Energy Department, Edison Electric Institute: Let’s Plug in Our Cars

With a new agreement in place between the Edison Electric Institute and the U.S. Energy Department, the federal government could get help in achieving a goal that's evaded it in the past: moving federal agencies to electric vehicles.

The government is continuing its push for electric-vehicle adoption, and a key electric-industry group is helping to get the wheels spinning.

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has partnered with the U.S. Energy Department to enable a greater use of electric vehicles.

“The electric power industry is a tremendous leader in moving the electric transportation market forward, and we are excited to work with our federal partners to bring about the economic, environmental, and security benefits of transportation electrification,” EEI President Tom Kuhn said in a news release. “Transportation electrification benefits electric utility customers, while also bolstering America’s energy security and sustainability. These are priorities our industry shares with our government partners.”

Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz signed a memorandum of understanding [PDF] with EEI at the institute’s annual convention in New Orleans this week. The agreement formalizes their future work in policy, research, outreach and education, and more.

“The U.S. transportation system produces a third of the country’s carbon emissions, making it essential that we improve plug-in electric-vehicle technology and increase their numbers on the road,” Moniz said at the conference.

A Missed Goal, Reassessed

During his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama set a goal to have 1 million plug-in electric vehicles on American roads by the beginning of this year. That hasn’t happened.

Just 300,000 plug-in electric vehicles are on American roads—a far cry from the more than 250 million gas-powered vehicles on the highways. The White House has pulled back from its electric car goal and instead is focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Also missing the mark is the administration’s plan to rely more on “fuel-efficient or clean-energy vehicles.” During Obama’s tenure, just 7 percent of the federal government’s 358,000 vehicle purchases fell under the hybrid or electric umbrella, according to Bloomberg News.

But where the government has struggled, EEI has found success. Last year the institute launched a fleet-electrification initiative, which requires both the institute and its member companies to invest a minimum of 5 percent of their vehicle budget in electric cars and plug-in technologies.

According to EEI, its members topped their $50 million annual goal by more than $40 million, with industry members purchasing 800-plus plug-in vehicles and 740 charging ports.

Try, Then Try Again

Although the federal government hasn’t been able to reach such bold energy-efficiency goals in the past, that hasn’t stopped it from aiming high for the future.

A recent executive order, titled Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, states that the government must cut its vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 percent in the next decade and requires that by the end of 2025, half of new passenger vehicles purchased by the government must either be hybrid or zero-emission vehicles.

The new EEI-Energy Department partnership could help both the electric industry and the government.

“Today’s announcement enhances the kinds of private-public partnerships needed to remain at the forefront of advanced vehicle technologies that reduce our emissions and provide safe, reliable transport for the American people,” Moniz said.


Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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