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Washington state is ‘ground zero’ for EV charging port thefts

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(The Center Square) – As the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission considers updating policy regarding its involvement in electric vehicle charging services, stakeholders have noted the ongoing issue of charging station copper wire thefts.

“We in the Pacific Northwest are right in ground zero of thieves and criminal gangs who are cutting cable for copper and recycling it in the black market and so these public infrastructure assets are at risk,” Alliance for Transportation Electrification Executive Director Phillip Jones told the commission at its July 2 meeting.

The commission is currently discussing a proposed update to its 2017 Policy and Interpretive Statement that, if revised, would alter the extent of its involvement in EV charging services offered by investor-owned electric companies; the commission regulates energy rates and approves rate changes requested by utilities.

The state Legislature has enacted several laws intended to transition both the public and private transportation sectors from fossil fuels to electric vehicles, with a ban on the sale and registration of new gas vehicles after 2030. A 2019 law also directs utilities to achieve carbon reduction goals by switching to clean energy sources.

However, to make the transportation system feasible there will need to be a total of 3 million new EV charging ports found on both public and private property such as apartments, condominiums, and single-family residences.

Jones told the commission that “I don’t think it’s true that utilities really want to be managing a lot of level two chargers at HOAs and apartment buildings all over Bellevue, Spokane, and Seattle. I don’t think so, but they do have an obligation to serve, and they do have an obligation to help you meet the state’s public policy goals. If the private sector cannot do it, or if they cannot show up through a variety of reasons – they can’t get deemed parking spaces, they can’t resolve the metering issue, they don’t want to deal with great design and time of use rates, then there could be a stronger role for the utility. I think there’s a lot of a lot of room for negotiation here.”

However, he added that “one of the problems you run into with curbside is vandalism. We’re trying to come up with solutions … but it’s not an easy one to solve.”

That attitude was shared by state Department of Commerce Management Analyst Andrew Rector, who when asked what precautions would be taken to prevent cable cutting said that there have yet to be provisions put in contracts regarding how to address this issue.

“It is, alas, a problem in a lot of places,” he said. “It is definitely something that’s on our minds and is a problem that we want to try and resolve as much as possible.”

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