(The Center Square) – The Spokane Valley Council has decided not to apply for a state grant to plan an electric vehicle charging network out of concerns about additional costs and workload.
The Department of Commerce announced $970,000 for local governments to use in support of the state’s transition from gas-powered vehicles to electric models by 2035. The funding from the state’s clean energy fund will be split among applicants with awards ranging from $100,000 to $150,000, said Adam Jackson, senior engineer for Spokane Valley.
“This is an opportunity for us, with almost $1 million available, to ask for a share of that pie,” he told the city council on Tuesday.
He said the city would have to provide matching funds if chosen for an award. The amount of the match would be 17% if the city partnered with a utility company for a project and 50% if a standalone proposal was submitted.
The purpose of the grants, said Jackson, is to get local governments to begin making plans to upgrade infrastructure. He said the city had four or five energy purveyors to work with in developing those plans.
City Manager John Hohman told the council on Sept. 6 that it was going to be difficult for the state to realize the ban on gas-powered cars and trucks. He said the charging station network was not even close to being capable of accommodating an all-electric fleet.
“I think there needs to be a reality check of, ‘Hold on a minute, this is where we are today and, if that’s the goal, there’s a variety of tings that need to be addressed,’” he said.
He pointed out that California, which took the lead on banning sales of gasoline cars within 13 years, had provided a recent example about what could happen without an adequate energy system in place. A summer heat wave that boosted the use of air conditioners recently led government officials in that state to ask that people not charge electric vehicles.
Councilor Laura Padden said less than 1% of vehicles in Washington were powered by electricity and there was already a problem meeting charging needs.
“If they think they are going to meet the deadline, I think they are wrong,” she said.
Councilor Arne Woodard agreed. “They are never going to make it,” he said.
Councilor Brandi Peetz said it was good for the city to be proactively discussing the issue, something she did not feel should be done under pressure, which might become the case if grant funds were accepted.
Woodard and Councilor Ben Wick pointed out that Avista had taken the lead to develop an electric vehicle charging network across eastern Washington. Toward that end, the electric company had stated plans to provide a variety of incentives for business and residential customers, as well as tax credits and sales tax exemptions.
At the end of Tuesday’s discussion, the council decided to forego the grant opportunity until the state provided more detailed plans about how it intended to meet the ambitious energy goal.