IUB Addresses Electric Vehicle Charging Concerns
by Steve Guyer on Wednesday, April 28, 2021
Recently, the Iowa Utilities Board made an important ruling that affects EV charging options for Iowa. When it comes to expanding the electric vehicle charging infrastructure in our state, what’s the challenge? Shouldn’t it be as simple as adding some charging stations to your gas station or hotel parking lot? But infrastructure change is never quite that simple. Beyond the obvious differences of electric vehicles, the regulation of our state utilities will play a role in this infrastructure development.
In Iowa, the electric utilities all have assigned service territories with the exclusive right to provide all the electricity in their territory. This means that only the electric utility can sell or resell electricity in the exclusive territory – customers do not choose their provider and other utilities cannot provide service in another utility's exclusive territory. Electric utilities have a series of legal requirements and obligations that go with this exclusive right to sell electricity.
In response to this issue, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) adopted new administrative rules on April 7, 2021, in Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 199—20.20 Electric vehicle charging service. The IUB addressed this gray area by clearly stating that a commercial or public electric vehicle charging station is not regarded as a public utility if the charging station receives all electric power from their electric utility. This means a business, such as a gas station, can sell electricity to a customer charging up their car without becoming subject to all of the regulations of a public utility as long as the business receives 100% of its electricity from its utility.
Generally, this is good news for charging infrastructure in Iowa. However, if that same gas station installs a solar array to generate some of its own electricity, it is unclear as to whether the business would be subject to utility regulation. This is because as a part of the new administrative rule, the IUB will make a case-by-case determination of whether a commercial or public electric vehicle charging station is a public utility when they provide part of their power from solar.
Given the expected rise in electric vehicle sales, the consequential need for commercial charging stations, and the expected increase in entities installing solar to meet a portion of their electric needs, it is likely that the IUB will be called upon to make such a determination in the near future. The Iowa Environmental Council looks forward to participating in the first such IUB proceeding and working to advance both electric vehicle charging and distributed solar generation while lowering the barriers to such technology adoption.