Editor’s Note: This story was first published onNew Hampshire Bulletin.
The Public Utilities Commission approved new rates for charging electric vehicles for those in Liberty and Unitil coverage areas in a decision last week.
The decision advances what’s called “time-of-use rates,” which means the price you pay for the electricity to charge a vehicle is tied to what time of day you charge it and how long it takes. The goal is to encourage people to charge their cars at night — a time when other demands for electricity are relatively low.
In total, the order establishes three rates: peak, mid-peak, and off-peak. The cheapest time to charge a car would be off-peak hours; for Unitil this would be from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., as well as weekends and holidays. Mid-peak, which would cost more, would run from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday.
And peak, the most expensive time to charge, would start at 3 p.m. and last until 8 p.m.
For those in Liberty territory, off-peak hours would also start at 8 p.m. on weeknights but last a bit longer, until 8 a.m. The peak time would be the same.
Eversource pushed back on this type of rate structure, instead proposing what’s called managed charging — where the utility manages electric demand instead of allowing customers to select their price when choosing a peak time. The utilities commission rejected that proposal, directing Eversource to come up with its own time-of-use plan that’s more consistent with the other utilities.
Clean energy advocates in the state, such as Clean Energy New Hampshire, support time-of-use rates as a part of transitioning away from fossil fuel use. Shifting to electric alternatives means that demand for electricity is almost certain to increase; this kind of rate is a way to prevent that increase from driving up prices.
But Chris Skoglund of Clean Energy New Hampshire said Thursday’s decision, while largely a step in the right direction, does leave one potentially harmful charge in place. The decision reduces by 50% the so-called “demand charge,” which is like an impact fee, where passing a certain threshold of energy use triggers a much higher cost.
Skoglund said that even with the reduction, it could remain too high for charging stations to survive. That happened in Derry, N.H., when a municipal charging station shut down after receiving a cost-prohibitive bill.
The rates will take effect on July 6.