North Carolina Electric Cooperatives Are Pioneering the Way for Electric Vehicles

By Lindsay Brecheisen | October 4, 2017

As more North Carolinians are plugging in and driving electric, the North Carolina Electric Cooperatives are taking preemptive steps to provide an easy, reliable transition for their members. By introducing new opportunities and innovative programs, the co-ops are embracing their new role as vehicle fuel provider.

A common initiative has been the implementation of electric vehicle time-of-use rates, in which members are charged a varying price per kilowatt-hour depending on grid demand. Shifting charging to off-peak hours, when baseload plants provide a stable and constant flow of power, decreases the strain on the power grid and can lead to improved reliability during peak hours. These rates can be an effective and convenient way for electric vehicle owners to see significant savings in their electricity bills. “Plug-in your vehicle before bed and save money while you sleep,” Piedmont EMC states simply on its website. Many utilities across the country are experimenting with time-of-use rates and several of the North Carolina electric cooperatives are seeing great success after employing specific rates for their EV-owning members.

Randolph EMC applies a three tiered time-of-use rate that its members can sign up for through a pilot program called REVUP. This program was designed to help determine the impact electric vehicles have on the electric grid. Randolph EMC’s time-of-use rate, known as the Plug N2 Savings Rate, encourages its members to charge their electric vehicles during off-peak hours to receive reduced kilowatt-hour rates. As an incentive, the co-op is offering a $500 rebate toward the purchase of a Level 2 charging station to the first 25 members who sign up for the program. These rebates are given out in exchange for the charging station’s data to continue to monitor and understand the effects of EVs on the grid.

Similarly, in May 2017, Piedmont EMC began offering new incentivized rates to members charging electric vehicles at night, during the lowest demand hours. Piedmont offers three separate rates: on-peak, off-peak and super off-peak. With the most significant savings being during the super off-peak hours of 10 pm to 5 am, members are given a rate of 2.79¢ per super off-peak kWh. Piedmont EMC has also held EV workshops within the community and installed a Level 2 charging station at its Hillsborough office, free to members and visitors. “Electric Vehicles are a great way to save money while also helping the environment by reducing CO2 emissions,” said Susan Cashion, communications manager.

With an 18 percent discount off the standard rate, Wake EMC offers an electric vehicle rate during the off-peak hours of 10 pm to 6 am. One of Wake EMC’s other major initiatives has been its wind renewable energy credits (RECs) plan, in which Wake EMC will purchase and retire the renewable attributes associated with 5,000 kWh for each year a member is on the EV rate. According to Wake EMC, “that amount of renewable energy should be more than enough to cover recharging an electric vehicle for a year.” The charging stations installed and EV workshops hosted by Wake EMC have also been successful ways to promote the growing technology.

Additionally, several co-ops have been key components in expanding the list of EV charging stations around North Carolina. Brunswick Electric has been instrumental in providing charging for EV drivers on the coast. They have installed two DC Fast Charger stations around their service area and Level 2 chargers for both locals and visitors. Their latest data shows that the stations have had hundreds of charging sessions. “Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation is delighted to be able to offer PEV chargers to our members and the general public in Southeastern NC,” said Monte Herring, manager of distributive generation/renewable energy. “We believe as a community partner, it is paramount we lead the way in energy resources.”

Blue Ridge Energy has installed charging stations in the North Carolina mountains. “We see a real benefit to being able to help drive adoption of EVs in our area,” said Jason Lingle, energy solutions manager. “We would like to be involved with discussions to help put car charging stations in close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway.”

Additionally, EnergyUnited has installed a charging station at its office in Statesville and one at Childress Vineyards in Lexington, NC. Both of the stations are available and free for use by EV owners. EnergyUnited also shows support and helps to increase EV awareness by hosting member workshops, driving two EV fleet vehicles and offering a $500 charging station rebate.

With the dedicated work of these North Carolina co-ops, members across the state will have an easy transition to electric vehicles and support from their new vehicle fuel providers.