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October 6, 2020 9:30 AM, EDT

San Diego Utility Company Launches Program to Build Charging Infrastructure

SDGESan Diego Gas & Electric vehicles at charging stations. (San Diego Gas & Electric)

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San Diego Gas & Electric, a utility company serving San Diego and other areas in southern Orange County, has launched a program to build charging infrastructure for electric trucks, forklifts and other heavy equipment.

The Power Your Drive for Fleets program, announced Sept. 30, is meant to help organizations transition to electric fleets, contributing to a clean energy economy.

SDG&E also announced its goal to transition its own operations fleet, which includes bucket trucks and pickup trucks, to zero-emission vehicles by 2040.

Power Your Drive for Fleets will involve the installation of charging infrastructure at a minimum of 300 locations and facilitate the deployment of at least 3,000 medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles in the region over the next five years, according to the company’s announcement.

“One of the most impactful ways to tackle climate change and air pollution is to reimagine our transportation sector, as it is the single largest source of harmful emissions in our region and throughout California,” said Estela de Llanos, vice president of clean transportation and sustainability and chief environmental officer for SDG&E. “As we support local businesses and organizations to electrify their fleets, it’s important that we live by example and are working simultaneously to transition our own fleet to zero-emission vehicles.”

SDG&E spokeswoman Jessica Packard said utility customers within the company’s service territory who meet certain eligibility requirements may apply for the program. Spanning 4,100 square miles, SDG&E’s service area encompasses segments of interstates 5, 8, 15 and 805 as well as the cities of Escondido and San Clemente. The company supplies power to a population representing 1.4 million business and residential accounts.

Eligibility requirements for interested groups include a commitment to procuring a minimum of two electric vehicles, a long-term electrification growth plan and data related to charger usage for at least five years. Participants must also own or lease the property where chargers are installed and operate vehicles and chargers for a minimum of 10 years.

SDG&E operates an over-the-road fleet of about 1,700 units, which Packard said are mostly work trucks meant to support gas and electric crews. The fleet consists of 3% automobiles, 59% light-duty vehicles, 23% medium-duty trucks or vans and 15% heavy-duty vehicles.

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By 2030, the company aims to electrify 100% of its light-duty fleet vehicles and shift 30% of its overall fleet to zero-emission vehicles. This goal would build on efforts the company has worked on for a decade; since 2010, SDG&E has replaced 17% of its fleet with low-emission vehicles.

According to SDG&E, the transition to zero-emission vehicles can yield financial and environmental benefits. However, the process of installing the electrical infrastructure needed to power a zero-emission fleet can be costly and time-consuming because it may require upgrading transformers and other infrastructure.

In consideration of these costs, the Power Your Drive for Fleets program connects fleets with reduced electricity pricing plans, financial incentives and rebates, as well as construction and maintenance support. The program also offers rebates on charging equipment specifically for schools, transit agencies and sites in communities that struggle with challenges such as pollution due to proximity to industrial facilities.

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