Representatives of convenience stores asked Georgia lawmakers Wednesday to ensure the electric vehicle charging stations they build in the coming years can compete fairly with those owned by utilities.

The General Assembly’s Joint Study Committee on the Electrification of Transportation is due by Dec. 1 to recommend legislation to be considered during the 2023 session starting in January.

A key task Georgia policymakers face is rolling out a network of public EV charging stations extensive enough to meet the demands of what is expected to be a huge increase in EVs plying the state’s highways.

Combination gas station/convenience stores are expected to host many of those EV charging stations.

But the private sector won’t be willing to make those construction investments if utilities are allowed to build stations and recover their costs from customers, said A.J. Siccardi, president of Metroplex Energy, the wholesale fuel supply arm of Georgia-based RaceTrac.

“Private investment will go where competition is encouraged,” Siccardi said. “It’s hard to compete with someone whose capital comes from consumers.”

Jay Smith, executive director of Charge Ahead Partnership, a coalition of more than 100 businesses and organizations focused on developing a network of EV charging stations, said the General Assembly could level the playing field between convenience stores and the power companies by requiring utilities interested in operating charging stations to create a separate subsidiary for that business.

Representatives of both Georgia Power and the state’s electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) told members of the study committee utilities aren’t interested in competing with convenience stores for EV charging business.

Jeff Pratt, president of GreenPower EMC, said the utilities see their role as providing public EV charging opportunities in rural parts of the state where private investors aren’t willing to go.

Stephanie Gossman, electric transportation manager for Georgia Power, said the Atlanta-based utility owns only 3% of the state’s EV charging infrastructure.

An issue representatives of both the utilities and convenience stores agreed on Wednesday was the need for legislation allowing EV charging stations to base their charges on the amount of electricity sold – in kilowatt-hours – not on the time customers spend charging their vehicles.

Committee members were told during previous meetings that charging by time makes no sense because chargers operate at different speeds.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Dave Williams | Capitol Beat

Dave Williams is the Bureau Chief of Capitol Beat News Service.