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Nevada Electric Highway grows to Amargosa Valley

Funds from the settlement with Volkswagen’s unit in the United States are set to increase the availability of electric vehicle charging stations in Nye County.

Valley Electric Association Inc. and the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy announced the expansion of the Nevada Electric Highway, with plans to install an electric vehicle charging station in Amargosa Valley.

“VEA is proud and excited to again partner with the state of Nevada and the Governor’s Office of Energy on this important initiative to support the reduction of greenhouse gases by installing this electric vehicle charging station at the Amargosa Valley rest stop,” said Angela Evans, VEA interim CEO, in a news release from the Governor’s Office of Energy.

The station is pegged to have three new chargers. One will be a direct current (DC) fast charger, which can charge a vehicle in less than an hour, according to a news release.

The station will also contain two level 2 chargers, which require electric vehicle drivers to allow for several hours to charge, depending on how much of a charge is needed.

Construction is expected to begin in 2018, with a targeted completion in spring 2019.

Volkswagen settlement

The charger is being funded through money from settlements by Volkswagen over complaints that Volkswagen sold several hundred thousand diesel vehicles, from 2009 to 2016, that contained software that enabled these vehicles to cheat federal emissions tests.

Part of a settlement in October 2016 required VW to establish an Environmental Mitigation Trust, which was created to fund projects to offset excess emissions caused by the vehicles.

Volkswagen was required to pay $2.7 billion into the trust under the settlement. An additional settlement in May 2017 required Volkswagen pay an additional $225 million into the trust, according to a document from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, which was chosen as the lead agency on behalf of Nevada to apply to become a beneficiary of funds from the trust.

Of the more than $2.9 billion heading to the trust, Nevada is expected to receive over $24.8 million through 2027.

The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection was required to submit a beneficiary mitigation plan that specifies how the funds will be distributed to eligible projects. The Nevada Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust was released in March.

According to information in the news release from Valley Electric and the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy, 15 percent of the funding of the nearly $25 million was dedicated to the Nevada Electric Highway initiative, which was the maximum allowable.

Electric Highway

The Electric Highway initiative was initially a partnership with the Governor’s Office of Energy, Valley Electric and NV Energy to expand the state’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure along U.S. Highway 95, between Las Vegas and Reno, according to information on the Governor’s Office of Energy’s website.

In 2015, the Nevada Strategic Planning Framework established a goal of creating an electric highway system (charging stations) across the entire state by 2020. This push for more electric vehicle infrastructure beyond just the route from Las Vegas to Reno (Phase 1) is led by the energy office, which hopes to achieve the goal by partnering with the Nevada Department of Transportation, electric utilities in the state and private commercial hosts, according to the Office of Energy’s website.

Phase 1 of the electric highway initiative is nearly complete, with operational stations in Beatty, Fallon and Hawthorne. The first station to come online was in Beatty in 2016, which was in partnership with Valley Electric.

Still to go in Phase 1 is a charging station in Tonopah, which is planned for completion in 2018. The last charging station of Phase 1 in Indian Springs is set to come online in early 2019, according to Office of Energy.

Phase 2 got underway in 2017 with the completion of an electric vehicle charging station in Panaca, which sits along U.S. Highway 93.

“The expansion of the Nevada Electric Highway is part of a broader effort to help meet our goal to become the nation’s leading producer and consumer of clean and renewable energy,” said Angela Dykema, director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy. “Nevada has a wealth of domestic renewable resources like geothermal and solar, and transitioning our transportation infrastructure to accommodate electric vehicles will lessen our dependency on out-of-state resources, which accounts for over a third of the energy consumed in Nevada.”

“The NEH (Nevada Electric Highway) helps to achieve clean energy goals for the Silver State as identified in Nevada’s Strategic Planning Framework, 2016-2020, and has also helped to spur greater regional efforts such as the Regional Electric Vehicle Plan for the West, or REV West,” a release from the Office of Energy stated.

The REV West is a group created by eight governors from interior Western states, so there could be a forum among the states on regional collaboration on efforts on electrifying interstate corridors.

Funding for the Nevada Electric Highway comes from a variety of sources, including the Volkswagen litigation and the Nevada Energy Program Formula Grant, an annual source of funds from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada also recently approved the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Demonstration Program, which was established by a bill from the 2017 legislative session.

According to a release from the Office of Energy, the program “will provide further support to accelerate Phase II of the (Nevada Electric Highway) NEH in NV Energy service territory.”

The program will offer incentives up to 75 percent to private commercial host sites that have been identified by the Governor’s Office of Energy, which are willing to participate in the Nevada Electric Highway program.

“For host sites not identified by the Governor’s Office of Energy, NV Energy is also proposing to help those projects through their custom grant program (slated to start in September 2018),” a news release stated from the Office of Energy.

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com

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