California PUC Will Not Regulate EV Charging Services Providers As Public Utilities

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today concluded that companies that sell electric vehicle charging services to the public will not be regulated as public utilities pursuant to the Public Utilities Code.

The CPUC is evaluating alternative-fueled vehicle policies to ensure California’s investor-owned electric utilities are prepared for the projected statewide growth of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles throughout California, per Senate Bill 626 (Kehoe, Chapter 355, Statutes of 2009).

The CPUC’s actions today provide clarity regarding the CPUC’s regulatory role in the market for electric vehicle charging services. The CPUC’s decision finds that the sale of electric vehicle charging services to the public does not make a corporation or person a public utility solely because of that sale, ownership, or operation. The decision also identifies ways in which the CPUC can exercise its regulatory authority to ensure that electric vehicle charging occurs in manner that is consistent with the capabilities of the electric grid.

Since providing electric vehicle charging services does not make an entity a public utility, an electric vehicle charging service provider will generally be an end-use customer of a CPUC-jurisdictional (i.e., regulated) load-serving entity. A charging service provider that is connecting to the transmission or distribution system of an investor-owned utility will, at the very least, be a retail transmission and distribution customer of the utility, the CPUC noted. The charging service provider’s load-serving entity could be the investor-owned utility, and electricity service provider, or a community choice aggregator.

One aspect of the current decision is that if a provider of electric vehicles charging services attempts to procure electricity on the wholesale market, rather than purchasing electricity from a load-serving entity (e.g., a regulated public utility), the charging provider’s purchase of electricity will constitute a “direct transaction” and will be subject to all the obligations and limitations that apply to direct transactions.

In other words, it is illegal for an electric vehicle charging services provider to procure electricity on the wholesale market if the entity selling the power has not complied with the procurement requirements that apply to the utilities. The Commission will exercise its authority in the area of electric vehicle charging to ensure the law is complied with.


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