How can utilities support transportation electrification to help their customers save money?
Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. so converting fleets to electric vehicles is a critical component of achieving both state and municipal GHG reduction goals. How can fleet managers ensure that EVs will meet their operational needs, reduce costs, and that the infrastructure works as required?
VEIC collaborated with customers of Rhode Island Energy (formerly National Grid Rhode Island) to identify near-term opportunities to electrify fleet vehicles where it makes financial and operational sense. The result? Predictable cost savings, and step-by-step plans that reduce energy costs and emissions over the next 3 years. Services: Transportation Electrification
By 2026, the fulfillment of 13 fleet electrification plans will remove 443 fossil-fuel vehicles from Rhode Island roads, reduce emissions by over 23,000 short tons of GHG, save customer fleets nearly $2.5 million in total lifetime costs, and enable Rhode Island Energy to grow load sustainably.
Electrifying Fleets to Advance Decarbonization
As states, municipalities, and private sector companies adopt increasingly ambitious climate targets, the demand for clean power continues to grow. Leading utilities have embraced a range of decarbonization strategies—bringing renewable resources online, deploying demand-side management strategies, helping customers adopt efficient, electric heating, cooling, and transportation, and electrifying their own operations.
Converting to electric vehicles is an essential piece of the decarbonization puzzle because transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Within the transportation sector, light-duty vehicles such as passenger cars, SUVs, and smaller trucks account for 58% of total emissions. In the immediate term, electrifying these ‘everyday’ vehicles will make a big difference. Yet, even as more electric vehicle models become available, it can be challenging to determine which vehicles will meet a fleet’s operational needs. One particularly effective approach aims to electrify vehicle fleets, the groups of vehicles owned and operated by many commercial, government, and institutional customers.
Electrifying a fleet means staying up-to-date on the quickly evolving universe of EVs and understanding specific operational requirements, while also being able to ensure adequate charging infrastructure, assess siting and secure funding. Doing it successfully means verifying the numbers and achieving every step within a specific budget and timeline. It’s no easy task.
Customized Electrification Planning
In 2018, the Rhode Island PUC authorized Rhode Island Energy to support fleet electrification in its service area and, in 2019, the utility selected VEIC to bring its vision to life.
Rhode Island Energy contracted with VEIC for a set three-year program budget, and a goal of completing ten fleet electrification studies. Targeted outreach from Rhode Island Energy recruited customers to participate in the program. VEIC ensured the right fit for each participant and set fleet-specific budgets. Once approved for inclusion by Rhode Island Energy, VEIC led all aspects of customer engagement, data collection, and operational and financial analysis. VEIC presented the results to each participant’s leadership team and conducted a follow-up study to gauge progress and identify and overcome obstacles to EV and charging station deployments. The success of the first ten fleet electrification plans led to six more in 2021-22, and the possibility of more in the future.
“When we set out to help our customers start electrifying their fleets, we knew we needed a partner who could work with us to really understand each fleet’s specific operational needs. With such a variety of customer fleets in our territory, that was a non-negotiable for us. We’ve been very pleased with VEIC’s custom approach and attention to each of our customers.”
For every customer, the specific path to electrification is unique. With different vehicle types, use cases, budgets, locations, and timelines, there is no one size fits all solution. VEIC’s deep expertise in clean transportation made it possible to construct detailed and actionable plans for the whole range of Rhode Island Energy customer fleets, including those operated by municipal and state governments, universities, businesses, non-profits, and school and public transportation providers.
Leading the Way in the Capital City
For the City of Providence, advancing equitable climate solutions has long been a priority. So, it was no surprise that the City volunteered for one of Rhode Island Energy’s first fleet electrification plans.
Working closely with Rhode Island Energy and with members of several City departments and the Mayor’s Office, VEIC first compiled data to generate a baseline inventory and analysis of the existing fleet. Understanding the current condition, cost, maintenance requirements, and activities of every City vehicle provided a benchmark for assessing cost-savings and GHG reductions over time and for measuring the return on future investments. The in-depth baseline assessment also ensured that VEIC understood the requirements of the fleet and that any recommended vehicles would meet operational needs and duty cycles.
VEIC investigated buildings and parking structures to find the best locations for charging infrastructure and recommended specific technology for each location based on the type of vehicle that would be charging, network capabilities, and cost. Detailed financial analysis identified funding sources for both vehicles and charging equipment and highlighted specific tax and incentive considerations.
In the end, VEIC’s final report provided the City of Providence with an actionable plan it can follow over the next 3 years to begin the process of fully electrifying its fleet. A cost-benefit analysis demonstrated concrete annual and lifetime savings and an assessment of GHG reductions showed just how far each stage of fleet electrification will take the City toward its decarbonization goals. Electrifying the 63 vehicles identified in the plan has the potential to deliver $762,000 in lifetime savings and avoid approximately 2,930 tons of carbon dioxide.
Demonstrating the strong financial case for electrification enabled the City of Providence to embark confidently on its clean transportation future, allocating dedicated EV funding in its budget for the first time, and deploying 15 light-duty EVs and 12 EV charging stations into operation as a result.