As anyone who has ever listened to the radio show A Prairie Home Companion knows, Minnesotans like to think of themselves as being above average. When it comes to electric vehicle adoption, however, we fall squarely in middle of the road. Fortunately, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) and Xcel Energy are stepping up to spur electric vehicle (EV) growth in the North Star State. A new MPUC Order lays out a bold vision for electrification and requires the state’s investor-owned utilities to proactively support EV adoption in their service areas. Xcel Energy—the state’s largest utility—is leading the charge, developing a suite of residential, fleet and public charging pilot programs.
The recent MPUC Order—which was the culmination of a Commission-initiated docket investigating EVs—details the multitude of benefits EVs can provide. The Order acknowledged the tremendous greenhouse gas emissions reductions potential for Minnesota, especially when charging is synced with Minnesota’s abundant wind resources. The MPUC also highlighted the public health benefits of EVs, noting that poor air quality disproportionately harms economically disadvantaged communities and communities of color. The Commission found EVs can lower electric rates for all customers as well by “improving utility system utilization/efficiency and placing downward pressure on utility rates through increased utility revenues and better grid utilization.”
In light of these benefits, the Commission will require investor-owned utilities to “take steps to encourage the cost-effective adoption and integration of EVs,” first by filing Transportation Electrification Plans this June, and then through EV pilot programs. Specifically, the Commission directed utilities to support the development of charging infrastructure, enhance public awareness of EVs and facilitate fleet electrification, all the while encouraging “environmentally and economically optimal EV integration” through time-varying rates or managed charging.
Xcel Energy is leading the charge on EV promotion. Xcel already has a discounted off-peak EV rate option and another innovative pilot that uses smart chargers in lieu of a separate utility meter. Last fall, Xcel submitted two new pilot proposals for MPUC consideration. One would offer make-ready infrastructure for public EV chargers, and a second would aid fleet electrification, providing support for the Twin Cities’ main transit authority—which recently announced plans to electrify its bus fleet—and a new electric carshare program, among others. Xcel has even more EV pilots under development, including a residential smart charging pilot, workplace charging paired with on-site solar generation and an electric school bus vehicle-to-grid demonstration project.
The Public Utilities Commission has developed a comprehensive vision for EVs in Minnesota, one that maximizes environmental and public health benefits while also lowering electricity rates for all and ensuring disadvantaged communities are not left behind in the transition. Together with innovative utilities like Xcel, the Commission can make Minnesota a leader in EV policy in the Midwest.