Published: 7/7/2021 5:02:45 PM
The Peterborough Select Board approved a plan for four Level-2 electric vehicle chargers in the downtown Riverwalk parking lot Tuesday night. They could be installed as soon as early October, Assistant Town Administrator Seth MacLean told the Board.
Voters approved the charge station via a 2020 warrant article that set aside $35,000 in Greater Downtown Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) funds for the installation, operation, and maintenance of up to four chargers.
Implementing that has been far more complicated than just putting up a charge station, MacLean said, and not just because of the global pandemic. MacLean and the Peterborough Energy Committee had to find out how much it would cost to purchase, operate, and maintain the chargers, how to collect payments from users (Peterborough’s legal counsel determined the town could not give away electricity for free, MacLean said), and how to set a rate that would recoup as much of the charge station’s costs as possible while still encouraging their use.
The Select Board approved the committee’s recommendation to enter a five-year lease with ChargeLab, an electric vehicle charging software company that will rent the charging stations to the town and handle all payment collections. “We are not experts,” MacLean said, “so this makes a lot of sense.” It’s an option that gives the town flexibility and an exit strategy in case it doesn’t work out, he said. After five years, Peterborough can buy the company’s equipment, upgrade with a new agreement, or remove it, he said.
It will cost $16,198 to get the chargers up and running the first year, then $4,440 a year for operation and maintenance, MacLean said. Then there’s the electricity cost: PEC members estimated the monthly energy bill at a little under $500 a month if the chargers were used 20% of the time, for a total of about $10,000 a year for the chargers’ operation, maintenance, and electricity. The TIF funds could go farther if high charger demand winds up covering all electricity costs, MacLean said.
It’s still up to Peterborough to determine the billing rate for EV station users, MacLean said, a decision that will require a public hearing prior to the chargers going online. Although Peterborough intends to bill at a fair and equitable rate that covers all electricity costs, it’s somewhat difficult to set a break-even point considering nobody knows yet how frequently the chargers will be used, he said. ChargeLab’s agreement only takes eight percent of every transaction, leaving the other 92% for recouping the town’s costs, he said.
Select Board member Bill Kennedy reminded other Board members that one of the initial reasons Peterborough wanted to pursue municipal EV chargers was to attract tourists and travelers downtown.
The town plans to sign the contract by the end of the week and start planning the installation, which will be a collaboration between the Peterborough DPW and ChargeLab, Abacus Smartcharge, and KA Electric, MacLean said on Wednesday. Work’s anticipated to start later this summer but it depends on whether certain hardware is backordered, he said.