Electric Vehicles are an Opportunity for Both Utilities and Companies

June 17, 2016 By Ken Silverstein

electric_vehiclesElectric utilities can make fat targets. But a leading environmental group says that they now have a great new opportunity to clean up the automotive sector. The Natural Resources Defense Council says that utilities can help facilitate the rollout of all-electric vehicles by deploying rapid charging stations and by creating campaigns to increase public awareness.

“If we want to avoid the most destructive impacts of climate change and clean our air, we need to ditch petroleum and instead plug our nation’s cars, trucks, and buses into an electric grid fed by more renewable energy. Utilities can give the electric vehicle market a critical boost by putting charging stations where drivers live, work, and play,’’ said Max Baumhefner of the council’s Clean Vehicles and Fuels Program, one of the report’s authors.

Okay, but a big thing here is just what fuel will be burned to make the electricity that will run the cars. Some experts have warned that if coal is used, then the overall emissions reductions may not pan. The goal here is for renewables to be used, like wind and solar, says the environmental council.

According to the group, electric vehicles can store electricity in their batteries for use later. That then creates more room on the grid, enabling more wind and solar to displace fossil-fuel generation.

The math: electric vehicles currently account for less than 1 percent of new vehicle sales. But if they grew to as much as 40 percent over the next 15 years, a lot of carbon emissions could be avoided, say proponents.

The demand is there, says the council, pointing to the hundreds of thousands who plopped down monies on the yet-to-be rolled out Tesla. And companies seeking to strengthen their brands in their communities and among their customers will also be key markets. No matter the customer base, though, the infrastructure to support the potential demand has to keep up.

“A dramatic increase in electric vehicles, fueled by clean energy such as solar and wind power, will put us on the road to meeting our climate goals, reduce harmful pollution, and insulate drivers from roller-coaster gasoline prices while strengthening the grid,’’ said Roland Hwang, director of council’s Energy and Transportation Program.

It’s a win-win: At a cost-equivalent of about a $1 per gallon, corporate consumers will get onboard while utilities will increase their sales, all at a time when more and more companies are generating their power onsite and bypassing their utilities.

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