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Ameren takes a step toward smart EV charging—how will it work?

By Sarah Moskowitz, CUB deputy director

I don’t often find myself excited about something utilities do,  but Ameren Illinois  surprised me awhile back when they submitted a tariff offering a special program to electric vehicle (EV) owners who charge their cars at home.  The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved the tariff in early July, and the program just went live in October 2021.

We at CUB believe strongly that the electrification of transportation, if done right, can flatten electric demand and help lower electric costs for everybody—even people who don’t own EVs.  Part of “doing EVs right” includes encouraging owners to charge their vehicles at off-peak times, typically overnight.  CUB has found that EV owners who participate in ComEd’s Hourly Pricing or Ameren’s Power Smart Pricing programs and charge their cars at the right times can save 50-59% compared to what they would pay on the utilities’ standard rates.

Ameren’s new EV charging program applies to the delivery side of your bill, so it can be coupled with Power Smart Pricing or the electric supply offer of your choice. I expected the utility to come up with a catchy name for the rate, but for now, they’re still just calling it an “EV Rate Program.” The tariff includes separate programs designed for residential and non-residential customers.  For this blog post, I’m focusing on the residential program.

The rate will be open only to Ameren customers who own an EV and charge it at home.  To qualify, you’ll have to provide the company with the make, year, model, and VIN of your EV, along with info on the charging equipment you have.

So what will you pay?  Well, it’s a little complicated.  Ameren’s special rate will utilize both a “carrot” and “stick” approach to encourage you to time your electricity usage right.  CUB plans to run the numbers on a few different home charging scenarios, but until we do, here’s what I can tell you about the carrots built into the rate:

  • Participants will receive a monthly bill credit of $4/month for the first 12 months.
  • They will receive an additional credit for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) they charge during “Preferred Charging Period (PCP) Hours”–11 p.m. until 7 a.m., including holidays and weekends. That credit will be:

o   2 cents/kWh in the summer (June thru September)

o   1 cent/kWh in the non-summer months (October thru May)

But like I said, there’s a stick, too: Participants will be assessed a Peak Hour Delivery Charge of 65 cents/kWh each month based on their peak Non-Preferred Charging Period (NPCP) usage during that billing period. Peak NPCP usage is your highest hourly energy consumption in kWh during the hours of 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

It’ll be interesting to see how many signups Ameren gets, given the relative complexity of the program.  Offers like this will be essential for our successful transition to electric transportation, but they require a shift in consumer thinking about how we relate to our power system.

We’ve seen in other states that special EV charging rates are effective at getting consumers to charge their cars at off-peak times.  Now it’s time for Illinois to get in on that action.  Check back often and make sure to sign up for CUB’s e-newsletters to stay in the loop. You can also learn more and enroll in Ameren’s EV Rate Program here.