On May 9, 2018 the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission issued an order approving Xcel Energy’s residential electric vehicle (“EV”) pilot program (the “Pilot”), designed as an alternative to Xcel’s existing EV tariff, concluding that the Pilot will “benefit all ratepayers by aiding Xcel in its efforts to integrate EV load as cost-effectively as possible.” A full copy of the Commission’s order is available by clicking here.

By way of background, Xcel petitioned the Commission for approval of the Pilot after receiving consumer feedback on Xcel’s initial residential EV tariff filed in January 2015 pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 216B.1614. Under the initial EV tariff, the typical residential customer paid approximately $1,725 to $3,525 to enroll due to various costs including: wiring, installation of additional meters, and electric vehicle supply equipment (“EVSE”). Consumer feedback to Xcel that these costs were simply too high.

Under the Pilot, consumers’ barrier to entry complaints are addressed by employing the use of EVSE that sends usage data to the utility via the customer’s home wireless network, removing the need for an additional meter. Because EVSE transmits customer data through a wireless connection, customers may be wary of data privacy issues. In an attempt to remedy these concerns, the Commission requires that Xcel immediately notify customers of any unauthorized access to data obtained through this Pilot.

As an additional attempt to make the Pilot more accessible, Customers now have the option to pay for the EVSE over a period of time which also reduces initial costs. participants may elect to pay for EVSE through either a monthly customer charge included in a “bundled service” rate option, or under a “prepay” option. Under the “bundled service” option the monthly customer charge will be no higher than $19 and the “prepay” monthly customer charge no higher than $8. Xcel also negotiated with several vendors to supply and install EVSE to further ease the cost of entry. Lastly, like Xcel’s existing EV tariff, the Pilot offers a lower per-kilowatt-hour (“kWh”) rate during off peak hours.

As for accounting treatment, Xcel requested and received Commission approval for it to own all EVSE during the term of the pilot program, to capitalize the EVSE costs as distribution plant, and to earn a return upon the capitalized amounts. Xcel also received approval for recovering a carrying charge on the unpaid balance of the EVSE purchase price in the case of bundled service. These costs, as well as the costs of customer-outreach initiatives, will be recovered in the communications-cost tracker account under Xcel’s existing EV tariff.

Xcel will submit compliance filings by June 1, 2019, providing the Commission with data related to the Pilot. In other words, more to come.  But not just in this docket.

Also issued by the Commission on May 9 was a Notice of Comment Period in Commission Docket No. CI-17-879, which is the miscellaneous docket where the Commission seeks to gain more understanding of: (1) the possible impacts of EVs on the electric system, utilities, and utility customers, including the potential electric system benefits; (2) the degree to which utilities and utility regulatory policy can impact the extent and pace of EV penetration in Minnesota; and (3) possible EV tariff options to facilitate wider availability of EV charging infrastructure. The Commission’s Notice of Comment Period may be accessed here.