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Middleborough, Mass., utility’s pilot program tracks EV use and charging

October 5, 2020

by Peter Maloney
October 5, 2020

Middleborough Gas and Electric Department (MGED) in Massachusetts has entered into an agreement for a two-year electric vehicle pilot program in a partnership with FleetCarma.

Through the SmartCharge New England program, owners of electric vehicles in MGED’s territory will be able to earn cash rewards for charging their vehicles.

Customers who have already installed a level-2 electric vehicle charger at their homes and have applied for a rebate on the charger are eligible for an off-peak charging reward of up to $5 per month.

Customers who installed a home charger before 2020 and did not receive a rebate are eligible for a reward of up to $10 per month for off-peak charging. In addition, the first 20 participants in the program will also receive a $50 early sign up bonus.

FleetCarma provides hardware and software services that enables utilities to track electric vehicle usage and charging patterns. The company’s software tracks and stores data on where an electric vehicle goes and in which utility territory it charges its batteries.

Electric vehicles in MGED’s territory are “just beginning to take off, and we want to get ahead of the curve,” Sandy Richter, public communications director for the utility, said. There are currently only about 60 or 70 electric vehicles in the public power utility’s territory, but “we want to change people’s [charging] habits before this [new transportation technology] becomes a big thing,” she said.

The utility is trying to avoid a scenario in which a growing number of electric vehicles pushes up peak demand in the [early] evening, putting more strain on resources and the prices customers would eventually have to pay.

If those kinds of charging loads can be shifted to later in the evening and [over] night, it would benefit MGED’s system and customers overall, Richter said. MGED’s winter load peak between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Off-peak hours for the SmartCharge program are weekdays between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Funding for the SmartCharge program is coming from money collected under Massachusetts state law that requires utilities in the state to set aside one-quarter of 1% of revenues for residential conservation services, including electrification efforts.

In addition to learning more about the behavior of electric vehicles owners, the SmartCharge program will also allow MGED to build closer relationships with a segment of its customers that is technologically savvy and will be an increasingly important portion of the utility’s demographic in the coming years, Richter said.

The SmartCharge program is being run in conjunction with the public power utility’s existing MGED Drives Electric program under which the utility began offering rebates for the installation of home charging units since 2020 and in 2019 began offering rebates for the purchase of used electric vehicles through the Second Drive program it offers in conjunction with the city of Taunton’s public power utility.

MGED’s partner in all three electric vehicle rebate programs is Energy New England, a joint action agency. “These kinds of programs need a team,” Richter said. “ENE was our agency partner.”

Energy New England reached out to FleetCarma, which typically works with much larger utilities, and worked out a partnership to aggregate public power utility customers for Fleetcarma’s services and customize those services for individual utilities.

Energy New England brough FleetCarma in as a partner “to offer our clients additional options for EV charge management,” John Tzimorangas, ENE’s president and CEO, said via email. ENE provides marketing and customer acquisition and supports the relationship and assists to ensure a positive customer experience, he said.

“It’s ENE’s goal to offer solutions to fit each utility’s unique goals and needs,” Tzimorangas said. “We expect that more utilities will sign on the SmartCharge New England as they experience increased EV adoption in their service territories.”