WALLINGFORD — The Public Utilities Commission approved a legal agreement this week for a new program tracking electric vehicle charging activity.
The SmartCharge New England program is a data acquisition, behavioral reward and public outreach program aimed at encouraging customers to charge electric vehicles during off-peak periods.
Customers who own an electric vehicle would be eligible to enroll. The program is limited to 25 participants initially. If the program gets an overwhelming response, the Electric Division would reassess, General Manager Tony Buccheri said.
“More data would be better than less,” he said, “and that is something we’ll look at if we easily surpass the 25 people we need, minimum, to be statistically relevant. The more data we can collect to better understand customer behavior with these devices, the better.”
Participants would receive a C2 hardware device that’s customer-installed and able to track charging activity, including time of day and energy consumption. It uses cellular technology to transmit the data.
The Electric Division would be able to view the data of each participant.
The two-year voluntary pilot program, to be covered by the town’s Energy Conservation and Load Management Fund, would cost $14,715 based on 25 participants. There would be no charge to participants.
Energy New England, the town’s wholesale power supply agent, teamed up with FleetCarma, a division of Geotab — based in Ontario, Canada — to provide the technology and hardware.
First discussed by the PUC in June, the Electric Division would procure turnkey services from FleetCarma as well as customer outreach, engagement and marketing services from Energy New England.
At the December meeting of the PUC, commission members raised concerns about a proposed legal agreement. They sought more clarity in the agreement between the Electric Division and FleetCarma.
The town’s Law Department reviewed and negotiated a final agreement with Geotab’s legal counsel, which was approved unanimously Tuesday by the commission.
“We’ve looked at this several times and it’s been a long road,” PUC member Joel Rinebold said. “We’ve addressed the legal issues, the budget cap, the source of the funding, the attached system reliability, as well as customer satisfaction relevant to some of the trends for electric vehicle purchase and operation, (and) how’s this going to affect the system reliability.”
According to the updated agreement, FleetCarma will address any legal action brought against the Electric Division in the case of an intellectual property infringement claim, provided that FleetCarma is notified no more than 15 days after the receipt of such notice and the town permits FleetCarma to defend or settle the claim. Additionally, Geotab will not reimburse the Electric Division for legal fees or expenses associated with intellectual property infringement claims.
The agreement will be governed by and construed under Connecticut law, rather than New York state law.
Participants would receive a FleetCarma-connected car device that can be installed without a professional by inserting the device into the vehicle’s diagnostics port, generally located underneath the dashboard.
Once installed, the device connects to the local cellular network and transmits data to the FleetCarma cloud-based platform. In Year 1 of the program, charging load profiles and daily driving habits are established. In Year 2, off-peak charging financial incentives may be implemented and evaluated.
On Tuesday, commission members discussed how they wanted to publicize the program and reach Electric Division customers that are electric vehicle owners. Ideas included using the newsletter that comes inserted with the monthly electric bills, or creating a separate issue of newsletter in a special mailing.
PUC Chairman Robert Beaumont said getting the word out sooner is better.
“I am convinced we’re going to be seeing more and more of a demand for EV charging as time goes on,” Beaumont said.
Buccheri said that FleetCarma is eager to get started.
“Program marketing and customer engagement is part of what they do,” he said, “and I’m sure we’ll get some assistance from them as well.”