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Assemblywoman Carol Murphy. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Opinion: Private Investment in EV Charging is a Must

By Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, July 07 2021 9:58 am

OPINION

Negotiations are ramping up between Republicans and the White House as both sides work to reach a bipartisan agreement on an infrastructure package that has the potential to revitalize America’s aging transportation system and drastically reduce the sector’s fossil fuel reliance. While the White House meets with Republican leadership, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led by Congressman Frank Pallone, has been holding hearings to consider a slate of bills aiming to champion electric vehicles, a key pillar of the White House’s infrastructure agenda.

Electric vehicles will undeniably be vital tools in our nation’s fight against climate change, given that the transportation sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas in the United States.

But one of the biggest concerns surrounding the transition to electric vehicles revolves around the current lack of charging stations. According to the Department of Energy, at the moment there are less than 42,000 charging stations nationwide, with barely 5,000 of these being fast chargers. For reference, this is less than a third of the 136,000 gas stations located across the country. While the White House’s proposal aims to build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers by 2030, and has allocated 15 billion to do so, experts estimate it would take a $300 billion investment to construct a charging network capable of accommodating the expected growth of electric vehicles over the next decade.

Only about 300,000 electric vehicles were sold in the United States last year, however, it’s estimated that the number of electric vehicles on our roads could reach upwards of 35 million by 2030. In order to meet this demand, we will need to install approximately 380 charging stations every single day between now and 2030. For reference, a mere 30 ports a day were installed in the United States over the last decade.

If there is going to be any hope of effectively implementing a national network of chargers, ensuring that there is a sufficient mix of private-public partnerships will be paramount. This country will need to develop a highly innovative and adaptable infrastructure that is not only easy to use but also extremely accessible. To do this, it is critical that the business of delivering America’s fuel remains a competitive marketplace.

While Biden’s proposed infrastructure package currently includes incentive programs for the private sector in addition to state and local governments, lawmakers must ensure that utility companies do not end up monopolizing the market, which we have seen in some states. Allowing utility companies to raise rates on their customers to cover the cost of constructing and operating electric vehicle chargers is inherently unfair competition, and will chase away the private investment needed if we are serious about a nationwide charging network

As the Biden Administration and Republican leadership continue to seek common ground regarding this infrastructure package, I hope that key Democrats in Congress will prioritize and protect free market competition in electric vehicle infrastructure. Given his vast experience representing the people of New Jersey, and his position as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Representative Pallone is in the unique position to take the lead on this key issue. I am confident that along with his Democratic colleagues, he will make the right decision, ensuring the electric vehicle legislation that ends up in the infrastructure package supports fair competition, and not a monopoly for utility companies, giving our country the best possible chance to implement an effective national charging network.

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