By Kevin Stark

Charge Up Midwest is a coalition of seven of the Midwest’s largest environmental groups banded together to advocate for electric vehicle deployment across the Midwest.

Rob Kelter, a senior attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, says the partnership — a pooling of legal and advocacy resources — creates an opportunity for a greater impact.

“In both commission forums and state legislatures, the environmental community is undermanned,” Kelter said. “We don’t have the resources that we need to always effectively advocate for our policies. And in this situation, with Charge Up Midwest, we are all working together.”

Charge Up is pressing utilities to expand charging infrastructure and advocating for money from the $2.8 billion Volkswagen emissions cheating settlement to be spent on electric school buses and public transit, which can play a key role in kickstarting electric vehicle deployment.

The group includes the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Clean Fuels Ohio, Great Plains Institute, the Ecology Center, and Fresh Energy. (The Energy News Network is an editorially independent publication of Fresh Energy.)

Kelter sat for an interview to discuss the initiative, outline Charge Up’s vision for electric vehicles in the region, and discuss what that could mean for the smart grid. The interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q: The hope with electric vehicles is that they can help balance the grid and be a benefit for everyone. The fear is that utilities won’t be ready for that influx of electric vehicles when they really come on. Are utilities in the Midwest ready for what’s coming?

Right now, we’re nowhere near any kind of number of vehicles on the grid that would cause any kind of problems for the utility systems. In other words, there’s no upgrades needed right now to transformers or the distribution system or anything like that for electric vehicles. And we’re a very long way from that. But, if done right, we don’t think that you’re going to need a whole lot of improvements to the grid as much as you need to develop policies that encourage customers to charge their vehicles at night. We think most people will do that. We do need to make sure that that customers get price signals, where they can get great savings from charging their vehicles off peak.

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