as these functions do not fall within its statutory competence,” the staff analysis said.
The proposal, along with a Senate version (SB 920) that has not moved forward since winning a committee’s backing on Jan. 18, came as Florida will receive federal funds to expand charging stations cars. The US Department of Energy announced last week that Florida’s initial share in a $5 billion pot was just over $29 million.
In 2020, lawmakers asked the Florida Department of Transportation to come up with a plan that encourages the expansion of charging stations along the state’s highway system.
The state then designated $8.6 million to add 34 fast-charging stations along Interstate 95, Interstate 4, Interstate 75, Interstate 275 and Interstate 295 as part of the $166 million Florida received as part of a $14.7 billion settlement between Volkswagen and the U.S. Department of Justice over emissions violations.
CleanEnergy.Org reported that electric vehicles in Florida accounted for 3% of all cars sold from July 2020 to July 2021.