SMECO seeks approval to install electric car chargers

Greg Farley, director of sustainability at Washington College in Chestertown, plugs in a Ford C-Max hybrid car during a “cruise-in” last year to provide people with information on electric and hybrid-electric vehicles.

The Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative is seeking approval from the Maryland Public Service Commission to install 60 electric vehicle charging stations around Southern Maryland over a five-year period.

The total cost of installing the charging stations, which SMECO would also own and operate, is estimated to be just under $3.3 million. SMECO expects that it will get the PSC’s approval to proceed before the end of the year.

“We’re optimistic that it will be sooner than that,” SMECO spokesman Tom Dennison told The Enterprise. “Once we get that order, then we would move forward with the plans.”

The proposed charging stations would be a mix of 240-volt, Level 2 chargers capable of fully recharging an EV in four to eight hours, and Direct Current Fast Chargers that can reach an 80% charge in less than 20 minutes.

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Energy, Southern Maryland has only 23 EV charging stations operating — seven in Calvert County, three in St. Mary’s and the rest in Charles, mostly in and around Waldorf.

SMECO proposes to install the 60 new stations at county and town facilities such as libraries, schools, parks and offices. Other locations being considered include commuter parking lots. Dennison said the final locations and number of stations will depend on negotiations with the county and municipal governments and the available funding.

“We try to look at the convenience of places, where they are in relation to major highways and arteries coming into Southern Maryland, and also the electrical infrastructure,” Dennison explained.

Around 850 EVs are registered in SMECO’s service territory, of which 522 are hybrids that use both battery power and internal combustion engines.

SMECO’s proposal to the PSC, which was filed in mid-May, says that the proposal sends a “clear message to cooperative members and other stakeholders” that SMECO is committed to improving the region’s EV infrastructure.

“As EVs become more affordable to a broader range of consumers, charging availability at the public centers of communities … ensures greater station access for Southern Maryland residents,” the proposal states.

Following PSC’s review and approval, SMECO will develop a list of technical requirements and contract out the installation of the charging stations to a third party.

“We have had a number of vendors expressed interest and we’ve not seen any challenges with building in a rural area,” Dennison said, citing a “strong appetite” from residents and potential partners in the region for more EV infrastructure.

In January, PSC approved a proposal by Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, Delmarva Power & Light Company, Potomac Electric Power Company and The Potomac Edison Company to implement a statewide EV portfolio that the utilities hope will boost EV ownership through a combination of tax incentives and rebates, as well as investment in charging infrastructure and technological innovations.

Dennison said that SMECO waited until PSC approved the portfolio before moving ahead with its own plans to ensure that its approach was compatible and benefitted from the other utilities’ experiences and best practices.

SMECO will also seek to obtain funding for the project from other transportation-related grant programs, such as the state’s share of the Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund that was established two years ago in the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

Based on the public’s response to the five-year pilot program, SMECO is also considering rolling out EV charging stations in single-family homes and townhomes within the next two years.

Dennison said SMECO could offer homeowners with EV charging stations a lower rate for charging their vehicles during off-peak hours.

Twitter: @PaulIndyNews

Twitter: @​PaulIndyNews