Portland General Electric Wants to Electrify Your Commute

In December 2016, Portland General Electric released its "Transportation Electrification Plan." The objectives outlined in the Plan position PGE as leader among electric utilities in embracing electric transportation. The utility's goals include encouraging more people to choose electric transportation options, effectively integrating electric vehicles into its grid; and to making purchase and use of electric vehicles easier for consumers.

PGE's proposed initiatives range from community outreach to installing charging stations for TriMet buses and private vehicles. For example, some Portland residents may already be familiar with PGE's "Electric Avenue" charging site downtown at World Trade Center. The utility plans to expand the concept with up to twenty more Electric Avenues by 2020. It's looking at expanding the concept to other parts of Portland as well as Gresham, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Wilsonville, and Salem. For those in the development community, PGE hopes to partner with developers and builders to integrate charging infrastructure into new construction and major renovation projects. 

These proposed initiatives are informed by customer research, including focus groups, market research, and a thorough survey of available technology. One thing readers may be surprised to learn is that many existing charging stations in the Metro area do not support both of the most popular types of plugs. Though many EV drivers charge at home, charging stations are important for multi-family dwellers, transportation network drivers, those on longer trips, and concerned prospective EV purchasers. But rest assured, PGE's Electric Avenue stations are "dual-head," and support both popular types of plugs. Another wrinkle PGE explains is that, just like with other real property, issues arise about the ownership, maintenance, and sometimes abandonment of charging infrastructure as business entities come and go. As a result, PGE has "adopted" several abandoned stations around Oregon.

Transportation electrification integrates well into the big picture: in a recent Ear to the Ground, David Petersen explained that PGE plans to acquire 175 new megawatts of energy from renewable sources by 2020. So, electric vehicles will increasingly be powered by renewable sources. Reciprocally, seamless integration of many EVs onto the grid can provide the utility with a distributed network that it can store power in, like excess wind, and later draw from.

Before PGE can implement the Plan, Oregon's Public Utility Commission must approve it. That process will take place over the next few months.

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