There are currently circumstances in Colorado that disincentivize private investment in the state’s electric vehicle (EV) charging market. In 2019 the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 19-077 which requires electric utilities to file programs to support widespread transportation electrification with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission every three years. These filings, often referred to as Transportation Electrification Plans or TEPs, are allowed by statute to include utility-owned EV charging stations, funded by ratepayers and generating a guaranteed rate of return for the utility.
The first consequences of this legislation became apparent in Public Service Company Colorado’s (PSCo) 2021-2023 TEP, which included approval for the utility to build, own and operate 25 EV charging stations in their Colorado service territory. PSCo is also a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, who has made attempts to or been approved to build utility-owned chargers in several states where their subsidiaries operate.
PSCo’s next request to enter the EV charging market came in May of 2023 in the application for the 2024-2026 TEP. The initial proposal from the utility included a request to use $145 million in ratepayer funds to own and operate 460 direct current fast charging (DCFC) stations, a proposal that would further discourage private investment in the state. The utility then shifted to a plan to offer a rebate program for third-party owned chargers instead of building utility-owned chargers. While this represented an improvement, PSCo reserved the right to reintroduce the utility-owned model proposal in the future. As the commission considered the TEP application through Proceeding 32A-0242E, CAP submitted comments encouraging the commission to reject PSCo’s reservation of the right to return with future utility-owned charger proposals. A settlement in this proceeding has not been finalized yet.
Without legislative change, the threat of continued proposals for utility-owned charging stations will continue to keep private entities from entering Colorado’s EV charging market. While the shift from a utility-owned charging network to a rebate model in the 2024-2026 TEP is an improvement, it will be difficult for businesses to confidently invest if there is the threat of PSCo returning in 3 years and being approved to build hundreds of utility-owned charging stations, undercutting private investment made in the interim.