By Amanda Gokee, New Hampshire Bulletin:

The Public Utilities Commission has approved new rates for charging electric vehicles for those in Liberty and Unitil coverage areas.

The decision advances what’s called “time-of-use rates,” which means the price you pay for the electricity to charge a vehicle is tied to what time of day you charge it and how long it takes. The goal is to encourage people to charge their cars at night, when other demands for electricity are relatively low.

In total, the order establishes three rates: peak, mid-peak, and off-peak.

The cheapest time to charge a car would be off-peak hours; for Unitil this would be from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., as well as weekends and holidays. Mid-peak, which would cost more, would run from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday. And peak, the most expensive time to charge, would start at 3 p.m. and last until 8 p.m.

For those in Liberty territory, off-peak hours would also start at 8 p.m. on weeknights but last a bit longer, until 8 a.m. The peak time would be the same. 

Eversource pushed back on this type of rate structure, instead proposing what’s called managed charging – where the utility manages electric demand instead of allowing customers to select their price when choosing a peak time. The utilities commission rejected that proposal, directing Eversource to come up with its own time-of-use plan that’s more consistent with the other utilities.

Clean energy advocates in the state, such as Clean Energy New Hampshire, support time-of-use rates as a part of transitioning away from fossil fuel use. Shifting to electric alternatives means that demand for electricity is almost certain to increase; this kind of rate is a way to prevent that increase from driving up prices.

But Chris Skoglund of Clean Energy New Hampshire said Thursday’s decision, while largely a step in the right direction, does leave one potentially harmful charge in place. The decision reduces by 50 percent the so-called “demand charge,” which is like an impact fee, where passing a certain threshold of energy use triggers a much higher cost. 

Skoglund said that even with the reduction, it could remain too high for charging stations to survive. That happened in Derry, when a municipal charging station shut down after receiving a cost-prohibitive bill.

The rates will take effect on July 6.

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