Colorado Regulators Approve Black Hills’ Transportation Electrification Plan

Commission approves new EV rebate recommended by Environmental Justice Coalition

Pueblo, CO – The Colorado Public Utilities Commission approved Black Hills inaugural ‘Ready EV’ Transportation Electrification Plan on Wednesday. As intervenors, Colorado Latino Forum, GreenLatinos, GRID Alternatives, and Vote Solar urged the Commission, collectively as the “Environmental Justice Coalition” (EJC), to make significant changes that would ensure that income-qualified and disproportionately burdened communities will derive meaningful benefits from the plan. The Commission adopted an EV purchase rebate program for income-qualified customers, similar to the program the EJC recommended, but it failed to take the steps necessary to ensure that the plan fast tracks an equitable transition to vehicle electrification within the Black Hills service territory.

“By traveling all across the region to bring community voices to this decision making process and adding new voices from groups like GreenLatinos our goal was to help influence more equitable outcomes that would give a voice to customers and communities who have too often been left out of policy decisions and left behind in the transition to a cleaner energy future,” said Ean Tafoya, co-chair of Colorado Latino Forum and an organizer with GreenLatinos. “The small increase in investment in income-qualified programs demonstrated that the Commission is beginning to listen to the community, but falls short of the necessary steps to build trust between the utility and its customers. Community voices must not be an afterthought.”

“For too long, Black Hills customers have been left out of Colorado’s transition to clean energy. In this proceeding, the Commission missed a key opportunity to set Black Hills on a new path. While I am pleased to see that the Commission approved an income-qualified EV purchase program, such a step is not enough,” said Jamie Valdez, Colorado Community Organizer of Mothers Out Front. “To overcome the community’s long standing distrust of the utility, we need proactive community engagement and a comprehensive suite of equity-focused programs, tailored to the community’s unique needs. Incremental progress is not enough.”

Black Hills’ service territory has a relatively large proportion of income-qualified customers and disproportionately burdened communities. In Senate Bill 19-077, the General Assembly recognized that accelerating the transition to electric vehicles in environmental justice and income-qualified communities is essential to rectifying long standing harms and is critical to Colorado’s clean energy future.

“We know, and the Commission agrees, that in order to successfully transition to a clean energy economy we must address current and historic inequities in our communities. The Commission is moving in the right direction by approving the vehicle rebate,” said Claudine Custodio, Regulatory Manager at Vote Solar. ”But the Commission can do more, especially for communities that need conscientious investments to benefit from a clean energy future.”

Black Hills’ proposed plan offered just one income-qualified program: a $1,300 rebate for income-qualified customers who install an at-home Level 2 charger (non-income-qualified customers will receive a $500 rebate per port). As a result of the Environmental Justice Coalition’s intervention, Black Hills will also make $100,000 available for income-qualified customers to purchase new or used electric vehicles.

“We are pleased that the Commission adopted some of our recommendations, but the plan falls short of the necessary investments and dedicated programming to ensure access for income-qualified customers who stand to benefit most from transportation electrification,” said Tom Figel, Senior Director of Policy & Business Development, GRID Alternatives. “A key recommendation that was not approved was an equity budget to designate 30% of program funds to income-qualified programs. Without this, advocates and the Commission will need to keep a close eye on program implementation to ensure direct benefits are distributed equitably amongst ratepayers.”

The Environmental Justice Coalition argued that the Black Hills plan is inadequately funded with just $1.2 million over the entire three-year life of the plan. This budget is less than 3% of the Public Service Company of Colorado plan’s transportation electrification budget on a per-capita basis.

“As approved, the Black Hills Transportation Electrification Plan fails to accelerate an equitable transition to vehicle electrification in southern Colorado and provides far fewer benefits to Black Hills’ income-qualified customers than those offered to similarly-situated Public Service customers,” said Marta Darby, Senior Attorney, Earthjustice. “The Commission must not allow such inequities to persist. We hope to see significantly expanded income-qualified program offerings in the utility’s next filing.”

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