The Missouri Public Service Commission denied a request filed by Ameren Missouri to offer a pilot program to install and operate electric vehicle charging stations at locations within Ameren Missouri’s service area along the Interstate 70 corridor between St. Louis and Boonville and in Jefferson City.
The commission determined that it lacks statutory authority to regulate utility-owned and operated electric vehicle charging stations operated in a utility’s service area, determining electric vehicle charging stations do not constitute “electric plant.”
“The commission finds that electric vehicle charging stations are not ‘electric plant’ as defined in the statute because they are not used for furnishing electricity for light, heat, or power,” said the commission.
“Electric vehicle charging stations are facilities that use specialized equipment, such as a specific cord and vehicle connector, to provide the service of charging a battery in an electric vehicle. The battery is the sole source of power to make the vehicle’s wheels turn, the heater and air conditioner operate and the headlights shine light.”
The commission noted the charging service is the product being sold, not the electricity used to power the charging system.
“By analogy, a laundromat uses electricity to provide clothes drying services, but that does not mean the laundromat’s dryers are electric plant, or that the laundromat should be regulated by the commission. Electric vehicle charging stations are not ‘electric plant’ and, therefore, the commission lacks statutory authority to regulate their operation.”
This conclusion is buttressed by an understanding of the statutory framework that governs the commission’s authority, which is designed to protect the public from the unnecessary and costly duplication of services that can arise from unregulated natural monopolies.
The commission concluded that, “Ameren Missouri has not demonstrated that the business of electric vehicle charging stations needs to be regulated in order to protect the public. Currently, electric vehicle drivers are not captive customers being served by a single utility, but have a choice among several providers of electric vehicle charging services.”The commission’s decision does not prohibit Ameren Missouri from owning and operating electric vehicle charging stations in Missouri.
“Ameren Missouri may own and operate electric vehicle charging stations in Missouri,” said the commission, “but it may only do so on an unregulated basis without including those charging stations in its rate base or seeking recovery from ratepayers for any of the costs associated with the construction or operation of those charging stations.” Ameren Missouri may include in rate base any equipment, such as distribution lines, transformers and meters necessary to provide electric service to an owner of an electric vehicle charging station, whether or not that owner is affiliated with Ameren Missouri.
Ameren Missouri is to collect data regarding the appropriate electric rate to charge owners of electric vehicle charging stations and provide that information during its next general rate case.
The commission’s vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Scott Rupp opposed.
Ameren Missouri serves approximately 1.26 million electric customers in Missouri.