California Releases Its Draft Deployment Plan for Federal Funding Under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program

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The California Energy Commission (CEC) hosted a workshop on Tuesday, June 14 to discuss its recently issued (June 10) proposal to deploy federal electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure funding under the NEVI Program authorized by President Biden’s federal infrastructure bill signed into law late last year.[1]

The CEC held the workshop in conjunction with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which is jointly charged with implementing the state’s NEVI funding. After taking public comment on the draft plan (comments are due by June 28),[2] California will submit its final plan for approval with the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation (Joint Office) on August 1. Federal funding will be released to each state upon approval of the final deployment plans, which is expected by September 30, 2022. The CEC expects to develop the grant funding details later this summer/fall and to release the grant funding opportunity in the winter of 2022. This plan anticipates the first chargers under NEVI project funding should be operational in Q2 of 2025, with full buildout completed by 2030.

Interested stakeholders are strongly encouraged to submit written comments, which will help the CEC develop a record, and to take an active role in the grant funding development process, which will determine the rules and specifications for program implementation. CEC/Caltrans staff noted during the workshop that the state’s draft Deployment Plan is intentionally kept to a high level because the Joint Office asked for brief plans given the number of plans they must review and approve by the September 30 deadline.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

President Biden’s Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized $5 billion in funding for states to deploy under NEVI over the next five years. To be eligible for funding, each state is required to submit a Deployment Plan to the Joint Office, and this plan must be renewed on an annual basis.[3] California’s share of NEVI funding is estimated to include $384 million over the five-year period.[4]

The Joint Office issued guidelines for state funding under the NEVI Program this past February. Funding may be used to cover all aspects of the infrastructure project so long as they are directly related to EV charging. This includes, for example, construction costs, equipment costs (meter, transformer, switch gear, etc.), planning and permitting costs, and even on-site renewable generation and storage costs so long as they are solely used to power the EV charging station.[5]

California’s Draft Deployment Plan for NEVI Program Funding

California’s draft Deployment Plan prioritizes building out EV charging for light-duty vehicles in identified gaps (see Figure 5 below) along existing Alternative Fuel Corridors (AFCs),[6] particularly in low-income and disadvantaged communities (LIC/DACs).[7] California forecasts the need for a network of approximately 1.2 million public and private-shared chargers by 2030 and aims to use federal funding under the NEVI Program towards this end. As framed in the Deployment Plan: “A robust DCFC [direct current fast charging] network will create the backbone for mass EV adoption within California.”

California plans to divide the AFCs into segments that it will rank by a priority system that accounts for: (1) filling infrastructure gaps along the AFC interstate highway corridor, (2) LIC/DAC connectivity, (3) expected charging demand based on Caltrans and road-trip data, (4) filling market gaps where the private sector may be less likely to invest without sufficient funding (e.g., rural areas), and (5) siting projects within jurisdictions that have implemented permit streamlining measures for EV infrastructure.[8] CEC staff stated at the June workshop that it plans to publish its proposed segments and ranking system later this summer.

While the first year of funding prioritizes filling infrastructure gaps, the segments will be re-evaluated on an annual basis and may be re-ranked for subsequent grant solicitation cycles. Several commenters at the workshop encouraged expanded consideration for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, but the consistent response was that light-duty vehicle charging is the present priority and, while dual use stations may be considered in the application process, dedicated charging sites for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles should be pursued under a number of other state investment vehicles targeted for such funding.

Under California’s proposed plan, grant funding applicants would submit proposals to install DCFC stations on a segmented basis across California’s AFCs. Rather than identify specific sites for proposed install, the applicants should target segments that respond to an analysis of gaps in the existing charging network or reflect an anticipated need. In other words, a grant will be awarded based on evaluation of the applications for that segment.

Applicants are expected to provide a cost share that will cover at least 20% of the project costs. Because minimizing public funding is an evaluation criterion, applicants may be incentivized to provide higher cost shares, as well as to lower overall project costs.

Applicants are also expected to comply with a reliability standard of 97% uptime of the total operation time. Applicants would be required to submit an Operations & Maintenance Plan that demonstrates the equipment will meet this standard, including by adhering to a 48-hour repair window for most types of malfunctions (“more complex” causes of downtime such as vandalism are expected to be addressed within two to five days). In a sign of how seriously the state is taking charging reliability, CEC staff reported during the workshop that it is exploring the possibility of making funding available only after funding recipients have provided evidence that their chargers operated reliably, and/or requiring a set-aside percentage of the funding that must be dedicated to site maintenance and ensuring reliability.

Considerations and Next Steps

As stated above, comments on California’s draft Deployment Plan are due by June 28. Given that the state’s NEVI’s details are still pending, stakeholders should consider taking an active role in workshops and comment opportunities while the CEC and Caltrans continue to develop the grant solicitation process and program requirements. Stakeholders should also consider other state policies and rules under development, such as the Transportation Electrification Framework and utility rate cases before the California Public Utilities Commission, that will determine state funding opportunities for EV infrastructure and set EV rate design.

[1] The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was enacted as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Pub. L. No. 117-58) on November 15, 2021.

[2] Comments may be submitted by e-mail to docket@energy.ca.gov (with subject line reference to “22-EVI-03” and “NEVI Deployment Plan Development”) or by filing on the CEC’s comment page for this docket at https://efiling.energy.ca.gov/Ecomment/Ecomment.aspx?docketnumber=22-EVI-03.

[3] The Joint Office is a newly created partnership between the United States Department of Transportation and Department of Energy.

[4] Including NEVI funding, California is proposing approximately $3 billion in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure over five years, with another $1 billion proposed in funding from utilities regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.

[5] Federal guidelines state that such costs “should only be considered if they will lead to lower costs to consumers, greater EV charging station reliability, and if they do not substantially increase the timeline for completing an EV charging station project.”

[6] AFCs refer to the national network of alternative fueling and charging infrastructure along the National Highway System that was established by the Federal Highway Administration pursuant to Section 1413 of Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). (FAST Act, enacted in December 2015 and available at H.R.22 – 114th Congress (2015-2016): FAST Act | Congress.gov | Library of Congress.)

[7] NEVI guidance dictates that states target at least 40% of funding benefits in disadvantaged communities. The CEC currently has a goal to provide more than 50% of Clean Transportation program funds towards projects that benefit LIC/DACs.

[8] California has enacted two permit streamlining laws to expedite the buildout of EV charging infrastructure. Under AB 1226 (Chiu, 2015), all California cities and counties are required to adopt an ordinance to expedite the permitting process for new EV charging stations and to provide a checklist identifying all the requirements for an EV charging station to be eligible for expedited review. AB 970 (McCarty, 2021) enhanced this legislation by establishing a specific time period within which the local authority must approve an EV charging station’s building permit application, and places the upper limit on no more than 40 days after the application is deemed complete for applications to build more than 25 EV charging stations at a single site, or no more than 20 business days after an application to build 25 or fewer EV charging stations at a single site.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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