Community leaders say electric grid is strong enough to withstand Summit County’s EV readiness plan
High Country Conservation Center collaborated with representatives from Xcel Energy to ensure strong infrastructure is in place
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify a quote by Michael Wurzel about the power grid.
In early fall, High Country Conservation Center will begin rolling out its electric vehicle readiness plan, which is a 10-year plan that will prepare Summit County for the inevitable use of electric vehicles from residents and visitors. According to the county’s Climate Action Plan, the community set a goal to increase the amount of electric vehicles by 30% by 2030, and this readiness plan outlines steps the county and its partners will take to ensure the community is prepared.
But what does that mean for the county’s electric grid?
Jess Hoover, climate action director for the conservation center, said that when she and her team were developing the electric vehicle readiness plan, they worked with representatives of Xcel Energy, the utility service provider that supplies about 99% of electricity for Summit County, according to Hoover.
“We had members of Xcel Energy’s team on our planning committee, and so Xcel was involved from the beginning to the end and was able to participate in these meetings and assure us that we have the capability of supporting increased numbers of electric vehicles on our roads in Summit County,” Hoover said. “I don’t think it’s something they are concerned about, and in fact, they want to see more electric vehicles in their territory.”
In the fall, Xcel Energy announced a new goal that it would like to power 1.5 million electric vehicles in its service areas by 2030. Because the energy company is also focused on supporting electric vehicles, the partnership made sense, Hoover said.
“Xcel itself has a goal of supporting 1.5 million vehicles across its eight-state territory in 2030, and so the company is actively working to help communities through the (electric vehicle) transition,” Hoover said. “They want to make this successful, too. They know that we want to buy more electric vehicles. They know it’s going to take more electricity, and we need to buy more electricity from them to charge these vehicles. So it’s in their best interest to figure out and work with communities in their territory to install new charging capacity and make sure these vehicles have plugs to plug into.”
Summit County Sustainability Coordinator Michael Wurzel noted that the current infrastructure already in place can handle some basic charging for electric vehicles.
“There’s enough Level 1 charging in the United States right now to charge basically every truck, SUV and car on our roads today,” Wurzel said. “The average American only drives 40 miles a day, so if you think about (it), if you plug your car in at night — let’s say at 10 p.m. or so — and you let it charge until 6 a.m., that’s 40 miles right there of charge just off a normal home outlet, which the grid is already capable of producing at any time.”
Though the current electric grid can support some basic charging, Hoover said that if everyone — including individuals, businesses and government entities — bought an electric vehicle tomorrow, the existing infrastructure would have a harder time accommodating that level of need.
Leaders of Xcel Energy know that additional support is needed, and the company is already working ahead to ensure that communities across the state are equipped to handle the switch in transportation needs. This past December, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved $110 million worth of investments to the state’s electric vehicle infrastructure.
In addition to investing back into the community, Hoover and Wurzel noted that the company is taking steps to ensure the infrastructure doesn’t fail by encouraging electric vehicle owners to take advantage of various incentives, one of which includes charging vehicles at night.
“The other thing people don’t think about is time of day charging,” Wurzel said. “The grid is always producing (excess) except for at very peak times, which could only be a few times a year. (There’s) plenty of power, and when the grid has the most power is at night when most people are asleep and not using as much electricity. So Xcel, through its transportation electrification plan, is creating electricity rates to incentivize their (electric vehicle) owners to charge overnight.”
Wurzel noted that these rates could be significantly less than if an electric vehicle owner charged their car during the day.
Though representatives from Xcel did not return a request for comment in time for publication, sustainability leaders within the community are not concerned with the stability of the county’s electric grid and are preparing for a dramatic switch in the types of vehicles people choose to own in the coming years.
“I would just reiterate that this is the future of transportation,” Hoover said.
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