The Ohio House
Interested Party Testimony on Substitute House Bill 33 – State Budget Bill
(Charges to Utility Consumers for Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure and Infrastructure/Economic Development)
Maureen Willis, Legal Director
Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel
April 20, 2023
Hello Chair Edwards, Ranking Member Sweeney and members of the Finance Committee. I hope you and your colleagues are well. Thank you for this opportunity to submit testimony on two new issues in the budget substitute bill. The issues are charges to utility consumers related to infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations and economic development.
Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston thanks members for maintaining the Governor’s recommended budget increase for the utility consumer protection services of the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC). OCC appreciated the opportunity to previously testify before the House Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture, Development, and Natural Resources.
OCC is a proponent of a budget increase for OCC’s consumer services. However, OCC is an opponent of the following two new consumer issues in the budget substitute bill.
Lines 76467 to 76475 allow electric utilities to charge their consumers for distribution costs to build “make-ready” sites for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, owned by businesses in the competitive EV market. In its Comparison Document (page 479), the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) describes a “subsidy” involved in the bill related to EV charging stations. LSC wrote:
Allows an electric distribution utility (EDU) or electric cooperative to recover the costs of make-ready infrastructure (i.e., electrical infrastructure required to accommodate the EV charging station's electrical load) through the EDU's or cooperative's rates and charges so long as the subsidy is offered to EV charging providers on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Accordingly, changes to protect consumers should include but not be limited to adding a sentence to the new section to prohibit such charges to consumers. The new sentence could be as follows: “Such make-ready infrastructure charges shall not be collected from the consumers of an electric distribution utility.” This sentence would protect Ohio electric utility consumers from subsidizing what should be a competitive EV charging marketplace. The competitive providers of EV charging stations should generally be the ones to pay for new infrastructure needed for their operations.
Moreover, the federal government is making substantial funds available to local governments for electric vehicle charging stations. That is occurring under the federal infrastructure bill. Ohio’s share of the funding is significant.
Another consumer concern is the enabling of add-on charges to utility consumers for “infrastructure development costs” associated with economic development projects. (Lines 76324 through 76395) The new language is generally lacking in consumer protections.
For example, the new provision lacks the important consumer protections found in the ratemaking standards in such statutes as R.C. 4909.15. Also, there are no limits on utility charges to consumers. And there is inadequate defining of the PUCO’s discretion in its choosing of which Ohio companies will benefit from the subsidies and why.
Note also that the budget bill already has an economic development program, the Ohio Future Fund. And economic development programs are already available at the PUCO. For consumer protection, please remove this infrastructure/economic development language from the bill.
Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony on these consumer protection issues in Substitute House Bill 33.