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Tuesday, July 7, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Local companies getting prepared for electric cars

Eastern Washington drivers who buy electric vehicles over the next five years will be able to install home charging stations without a lot of red tape or excessive paperwork.

Dave Holmes, Avista manager of applied research and development, said there are two basic types of charging equipment available for electric cars. Level 1 chargers are basic electrical systems using 120-volt plugs and require no special conditions or modifications of one’s home or garage.

Level 2 chargers use a 240-volt circuit wired into the home’s distribution panel. Installing a home charging station is usually done by an electrician and requires an electrical permit – but that’s about all.

In some other parts of the country, installing a residential charging station is more cumbersome.

Some Southern California utilities have launched incentives to encourage buying of electric vehicles. But those utilities also require owners who install a home charging station to add a second meter. That second meter lets the utility distinguish the electricity used by the charger from all the other consumption in the home.

With that system, the utility can discount the cost of the electricity used in charging the car battery, said Sharelynn Moore, director of marketing communication at Itron Inc.

Itron, based in Liberty Lake, is working with U.S. utilities on identifying smart grid options that can save money for consumers and decrease power consumption.

Consumers who want that second home meter, to comply with the charging station requirements, usually face a 45-day delay before utility crews can do the job, Moore said.

Holmes said Avista’s power capacity is sufficient at present, and the utility is not considering a pricing system that would encourage users to charge electric vehicles at certain times of the day.

“We aren’t anticipating the need now but will continue to evaluate and monitor changes in our load and resource forecasts defined in our … Integrated Resource Plan,” Holmes said.

He added, “There may be a day when a ‘time of use rate’ makes sense for our customers.”

The utility knows, however, that electric vehicles will gradually make an impact on power loads.

Randy Barcus, Avista’s chief economist, predicts there will be 16,000 electric vehicles (including plug-in hybrid and full-electric models) in the Avista service area in 2016.

“Roughly 80 percent would be in Washington and 20 percent in Idaho. These would be ‘residential’ vehicles used primarily for commuting and owned by homeowners, and be recharged mostly in garages,” Barcus said.

He also predicts that by 2035, nearly 20 percent of all residential electrical consumption in the Avista system will be due to home vehicle recharging.

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