Looking Back: Progress Made Toward Transportation Electrification in Minnesota in 2020
January 8, 2021 | Katelyn Bocklund | Education
The year 2020 was challenging—we worked hard to stay apart, embraced wearing masks everywhere we went, and rediscovered the outdoors. It was a year of immense pain, and we said goodbye to deeply loved friends and family. Restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses endured trying economic times, or closed altogether, amidst a pandemic that shut down life as we once knew it. As we reflect on the past year, we’re also recognizing where progress was still able to occur, particularly on transportation electrification in Minnesota, which can deliver economic and environmental benefits for the state.
Here are a few key takeaways from the progress made in Minnesota on transportation electrification in 2020:
- Electric utilities, including Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, and Otter Tail Power Company, made significant investments.
- Electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure received a significant boost from utility and state agency investments.
- Notable policy progress occurred that could significantly boost EV adoption in the state if successful.
Notable highlights throughout 2020 are presented below.
The MPCA released Minnesota’s Volkswagen Settlement Beneficiary Mitigation Plan Phase II (2020-2023), carving out over $15 million for electric vehicles (EVs) and EV infrastructure during phase two. Under this plan, it also launched grant programs for an electric school bus pilot, fast charging corridors, and Level 2 charging stations during 2020. The Level 2 charging station request for proposals included an incentive for pairing charging stations with carbon-free power, following GPI’s recommendation.
Xcel Energy announced its bold plan to have 1.5 million EVs in its service area by 2030. Brendan Jordan, vice president of Transportation & Fuels and director of Drive Electric Minnesota (facilitated by GPI), commenting in support of Xcel Energy’s vision stated, “Multiple studies demonstrate that electric vehicles combined with well-designed utility programs can save money for consumers, offer health benefits through cleaner air, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and benefit the economy. We commend Xcel Energy for its bold vision, for the many practical steps already taken to shape its transportation electrification programs and rates, and for Xcel Energy’s work to gather stakeholder input serve its various customers. As a supplier of increasingly low carbon electricity, Xcel Energy has the opportunity to not only contribute to decarbonization of the electricity sector but to the transportation sector as well. GPI looks forward to working with Xcel Energy and other stakeholders to help make this vision a reality in the next decade.”
- The cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, HOURCAR, and Xcel Energy announced the development of the Twin Cities EV Mobility Network, which is set to launch in 2021. Charging hubs will be accessible by both HOURCAR EVs and private EV drivers. In addition to building out additional charging stations, the project will fund a fleet of shared EVs that HOURCAR will manage. Once the program rolls out, users will be able to reserve EVs and drive them to their destination. When users are done with their trip, they can leave the vehicle anywhere in the service area, similar to how bike-sharing and scooter-sharing programs operate.
- Drive Electric Minnesota hosted a social media campaign during National Drive Electric Week, encouraging people to share photos of themselves with their EV. It allowed for both drivers and riders to participate, using the hashtags #IDriveElectric and #IRideElectric. We ended up with 28 total submissions representing 17 counties: Anoka, Beltrami, Chisago, Clay, Crow Wing, Hennepin, Itasca, Mower, Olmstead, Ottertail, Pope, Ramsey, Rock, Stearns, Stevens, Winona, Wright. We’re hoping to resume in-person activities for National Drive Electric Week 2021, but we enjoyed connecting with people in the virtual space last year!
- The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) launched the Clean Transportation Pilot Funding Program, providing up to $2 million in grants for clean transportation technologies. “Increasing the availability of electric vehicles and charging facilities” is one of the qualifying activities for the new program.
- After months of debate and with immense support from the Drive Electric Minnesota Policy Committee, the state’s bonding bill passed with $2 million included for EV charging infrastructure on state-owned property. Combined with Volkswagen settlement investments, the $2 million boosts public EV infrastructure funding by about 40 percent.
- MnDOT’s Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council included developing a clean fuels policy in Minnesota in its recommendations presented to MnDOT, which will provide a formal response in mid-March. Drive Electric Minnesota’s facilitator, GPI, has been leading the charge on a Midwestern Clean Fuels Policy for several years. A clean fuels policy would provide revenue to clean fuel generators (electricity in this case) and help further build-out a network of charging stations. In later years of the program, it could provide vehicle rebates to help grow EV adoption. GPI hosted two webinars in 2020 focused on EVs in a Midwestern Clean Fuels Policy.
- Closing out the year, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency published its notice of intent to adopt the Clean Cars Minnesota rule with information about public hearings. Drive Electric Minnesota does not have an official position on Clean Cars MN.
Electric Utility Progress
In addition to the progress noted above, several electric utilities made investments supporting transportation electrification throughout the year:
- January 31, 2020: Otter Tail Power Company submitted a petition to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for approval for its EV pilot programs, including a pilot rate for DC fast chargers, modifications to other rates, plans to develop and own DC fast chargers in its service area, build-out of ten Level 2 charging stations, and cost recovery. If approved, this would help move the needle on EV adoption in its service area.
- June 17, 2020: Xcel Energy included over $100 million in EV investments in its COVID-19 Relief & Recovery filing to the PUC (docket no. E,G999/CI-20-492). If approved, this funding would support the build-out of public DC fast chargers, a fleet EV service program, rebate programs for electric transit buses and equipment and light-duty EVs, and increase the number of EVs in Xcel Energy’s fleet.
- July 31, 2020: Minnesota Power submitted a petition to the PUC for approval of its residential EV portfolio, which included a rewards pilot program, charging rebate program, and dedicated outreach and education. If approved, this would help reduce the existing barrier customers face when signing up for Minnesota Power’s residential EV rate, which currently requires setting up a dedicated second service.
- September 10, 2020: Xcel Energy filed a docket for its multi-dwelling unit (MDU) EV service pilot program, including over $4 million in investments. If approved, this would help address EV adoption barriers that MDU tenants currently face due to lack of nearby charging.
- September 28, 2020: the PUC approved Xcel Energy’s requested modifications to its Residential EV Subscription Service Pilot Program, extending the program by 12 months and increasing program participation.
The above list is by no means comprehensive, but it does shed some light on how much progress was made toward electrification in 2020 in Minnesota. With our partners, Drive Electric Minnesota will strive to make even more progress in 2021.
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