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Charging stations needed for electric cars

Charlie Garlow walks to his home, from his fully electric Chevy Bolt. Utility companies and other stakeholders are proposing a $104 million plan to install 24,000 charging stations across the state, potentially the largest electric vehicle charging network outside California.
Charlie Garlow walks to his home, from his fully electric Chevy Bolt. Utility companies and other stakeholders are proposing a $104 million plan to install 24,000 charging stations across the state, potentially the largest electric vehicle charging network outside California. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

Electric vehicles (EVs) are coming to Maryland's roads — and that's a good thing. But the proposal from utility companies to have their customers foot the bill to build charging station infrastructure is bad for ratepayers and could undermine the blossoming electric vehicle marketplace. We agree with the call from the Office of the People's Counsel for a full evidentiary proceeding on the matter, and barring that cannot support the pending proposal to the Public Service Commission ("Maryland's utilities propose spending $104 million on statewide electric-vehicle charging network," March 26).

EVs have the potential to address critical public health and environmental challenges in our state. They are far less polluting than gasoline-powered cars, with half the carbon footprint over their lifetime, as well as fewer emissions of the pollutants that contribute to smog and particulate matter.

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In order to keep up with growing consumer demand and help to meet the state's goal of having 300,000 EVs on the road by 2025, we need to significantly invest in charging infrastructure. We should incentive electric vehicle ownership and build a competitive charging marketplace.

Electric utilities have a particularly important role to play when it comes to managing the impact of EVs on our electrical grid, and we are glad to see Maryland utilities' quick out of the gates on this front. However, if the utility companies want to get into the business of vehicle charging, having ratepayers bear the risk with no guarantee they will share in the benefits may result in padding their profits at customers' expense.

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In addition, charging ratepayers 25 cents to 42 cents more a month to support the charging stations also gives the utilities an unfair advantage and may stifle innovation, undermining what should be a competitive EV marketplace.

Maryland PIRG believes the state, utilities and private companies should supercharge efforts to transition to electric vehicles, but let's be smart and thoughtful on how we move forward.

Emily Scarr, Baltimore

The writer is director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

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Send letters to the editor to talkback@baltimoresun.com. Please include your name and contact information.

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