Electrifying Transportation in North Carolina

As more and more people trade in the gas pump for a charging cord to fuel their vehicles, North Carolina’s utilities and communities are responding. New initiatives are promoting electric vehicle (EV) adoption, spreading awareness and supporting the electric grid to manage the new load and benefit all energy consumers.

In our most recent Exploring North Carolina Smart Grid webinar, “Electrifying Transportation in North Carolina,” we partnered with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives (NCEC) and Duke Energy to discuss the latest trends and developments in electric transportation in our state. The webinar’s presenters included Diane Huis, senior vice president of innovation and business development at NCEC; Jacob Bolin, project manager of Plug-in NC at Advanced Energy; and Lisa Poger, North Carolina electric transportation manager at Duke Energy.

North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives

As the electric grid becomes more integrated and flexible – thanks to market forces and advances in technology – it is also becoming increasingly electrified. And for NCEC, which serves approximately 2.5 million people across North Carolina, electric transportation has an essential role to play.

EVs are one example of beneficial electrification, which is the transitioning of technologies and processes from running on fossil fuels to electricity. Beneficial electrification has become a point of emphasis for NCEC. (And in fact, EVs represent the single most significant beneficial electrification opportunity for co-ops.) It requires meeting one of three criteria while harming none: saving money for consumers, reducing environmental impacts and improving grid flexibility and management.

To help chart the path forward for North Carolina’s co-ops, NCEC’s energy services group, which consists of one representative from each of the state’s 26 co-ops, worked on developing an EV strategy.

The first arm of the strategy focuses on marketing and promoting EV awareness. The co-ops approach this strategy from a number of directions. At a broader level, NCEC is launching an EV microsite to provide general EV information as well as updates on co-op EV initiatives, such as new programs, time-of-use rates and co-op-specific EV financial assistance. At a more local level, co-ops are adding EVs to their fleets to support outreach efforts – one co-op even lets members borrow the car – and are hosting EV events and ride-and-drives.

The second part of the strategy revolves around EV charging. NCEC is developing a charging network across North Carolina co-op territories. Charging infrastructure tends to be confined to urban and suburban areas, so filling these gaps will reduce drivers’ range anxiety and encourage tourism and economic development. North Carolina co-ops have installed 35 charging stations to date, and the goal is to have several Level 2 stations and at least one DC fast charge station in every co-op territory. This effort will also provide co-ops with data they can use to better prepare for the growth of electric transportation, including insight into charging patterns, demographics, system impacts and rate/billing structure outcomes.

Finally, as part of its residential strategy, NCEC is working with Advanced Energy on an EV toolkit that co-ops can use to develop more refined plans. The toolkit will share information about working with homeowners and developers, taking advantage of potential rebates and incentives, and ensuring homes and communities are EV ready.

You can learn more about NCEC’s EV initiatives and how North Carolina co-ops are preparing for electric transportation by clicking here.

Plug-in NC

EVs provide benefits to individuals, communities and utilities, such as fuel and maintenance savings (driving on electricity is roughly one-third the price of driving on gasoline), healthier environments, improved vehicle performance, load management opportunities and energy independence.

Plug-in NC, a statewide program managed by Advanced Energy, works to promote EVs and their benefits through education, outreach, consulting and resource development. Since 2011, it has been helping North Carolina become a leader in electric transportation by providing a collaborative environment to support EV adoption, ensure the technology’s seamless integration into our communities and assist others with understanding and balancing its impacts to the electric grid.

There are many factors influencing and advancing EV adoption in North Carolina and across the country, including beneficial electrification opportunities, policy developments around climate action, auto manufacturer commitments and improving technology. Projected EV growth rates continue to rise, and while many viable EV options already exist, the variety and number of models (for light- as well as medium- and heavy-duty vehicles) will keep improving.

However, while the influx of EVs is exciting, adequate charging infrastructure is required to support it. North Carolina currently has over 1,300 individual public charging locations, but more will be needed in light of expected nationwide growth rates as well as North Carolina’s Executive Order 80, which calls for 80,000 zero-emission vehicles in the state by 2025 (zero-emission vehicles include all-electric but not plug-in hybrid electric vehicles). There will be a particular need to focus charging efforts on improved statewide corridor planning, equitable access for rural communities and tourism development.

Plug-in NC offers many resources to support current and future EV drivers. You can access them and learn more about Plug-in NC by clicking here.

Duke Energy

Duke Energy’s goals concerning electric transportation include improving EV infrastructure to support EV adoption and studying and managing the grid impacts of driving on electricity. To help meet these goals as well as align with state and federal objectives, Duke Energy recently filed an EV pilot with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. If approved, the three-year, $76 million initiative would be the largest EV effort in the Southeast to date.

The pilot features seven components in three broader categories – charging management, transit electrification and public charging expansion. Charging management would provide rebates for residential and fleet charging equipment and allow Duke Energy to explore load management and control opportunities. Similarly, with transit electrification, Duke Energy would support electric school and transit bus equipment and infrastructure by helping to leverage existing funding sources and opportunities to reduce upfront costs.

Under public charging expansion, Duke Energy is seeking to install public Level 2 and DC fast charge stations – over 800 in all – to support multifamily communities, destination locations and long-distance travel. The goal is to establish a baseline network of EV charging and, in particular, a foundational level of DC fast charging across the state.

More generally, the pilot would help determine best practices for realizing the benefits associated with increased EV adoption, including direct economic and environmental advantages as well as reduced costs for all utility customers, even non-EV drivers. As a flexible load, EV charging can better take advantage of the electric system and optimize grid assets to put downward pressure on electric rates for everyone. The pilot would allow Duke Energy to study the effects of charging multiple types of EVs – including passenger vehicles, fleet trucks, and school and transit buses – to ensure cost-effective integration of vehicle charging.

You can learn more about Duke Energy’s pilot filing and other EV initiatives by clicking here.

For information on additional smart grid topics, including webinar recordings, case studies and more, visit www.ncsmartgrid.org.