DecarbonizationMaking Green Power Initiatives a Priority
October 12th, 2023
The Columbus Division of Power (DOP) wanted to ensure that if their customers were thinking of buying an electric vehicle (EV), they would be able to charge it at home easily and quickly. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than 80 percent of EV charging happens at the owner’s home.
In August 2018, DOP launched its residential EV charger rebate program to support and align with Smart Columbus EV adoption goals by providing a financial incentive to customers interested in buying an EV and charging it at home. Customers can receive up to $500 per Level 2 electric charging station installed on their residential property. Both single-family and multi-unit properties are available for the rebate. In total, DOP aims to fund 200 Level 2 chargers for its Columbus customers.
Rebate program design
DOP customers interested in the program have to complete a five-step process to be eligible for the rebate:
1. Contact an electrician who can determine the scope of the project
2. Fill out a pre-approval application
3. Obtain the Minor Limited Scope Permit, specifically the electric permit from the city’s Building & Zoning Services
4. Have the Level 2 EV charging station installed within 90 days of the pre-approval application
5. Complete the final application to receive the rebate
The pre-approval process is an important part to the program design because it places customers on the list for the first-come, first-served rebate funds. It also provides an opportunity for the DOP customer development engineers to review the project load requirements and confirm that DOP service to the property meets the electric capacity needs.
The eligible expenses that qualify for the rebate include costs of electrician, construction, permits and equipment. Resident owners also have to schedule an inspection with Building and Zoning services.
Along with the final application, customers must include a photo of the installed charging station, a copy of the signed electric building permit, a photo of the serial number on their charger and the receipts for the charger and construction/installation work.
How the program was funded
In 2017, the DOP received $120,000 from the American Municipal Power (AMP) EcoSmart Choice Grant Program, and decided to use the award to fund the residential EV charger rebate program. EcoSmart Choice is a green-pricing program, based on the purchase and retirement of renewable energy certificates (RECs). According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, RECs are a market-based instrument that represents the property rights to the environmental, social and other non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation. RECs are issued when one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy resource.
One way to think about it, is RECs represent the “greenness” of the electricity that is generated. For each REC that is purchased and used by the electric utility for the green-pricing program, one MWh of traditional non-renewable electric generation is offset.
The buying and selling of RECs through green-pricing programs such as EcoSmart Choice enables electric utilities to deliver the benefits of renewable energy to more customers, regardless of their power supply mix. RECs used by AMP for EcoSmart Choice are sourced primarily from hydroelectric, landfill gas, wind or other eligible renewable facilities located in AMP’s seven-state footprint. AMP established a grant program as a means to return used funds (funds that were not used to purchase RECs) to participating members. Sustainability grants are intended to recognize participating communities that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability through the promotion of environmentally focused community-based grant projects.
Highlights and challenges
Kristian Fenner, assistant division administrator and Smart Columbus liaison for DOP, says that the organization used outreach via email, social media, bill inserts, the DOP website and issued a press release to spread the word about the rebate program. Postcards were delivered to car dealerships and media stories about the program ran in the local market.
Initially, Fenner says that DOP received six pre-approval applications from customers in the process installing their EV chargers. But many more were interested. Though the DOP services 14,000 customers in the city of Columbus, many of Columbus residents are serviced by other electric companies. That caused some confusion about the program, even with outreach efforts, Fenner says.
“The biggest challenge is targeting Division of Power customers and getting them to apply. We have had a lot of interest from people who aren’t our customers. Some people don’t realize that Division of Power is an actual electric utility with our system and customers,” Fenner says.
Because the car buying process can be a long process for some people, the short amount of time to apply for and deploy the rebate has been a challenge to the program. Keeping in mind that the funds must be used by the end of 2019, Fenner says that DOP will evaluate whether the remaining funds should be re-legislated for other sustainable projects.
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