Wisconsin’s state legislature has acted swiftly this January to move legislation impacting electric vehicles (EV) through the legislative process. The Senate version of the proposed EV bill, SB 791, has already passed through the Senate Utilities & Technology Committee with a recommendation for passage. Similarly, the Assembly version of the bill, AB 846, cleared the State Assembly Committee on Energy & Utilities.
The legislation also passed through the Joint Committee on Finance and Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions, gathering favorable votes. Most recently, the full Senate passed their version of the bill in a 30-2 vote. The next step is a vote by the full Assembly after which the bill will go to the Governor’s desk.
As with all legislative bills, amendments and tweaks along the way are common. There have been three amendments added so far, and we are analyzing the impact of these on the original bill.
The focus of the bill is to allow non-utilities to seek payment from EV drivers based on the amount of electricity they use to charge their vehicles rather than the time it takes for the vehicle to charge. This qualifies Wisconsin public and private entities to receive federal dollars to help build charging infrastructure while also establishing operational and maintenance requirements for the chargers.
National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) funding would be available for up to 5 years, which is especially beneficial for areas where the market is not yet ready to support EV infrastructure but could in a few years. This allows the areas that currently have less EV traffic to build EV charging infrastructure to support a growing user base.
RENEW initially raised concerns about the impact the bills would have on existing EV charging facilities and the need for the state to have similar opportunities for infrastructure that local governments would. Those concerns have been addressed in part within the proposed amendments.
SB 791 and AB 846 bring Wisconsin in line with 48 other states while providing uniform access, pricing, accountability, and standards for EV Charging. We expect to see the bill become law.
Though the year is coming to a close, RENEW Wisconsin’s efforts to support electric vehicle (EV) charging and community solar will continue into 2024. RENEW staff recently had the opportunity to testify before the Senate Committee on Utilities and Technology to share our support for SB 791.
We are also working with the Community Solar Coalition to get a hearing on the community solar bill. The Coalition is reaching out to leadership in the state legislature along with the chairman of the Senate Committee on Utilities and Technology to advance the bill to the next step.
EV Charging – SB 791
RENEW Wisconsin staff testified before the Senate Committee on Utilities and Technology on December 19, 2023. In our testimony we shared our support for SB 791, explaining that it will align the state of Wisconsin’s laws with the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Standards and Requirements set by the Federal Highway Administration and qualify for NEVI funds.
NEVI requires that the payment for charging your vehicle be based on kilowatt hours of electricity used rather than time. In Wisconsin, making electricity available by the kilowatt hour (kWh) is restricted for non-utilities. As it stands, the EV stations operating in the state have consumers pay by the amount of time it takes to charge rather than the amount of electricity used.
Allowing private entities to sell electricity by the kWh to charge an electric vehicle without being regulated as a utility will grant Wisconsin $78 million in NEVI dollars. These dollars are needed to fund the build-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and establish operational and maintenance standards.
This bill will bring Wisconsin in line with 48 other states and provide uniform access, pricing, accountability, and standards for EV Charging. More importantly, establishing the kWh standard for Wisconsin is time-sensitive as the deadline to qualify for the NEVI funds is the end of February 2024.
During our testimony, we recommend two improvements:
First, we ask for the grandfathering of all existing EV charging facilities up to the date when this new law becomes effective. We believe that early adopters of EV charging should not be forced to make costly changes to their existing systems and investments. Additionally, allowing the current economic and ownership arrangements to continue would not compete with the new systems but rather continue serving the market.
Second, we asked that the bill be modified to allow state government entities to lease land for charging or that they be able to partner with a private entity to host facilities. This change would allow charging stations to be placed in remote places that private businesses may not find suitable.
RENEW Wisconsin is monitoring several new bills relating to solar and wind project siting, reforms aimed at the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) and utilities, and a slew of proposals from the Forward on Climate legislative package. We are reviewing these bills to determine our position on these proposals. We are also continuing our work to support EV charging infrastructure and bills that would allow Wisconsin residents to participate in community solar projects.
Bills to Watch
On November 16, Wisconsin Democrats reintroduced their Forward on Climate legislative package. In all the package contains 20 bills, which address issues ranging from job creation to inequality. This includes bills that focus on job training grants, racial disparity impact studies, a funding increase for Focus on Energy, on-bill financing, biodigester planning grants, transportation planning, and changes to the energy building code.
RENEW is also monitoring a group of bills that would create reforms for the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin and state utilities. Some of these bills would impact how utilities notify customers of rate increases, alter procedures for complaints filed with the PSCW, impact the closure of large electric generating facilities such as coal plants, and allow the PSCW and interested parties to learn what public utilities are planning for future energy generation.
A final group of bills under review by RENEW staff would directly impact large-scale solar and wind projects. Some of the potential impacts of these bills include requirements to assess agricultural land for productivity before a project is approved, limit ownership of agricultural or forest land by foreign entities, and require notification of neighboring property owners of projects before they are deemed viable.
RENEW staff is reviewing and monitoring all of these bills and will provide regular updates on their progress.
Electric Vehicle Charging
Better access to charging stations to support the electric vehicle industry is a top priority for RENEW. We continue to support efforts to remove some of the barriers in Wisconsin. Current state law limits private companies’ ability to build charging stations by only allowing electric utilities to sell electricity to the public.
- RENEW anticipates legislation (likely led by Sen. Howard Marklein) to be introduced this fall to remove some of these barriers.
- RENEW is hoping the proposed legislation would allow non-utilities to provide electricity at charging stations by using the national standard of charging by the kilowatt hour rather than by the time it takes to charge.
- RENEW staff have been in regular communication with various interested parties and we hope to see movement on this proposal soon.
- To support these efforts, we also have preliminary plans to host educational, lobbying, and test-driving electric vehicle events through the fall.
Wisconsin state law limits solar installations to larger utility-built projects and smaller rooftop installations on individual homes or businesses. This leaves a gap in the options available for some Wisconsinites. Allowing community-based projects for individuals to participate in solar energy generation even if they do not own the building or have adequate sun exposure would create more equity as it relates to solar generation.
RENEW Wisconsin is part of a coalition of groups that support community solar projects, along with two bills introduced earlier this year that would allow Wisconsin residents to participate in community solar projects. SB 226 was authored by Sen. Duey Stroebel, and AB 258 was authored by Rep. Scott Krug.
- RENEW is encouraging the chairman of the committee, Sen. Julian Bradley, to schedule a hearing in the fall in the Senate Committee on Utilities & Technology.
- More than 30 organizations are listed as lobbyists on the proposal, with an almost equal number for and against.
- Utility groups have strongly opposed the bills.
- Supporters along with RENEW include the Alliance of WI Retailers, NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Association, League of WI Municipalities, WI Property Taxpayer Association, and Fieldworks Power. New supporters continue to join the effort.