BUFFALO, N.Y.—State governments have taken 500 actions to regulate electric vehicles so far this year that could ultimately affect electric cooperatives, an NRECA expert told co-op leaders Thursday.

The actions by 48 state legislatures and agencies represent a significant increase over last year, when 44 states took about 350 actions in all of 2018 to govern the rapidly developing technology, said Jan Ahlen, NRECA’s director of distributed generation and energy storage.

State actions have run the gamut from providing financial incentives to consumers who buy EVs to imposing a special registration fee on EV owners to make up for the gas taxes that they don’t pay, Ahlen said during a breakout session at NRECA’s regional meeting.

“These policies will impact how electric cooperatives engage with their members on electric vehicles,” he said.

New York’s sweeping new law to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 is expected to dramatically increase the number of EVs on the road, said Keith Pitman, CEO of Oneida-Madison Electric Cooperative in Bouckville, New York.

“We’re at a crossroads where clearly we have a real opportunity,” said Pitman, who was part of a panel on EVs and state regulation at the regional meeting.

Currently, few of Oneida-Madison’s consumer-members drive EVs, but that could change rapidly now that the state legislature has passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, Pitman said.

“We will see a vast deployment of zero-emission vehicles,” he said, adding that the law’s goal is to add more than 3 million EVs in the next four to five years. “We’re going to have to deal with that reality.”

The co-op should benefit from increased demand for electricity by more EV owners who can charge their vehicles during off-peak hours, Pitman said.

“Overall, it’s a very positive situation,” he said, “especially if we can charge a lot of vehicles at night.”

However, a big increase in EV ownership could also create new demand peaks that would need to be addressed, said Pitman, who is president of the Northeast Association of Electric Cooperatives.

“It will be a moving target that will have to be dealt with regularly,” he said.

In contrast, Delaware has not passed any new legislation or regulations affecting electric vehicles, said Rob Book, vice president of member services for the Delaware Electric Cooperative in Greenwood.

That has given the co-op the freedom to take its own action on EVs, he said. Delaware EC has begun a pilot program that offers members a $200 rebate if they purchase smart EV chargers that communicate with the co-op’s system. The co-op can send signals to the chargers to turn them off during peak power usage, Book said.

He said EVs, solar power and energy storage are changing the future of co-ops.

“Really, all these things could re-create what an electric co-op is going to look like in five years,” Book said.

More Regional Meeting Coverage:

NRECA CEO Jim Matheson: ‘If We All Stand Up,’ Co-ops Can Save Tax-Exempt Status

NRECA President Curtis Wynn: Co-ops Must Meet Members’ Growing Demand for Change