NRECA is urging interested electric cooperatives to connect with state transportation officials to help create a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations.
President Joe Biden announced Feb. 10 that the federal government will provide $5 billion to states over five years to create charging networks on designated “alternative fuel corridors” located mainly along the interstate highway system. The funding was created by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed into law last November.
“Co-ops should be reaching out to their state DOTs now and expressing their willingness to partner with them on projects and be a resource to them,” said Stephanie Crawford, NRECA’s senior regulatory manager.
By contacting state officials early in the process, co-ops can help ensure that charging stations are placed where they will best serve local communities, she said.
“We’re getting a lot of interest from co-ops across the country, so that’s been exciting to see,” Crawford said. “Co-ops want to be part of the transformation that these federal dollars are trying to spur in the transportation sector.”
The money will go directly from the federal government to the states, but states must first create a plan and submit it to the U.S. Department of Transportation by Aug. 1. The department will make its funding decisions by Sept. 30, and Crawford said the money should begin flowing to the states in the last quarter of the year.
States also have the option of nominating new alternative fuel corridors through May 13, so co-ops could help with that as well.
“Co-ops can raise their hands and say, ‘we serve this other area that we think is important to connect to the charging network,’” Crawford said.
NRECA worked to ensure that the federal guidance stresses the importance of states connecting with their utility companies, including electric co-ops.
“That seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to be said and said upfront so states aren’t trying to site stations that aren’t going to be feasible within the grid,” Crawford said. “We also urged DOT to allow flexibility in utility participation, so if a co-op wants to own or operate a charging station, it could potentially do that too.”
The Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy have created a joint office to help speed development of the national charging network, and the agencies have asked NRECA to assist in reaching out to co-ops.
“If a state is having trouble connecting with the appropriate utility in a certain location, we will help identify the appropriate co-op,” Crawford said. “We also will help co-ops find the right state DOT staff they need to get things moving.”
A separate $2.5 billion funding opportunity for EV charging networks in rural communities and underserved areas will begin later this year. That program, also funded by the bipartisan infrastructure bill, will help place charging stations at public parks, community centers, libraries and other local gathering spots.
“Not every rural area is going to have an interstate going through it, but it’s still important to have public charging stations,” Crawford said. Co-ops would be able to apply for those grants jointly with local and state governments.
In March, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce details of a $2.5 billion program to fund electric school buses. Several co-ops already have partnered with local school districts to buy electric buses, and the new funding could boost those efforts.
Co-ops that have questions about these EV funding opportunities should contact Stephanie Crawford at Stephanie.Crawford@nreca.coop. Visit NRECA’s Infrastructure Resource Hub for more information on programs funded by the 2021 infrastructure package.