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NY's EV wave is coming. Are we ready?

Advanced Energy United

New Yorkers are diving headfirst into the electric vehicle (EV) revolution, with EV registrations doubling from 2022 to 2023. By 2035, all passenger vehicles hitting the streets in the Empire State will be zero-emission, in lockstep with the state’s ambitious decarbonization goals. These milestones are coming fast, and while our grid can easily support the surge of EVs coming online today, strengthening our electric grid for tomorrow is not an option; it is a necessity to ensure a seamless transition as we charge into an electrified future.

EV charging stations, especially the high-power ones that can charge cars and trucks most quickly, require a lot of electricity. The Electric Power Research Institute projects that the total annual electricity consumption from EVs in New York will exceed 16 TWh by 2030, or the equivalent of adding over 1.5 million new homes to the state in just six years.

As we speed towards a world where EVs are the norm, not the exception, we need to prepare our electric grid so that it can reliably and cost-effectively charge that growing fleet of electric vehicles. Solving this problem doesn’t require brand new technology, it just requires some decisive foresight and updates to the business-as-usual system by our policymakers. By simply updating the existing utility planning process, state legislators can give utilities and consumers the flexibility they need to incorporate innovative solutions to optimize grid efficiency and minimize costs.

That’s where the Build to Need legislation (S.9113) comes in. Recently introduced in the state legislature, the idea is simple: empower utilities to plan for and build to the infrastructure needs we know are coming rather than waiting and doing upgrades piecemeal. Updating how large infrastructure projects are handled to include longer-term projections recalls the old adage to “measure twice, cut once.” Utilities would be able to proactively engage companies building EV charging stations and other new projects to better understand where infrastructure upgrades will be needed and, importantly, take proactive steps to ensure those projects can be built efficiently and cost-effectively. Creating this new process for prioritizing big new projects in areas with a high likelihood of congestion gives stakeholders the tools to move fast while retaining existing oversight for the long-term stewardship of ratepayer dollars.

The Build to Need legislation directs utilities to prioritize cost-saving alternatives to traditional grid infrastructure buildout, such as load management technology and flexible interconnection, to intelligently balance charging demand with grid conditions and empower customers to conserve power during grid constraints respectively.

Conversely, not taking action will mean higher electricity bills for New Yorkers, since ad hoc and reactive grid strengthening will always cost more than proactive, forward-looking grid improvement. Inaction will also mean a slower strengthening of the grid that won’t be able to keep up with growing electrical demands.

Advancing our power grid is critical to ensure we can power New York today and tomorrow, and New Yorkers deserve a modern solution to the challenge of grid modernization. It’s time for regulators and legislators to unite and invest in building the grid of the future to ensure New Yorkers are prepared for our electrified future.

Read the bill here.