Let Retailers Get Into Ohio’s Refueling Business: Neil Chatterjee

WASHINGTON, DC – To drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and offer an alternative to soaring gas prices, US politicians are seeking to stimulate the electrification of transport. However, here in Ohio, there is one key player that is left out: the hundreds of gas stations and truck stops across the state.

Instead of opposing electric vehicles, the fuel industry wants to participate in this thriving market.

Fuel retailers know that before Americans make the leap to electric vehicles (EVs), people need to be confident that refueling their vehicles quickly, affordably and safely in public places is possible.

As a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, I know that the policies we are pursuing today can resonate for decades. Ohio lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 307, legislation that will give public services a significant edge in this new market, but I would encourage Ohio lawmakers to consider how to allow both fuel traders and utilities to do so. which they do best.

Ohio already maintains a stable, highly competitive vehicle charging network. Instead of rediscovering the wheel, we need policies that encourage private fuel traders in the country to work with public services to accelerate the transition to fast electricity refueling.

Today’s gas stations are exactly where drivers need them: on major and minor highways, as well as near urban neighborhoods and routes that drivers often use. These service stations already have the land, signs and zoning / land use permits needed to refuel. Acquisition of real estate is not required.

Existing network operators also have experience in managing successful, customer-oriented refueling businesses. It may sound simple, but drivers are used to the coffee, toilets and snacks that are part of every gas station.

Drivers of petroleum-powered vehicles rarely worry about not being able to refuel, as these places are well visible and conveniently located. EV drivers need the same trust. They need to know that they will be able to recharge as needed.

All existing charging stations need chargers and the same network connection that any other charging site model would require, but without prior, time-consuming and potentially contentious site search and resolution.

For this to happen, existing petrol station operators need to partner with public services, with each industry sticking to what it does best, in an effort to share and overcome the challenges inherent in this endeavor.

Regulated utilities play a key role in this transformation to an electrified transport network. Utilities need to build the electricity grid needed for fast charging. This is an essential and expensive undertaking.

Politicians need to encourage utilities to partner with the private sector on terms that make economic sense for all. To this end, utility committees must adopt tariffs that support these partnerships. They should also promote competitive billing options without current search fees, which can eliminate any profits a third-party trader would earn.

Neil Chatterjee is a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Instead of allowing energy companies to invest taxpayers’ money in setting up, owning and operating a new EV charging network, utilities should invest in expanding the network. They will sell much more electricity to charge EVs in the coming decades, and providing the necessary infrastructure must be a top priority for public services.

This is a difficult balance to strike as two major industries determine what role they will play in shaping the future, but the incentives offered by the free market will serve as an effective benchmark.

Neil Chatterjee is a former commissioner and former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under President Donald Trump, and was previously a senior energy policy adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell. He is now a senior adviser at Hogan Lovells, a US-British law firm that has clients on both sides of the issue, representing both fuel traders and major utilities. This was written for The Plain Dealer and cleveland.com.

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