Co-authored with Charu Lata, Sr. Program Lead – Clean Energy and E-Mobility, NRDC India
Over half of India’s three-wheeler registrations in 2022 were electric. Overall, electric vehicle (EV) sales in India in the first quarter of 2023 have already increased by 81 percent over the same period in 2022. With growing numbers of EVs on the road, the role of utilities is vital to sustain this momentum. Not only can utilities help provide charging infrastructure, but they can also be the interface in managing increased power demand from EVs and the electricity grid.
So far, many utilities have recognized their role as limited to setting low tariffs and providing EV charging connections. Yet, utilities can help grow the EV market through better distribution grid planning, setting up electric vehicle charging infrastructure, attractive electricity tariffs, supporting consumers with easy access to metered connections and information dissemination related to programs that facilitate a sustainable growth in the sector. India is already showcasing support for growth in the power sector: the country recently announced a commitment to setting up an additional 7000 EV chargers under the FAME II program.
There have been a growing number of initiatives around the world designed to support and increase utility engagement in the EVs space. In China, EV charging infrastructure development has been supported by a mix of incentives – strong national & municipal government programs, but also investments by power utilities and grid operators. Chinese utilities have had an evolving role in the electrification process, particularly with vehicle-to-grid integration and accelerating deployment of charging infrastructure. In the Unites States, power utilities have been crucial for states and cities to meet their EV deployment goals. They have played pivotal roles in areas such as Make-Ready infrastructure (by covering a significant cost of grid upgrades), grid upgrades and deploying charging infrastructure to targeted sites. Utilities have done the heavy lifting by making EV charging infrastructure accessible and available. For example, in California, the public utilities have introduced interventions that reduce the cost of charging infrastructure by up to 25 percent. The European Union incorporated utility efforts in its Regulation for the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure (AFIR), which set landmark new rules to ensure sufficient and user-friendly alternative fuels infrastructure for road, shipping and aviation via. The UK also unveiled a new electric vehicle infrastructure strategy to reach its goal of a minimum 300,000 public chargepoints by 2023.
Role of Utilities in EV Adoption in India
To facilitate greater utility engagement for EVs, NRDC and partner Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) conducted roundtables, focus group discussions, and knowledge exchanges with Indian states, including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, as well as international utility experts from the U.S., China and the U.K over the last year. High level government officials, industry stakeholders, trade unions and civil society organizations joined the discussions. A summary of key takeaways and action items are below.