Demystifying Utility Easements for EV Charging Stations

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21Jan
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EV adoption is on the rise, and EVgo is excited to keep building out the charging infrastructure to serve North America’s growing population of EV drivers. With more than 800 fast charging locations today and thousands more on the roadmap over the next few years, EVgo is focused on making it simple and easy for our site host partners to deploy fast chargers for their customers and communities.

Many variables must be considered when selecting a site and can impact how quickly stations can be energized, operational, and available to customers. Depending on where the chargers are related to power availability, sometimes a site-specific “utility easement” is needed. What is an easement, you might ask?

We’ve asked EVgo Utility Engineering Manager, Ferdinand Changco, to outline the main considerations around utility easements in a brief Q&A.

Ferdinand Changco has been with EVgo for 2 years and is very familiar with the utility industry through his previous roles with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) special programs and close working relationship with CAISO. Ferdinand supported PG&E’s Electric Vehicle Program for 3 years as a Sr. Project Manager and has 5 years of experience in SCADA Engineering for renewable energy.

Q: What is a utility easement?

A: As the property owner, you could have several types of utility lines running under or over your land, such as electric or gas lines. If these lines exist, a utility company needs to be able to access them for maintenance or if there’s a problem. A utility easement outlines the utility company’s right to access and control the portion of land that is located near utility facilities and structures (i.e., utility poles, transformers, overhead or underground electrical lines) so the utility can ensure the equipment is working properly. In some cases, utilities may have a specific right, granted by your deed, to use a corridor on your property—usually on a boundary line or near the property’s perimeter—to set up utility poles, lines, or towers. Either way, EVgo can help sort through the documentation and coordinate the required signatures.

We know that our site host partners have many other priorities, including running their businesses and day-to-day operations, and EVgo’s site development and utility engineering teams are focused on streamlining the process to make things as easy as possible for our site host partners. EVgo has worked through more than 1,000+ sites including public DCFC (direct current fast charging), Level 2, and fleet solutions in hundreds of utility service territories, and works with our site hosts to minimize the easement footprint.

Q: Why is a utility easement required for a fast-charging station installation?

A: One of the main features of site viability is capacity of the EV charging load – whether there is enough ‘room’ on the existing transformer or electrical panel to fit the new chargers. In some cases, there is not enough capacity, so additional electrical equipment must be installed on the property near the chargers.

Additionally, the site may have one or several utility lines for certain services including, electricity, gas, propane, sewer, water, etc. If you have any of these, you already have one or more easements so those companies can access your property, for example to fix a broken water pipe or electric power lines that fell in a storm. The easement exists to ensure that the utility can access the site to repair other utilities, but it also helps ensure uptime of the charging stations in case the utility needs access to the EV support equipment. As the property owner, you’re granting the utility the right to come onto your property to maintain and repair these lines or pipes. You own the land, but they have the right to use your land to access their equipment.

Increasingly, given the rise of “make-ready” programs, whereby the utility may own the conduit and other electric infrastructure on the utility’s side of the meter, the equipment and area subject to the easement could be impacted. This is something that EVgo will work closely to help manage and communicate early in the process.

Q: How does the installation of an EV charger impact the utility easement?

A: Every site is different, and the specific placement of the chargers on the property is an important factor in the easement preparation. EVgo goes to great lengths to minimize the total area that may be impacted and require a utility easement.

EVgo will review the current layout from the site survey and identify the best location for the chargers that works for drivers, hosts, and the proximity to power, and submit the documents for review by the site host team and utility.

Q: How can site hosts ensure a speedy easement approval to keep the project on time?

A: The utility easement can give some property owners and legal teams pause, but EVgo can help bring peace of mind with a little demystifying to understand the purpose and some of the standard features of utility easements. In addition to finding a location that will minimize impacts, EVgo provides draft legal language and a conceptual layout which includes the preliminary easement impact to our site host partners early in the process and it is helpful if it can be shared with their internal team right away in advance of final signature. This helps ensure a steady installation process and keeps our vendors on track to deliver projects on time. The final document is subject to technical and legal review from the utility after site host signature and can take 3-4 weeks, so it’s important to start the process early to avoid unnecessary delays.

Q: What does EVgo do in partnership with site hosts to minimize the easement footprint?

A: EVgo’s team performs a value engineering analysis and works to minimize the footprint on host property. In most cases, we try to place utility equipment and area subject to the easement (transformer and meter) close to a boundary line of the property.

For example, in the image below the chargers are installed in the front or side of the store and we placed the equipment on the boundary to avoid putting a transformer in the middle of a lot, which would have made a large area subject to the utility easement. So in this case, the utility easement would only grant access to the small corner of the lot.

EVgo partners with site hosts to minimize the easement footprints

In conclusion, utility easements may sound complex but are really just one small additional step in the installation process for a DC fast charger. They are becoming more common and part of an increasingly modern grid infrastructure, and EVgo can help streamline the process so we can continue to build chargers at scale, achieve decarbonization in the transportation sector, and bring the benefits of EVs to more hosts and their customers nationwide.