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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why EVs Are Perfect for Oregon - Reason 8: Cooperation

The book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten discusses how much better the world would be if adults followed the basic rules taught to children. It turns out that this applies to creating an EV-friendly state too.

In 2010, an EV activist from California came to Oregon to speak at a local EV event. He was surprised at our relationship with the electric utilities, the city, and state government agencies. I asked what he meant. Our event was at Pioneer Courthouse Square and it was sponsored by several local businesses, the City of Portland, and the local utility, Portland General Electric (PGE). He said that they were usually at odds with the city or county about EV parking or infrastructure. And that many of the California utilities were worried that EVs would be a load on an already burdened grid.

Things are very different here in Oregon. We have several cotravelers, these include our utilities, the Clean Cities Coalition, Dept. of Transportation, Citizens Utility Board, Sierra Club, Oregon Business Organizations, Senator Merkley and others.

Our utility is not worried that EVs will crash the grid. In fact, they welcome EV because there's surplus capacity, especially at night. EVs will generally be charged overnight, thereby reducing the disparity between daytime and nighttime demand. This will help stabilize the grid. The CEO of Portland General Electric (PGE) even drives a Chevy Volt. As mentioned previously in the Infrastructure section, PGE installed the first public DC Fast Charger in the nation.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has fully embraced EVs. We covered much of ODOT's support in the earlier section on Infrastructure. They have applied for and received multiple federal grants to install EV charging infrastructure. You can see an album of the West Coast Electric Highway here. This brought construction jobs to the state.

Regional politicians have thrown in their support for EVs too. Portland Mayor Sam Adams, Oregon House of Representatives member Mary Nolan, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen have all spoke at events in support of EVs. The Governor has even attended ribbon cuttings for charging stations.

In 2012, to celebrate Independence Day, Senator Merkley (pictured above) rented an EV at the Portland airport and drove from the northern border of the state to the southern border along the West Coast Electric Highway. At each stop, he spoke to local crowds about energy independence and the benefits of EVs.

The list of organizations in the state that support EVs includes several Oregon EV businesses including Arcimoto, Brammo, Green Lite, MotoCzysz, Shorepower, and others. Drive Oregon is a business cluster of companies promoting EVs within the state.

Travel Oregon is supporting EVs too. As mentioned in the Staycation section, they are creating EV travel itineraries based around charging stations.

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) is a consumer advocacy group and utility watchdog. They promote the environmental benefits and fuel savings of electric vehicles and discuss this at several events each year.

There are two non-profits worth mentioning for their EV-advocacy. They are Solar Oregon and the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association. Both groups actively promote electric vehicles and renewable energy.

The Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) has been awarded a $2.1 million grant by Metro. OTREC will use the grant to promote the use of electric bicycles and improve air quality and community health.

Oregon governor, John Kitzhaber, convened the 10 Year Energy Plan Task Force to draft the state’s 10-Year Energy Action Plan. It focuses on three core strategies: increasing energy efficiency and conservation, enhancing clean energy infrastructure, and promoting clean transportation. These strategies call for action to accelerate the development and deployment of electric vehicles through electric grid modernization and increased funding for the Oregon Innovation Council.

Even seemingly little things are helpful in making Oregon EV-friendly. In 2008, the Oregon Building Codes Division established statewide EV charging station permitting and inspection standards. This meant that each county did not have to create their own process, electricians didn't have to know the nuances of each counties paperwork. These installations were also put on the same-day permit schedule called the Minor Label. Oregon's statewide process speeds up simple installations by enabling licensed electricians to pre-purchase permitting minor installation “labels” online and inspections are only required on 1 out of 10 installations.

Oregon deemed 40 amp charging installations as simple projects that required no special process. Clean Cities examined the methods of several regions around the country and deemed Oregon's as the best practice. It reduces the inspection cost to the state and to the permitting cost to EV owners. This made the installation of at-home charging infrastructure that much more accessible. Each Oregon minor label permit costs $14, compared to permitting costs up to $700 in some areas of Los Angeles.

Oregon's EV community has steadily grown due to the clustering of support found here. Companies and the community benefit. Oregon's state and local governments, private businesses, business organizations, utilities, advocacy groups and others work as a team. They all see EVs as a means to improving the quality of life here. This is one factor that helps put Oregon's EV adoption rate ahead of the national average.

Next: Reason 9: Eco Ethos

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