Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (SMMPA) views electric vehicles (EVs) as good for both business and the environment. As a result, EVs are an important component of the agency’s “SMMPA 2.0” strategic initiative focusing on environmental and economic sustainability, with a goal of moving its power generation portfolio to be 80 percent carbon free by 2030.
SMMPA generates and transmits wholesale electricity to 18 non-profit, municipally-owned member utilities across Minnesota. The agency announced the development of its EV charging network in 2019, with the goal of installing a DC Fast Charger and 2 dual-port Level 2 chargers in each of their members’ communities. As part of the initiative, SMMPA pays for the equipment and maintenance, so their members are only responsible for covering the installation. ZEF Energy assisted SMMPA with planning, including site and equipment selection. With two-thirds of their members already participating, the project is anticipated to be complete by the end of 2021.
“Since up to 90 percent of EV charging typically occurs in the owner’s garage at night, when electric demand is low, utilities can generally handle that load without additional generation,” says Christopher Schoenherr, SMMPA’s Director of Agency and Government Relations.
Even as the availability of public charging stations continues to grow, some consumers hesitate to make the switch to electric because of “range anxiety” – the fear they may not be able to reach distant destinations. SMMPA’s EV charging network is intended to help alleviate those concerns and expand EV adoption longer term. That’s why the agency’s Board unanimously made the investment in them.
“To the extent that we get more EVs in people’s garages, that’s where the economic payback will be for us,” says Christopher. “In addition to that, the charging network aligns well with our SMMPA 2.0 initiative to significantly reduce our carbon footprint.”
SMMPA hosts a dual-port Level 2 charging station at its headquarters in Rochester, Minnesota that is open to the public, and expects its next fleet vehicle purchase will be an EV. SMMPA works closely with its members on EV marketing campaigns and educational resources, including an EV 101 brochure. The agency also delivered an ad campaign around a Nissan LEAF rebate that became their most clicked digital ad.
SMMPA is currently in the early stages of exploring an EV sharing initiative, a potential way of introducing residents of smaller communities to EVs. A driver would be able to rent an EV for anywhere from an hour to a week, allowing them to have a hands-on, first person experience to see if it’s right for them.