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Duke Energy Offers $56M Plan To Expand Vehicle Charging Stations In North Carolina

An electric vehicle at a charging station.
David Boraks
An electric vehicle at a charging station in Charlotte.

Duke Energy is asking regulators to approve a $56 million plan to expand electric vehicle charging in North Carolina.

The Charlotte-based company says it wants to help speed up the adoption of electric vehicles. That's also a goal of North Carolina's Clean Energy Plan, which requires utilities to develop charging infrastructure and rates.

It's the second time Duke has offered such a plan. Last November, regulators approved a scaled-back $25 million pilot program for 280 Duke-owned charging stations across the state. Regulators trimmed that plan from the $76 million Duke originally proposed in April 2019. It also includes money for 30 electric buses to be spread throughout the state's school districts.

Duke says the new proposal could lead to more than 1,000 new charging stations around the state. Some may be owned by Duke, but others will be privately owned at homes and businesses. New programs outlined in a filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission would let customers choose their own hardware to charge electric vehicles faster than a wall outlet.

The filing follows months of meetings between Duke and various stakeholders, including government agencies, schools, environmental groups, businesses, electric vehicle industry advocates and representatives from Chapel Hill, Asheville, Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham, Boone and Greensboro.

"Our filing reflects the best ideas we heard on how Duke Energy can spur that transition,” Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president, said in a news release.

Growth of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in North Carolina. The gray line shows total zero-emissions vehicles, which stood at 26,491 as of March 2021.
N.C. Department of Transportation
Growth of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in North Carolina. The gray line shows total zero-emissions vehicles, which stood at 26,491 as of March 2021.

Among other things, the program calls for:

  • Expanding direct-current, fast-charging stations along state highways and charging stations at multifamily dwellings.
  • Supporting the development of a competitive market for direct-current, fast-charging by requiring multiple hardware and software providers.
  • Creating a pilot program that allows residential and business customers to install and operate EV charging stations for a monthly fee. Duke says customers would manage the systems and choose what hardware to use.
  • Money for 60 electric buses to be purchased across the state's school districts.

As of March, there were about 26,491 electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles registered in North Carolina, according to the NCDOT. The state's goal is 80,000 by 2025.

Duke's plan still must be approved by state regulators. A Duke spokesman said that could take months.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.