PG&E Proposes Offering Customers ‘One-Time’ Rebates for Driving an Electric Car, Courtesy of Big Oil

Thanks to the U.S. Federal income tax credit of $7,500 towards the cost of a brand-new electric car and the state of California’s $2,500 electric car rebate program, it’s already pretty affordable to buy a new electric car in the Golden State. Live in the right city , work for the right company or have an eye for a bargain, and you may find yourself getting even more discounts off the cost of a new plug-in car.

Soon, certain Californians could have a new place to look for a discount on a brand-new car: their local utility company.

PG&E could soon be rewarding EV owners with a rebate for driving a plug-in.

PG&E could soon be rewarding EV owners with a rebate for driving a plug-in.

As SFGate reports, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the local utility company to millions of customers in central and northern California, has just applied to the California Public Utilities Commission for permission to offer one-off rebates for any customer with a plug-in car.

The amount of that rebate has yet to be determined, although we assume it will be decided as part of the negotiation process the utility company is currently undergoing with the aforementioned governmental agency. If approved, the rebates could be available as early as the second half of 2016.

With its headquarters in San Francisco, one of America’s biggest electric vehicle markets, PG&E’s interest in offering plug-in vehicle rebates to customers might be viewed as a smart move from a utility company keen to promote the benefits of using electricity as a low-carbon transportation fuel.

The reason why it is able to do so is far more interesting.

The proposed rebate would come from funds generated by selling low carbon credits to oil companies.

The proposed rebate would come from funds generated by selling low carbon credits to oil companies.

Under California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, all oil companies who operate within the state must take steps to reduce the carbon intensity of the fuels they sell. This can take the form of blending ever-higher quantities of biofuel into their gasoline and diesel products, or by selling alternative fuels like compressed natural gas or hydrogen.

And when they do so, they’re awarded credits proportionate to the amount of green fuels produced and sold. Because electricity and natural gas are classed as a low-carbon fuel, utility companies like PG&E earns plenty of credits from the state of California, far more than it actually needs to comply with the Low Carbon Fuel Standard.

Like Tesla Motors — which sells its excess ZEV credits for a profit to automakers who don’t produce enough to satisfy California’s ZEV mandate for cars — PG&E sells its excess credits to oil companies that are struggling to meet the tough Low Carbon Fuel Standard requirements.

Unlike Tesla Motors however, which can keep profits from the sales of ZEV mandates to keep its bottom line healthy, PG&E is a regulated utility company. As such, it can’t keep hold of its proceeds and must pass them back to its customers in one form or another.

Thus, the idea of the rebates for plug-in car owners.

The proposed rebate would come on top of Federal and state incentives, dramatically reducing the price of a plug-in car.

The proposed rebate would come on top of Federal and state incentives, dramatically reducing the price of a plug-in car.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen PG&E engage in pro-electric car activities in recent months. Back in February, it applied to California’s public utility regulators for permission to install 25,000 electric car charging stations across central and northern California, funded in part by a rate rise equivalent to around 70 cents per month.

But we’ve got to admit that this latest plan — essentially rewarding electric vehicle owners for driving an electric vehicle from the proceeds of selling emissions credits to the oil industry —  is particularly apropo.

We’ll bring you more news of the proposed PG&E rebate when we have it, but from what we can tell if approved, it will apply to anyone with a plug-in car — even those who already own an electric car.

Do you live in California? Do you welcome the idea of more rebates? Or do you think PG&E should use its oil-based proceeds to fund something else?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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  • JohnCBriggs

    As a general rule, you don’t use incentives to reward people for things that they have already done. You reward them for making a change. n As apropos as this proposal might be, it would be nicer to provide a method to get more people to adopt EVs. I suppose if this became a yearly rebate (rather than a one time), it would help get more people into EVs.

  • Erocker

    I do own an electric car in California. The one thing I would like to see pg&e do with the money is to provided high speed electric charge stations about every 50 mile along the major freeway corredors in malls or other areas where a person could take the 30 minute break it takes to fuel an electric car and get maybe some food while they wait for their car to fuel up. The cost to fuel up should be about 12 cents a kilowatt. This would go a long way to promote electric cars.

  • D. Harrower

    It’s good to hear them doing something pro-EV with their excess funds.nnThough, I don’t understand why we don’t see many similar actions from utility companies everywhere. You’d think they would be over the moon at the prospect of their product becoming the primary source of transportation fuel and do everything in their power to hasten the transition.