A bid to receive grant funding to introduce two new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in Lac La Biche County is underway.
The Electrical Vehicle Charging Program is provided through the Municipal Climate Action Centre (MCCAC) and encourages municipalities to install and purchase EV stations by covering 100 per cent of the total startup-up costs to $200,000, said Carl Kurppa, the county’s Grants and Community Funding Coordinator.
“This is a grant program, and administration is recommending we apply for two approximately 50kW chargers which would be a grant of $200,000.”
The EV program is a $3.4 million collaborative effort between the federal and provincial governments to support municipalities and organizations aiming to introduce green initiatives to meet net-zero targets, said Kurppa.
“This is a popular program. Neighbouring municipalities have applied for it,” he says including Bonnyville and St. Paul.
Considering that the grant is very attractive and there is limited funding available, submitting an application immediately is vital, he said.
Introducing not only the two potential EV stations but more throughout the county is a necessity in order to support tourism and future growth, said Coun. Lorin Tkachuk.
“I think there is going to be a need for them myself, personally, especially if it’s $100,000 per station… I’ll be advocating to build three and probably more than three in the future,” he said.
Currently, the two chargers submitted in the application are Level 3 chargers that emit a minimum of 50 kW and can provide a full charge in under 30 minutes, says Kurppa.
Less expensive versions of the chargers, Level 1 and 2 models take several hours to reach full charge capacities and would not make sense for the sake of efficiency for locals and visitors. The long-time chargers would also not benefit from plans to make them part of the municipality’s internal charging stations for municipal vehicles if need be.
In order to receive funding for the project, the installation also has to meet MCCAC’s accessibility guidelines, says Kurppa, adding that operational costs after the initial installation are not part of the grant funding.
The two charging stations in the municipal application have to have an adequate network to allow users to book online, see availability and access real-time geo-location alongside 24/7 access, Kurppa says — which the one-time funding won’t cover long term.
Additionally, the charges have to be utilized for passenger vehicles, but through the grant, an assessment of whether they are for public use or private must be identified.
“If they are for the public, they have to be in a location that’s accessible all the time,” he says and most often the chargers should be installed on municipal-owned property but through the application, there is an opportunity to have the service on private land if the location is leased by the county on a long term basis, said Kurppa.
“This grant can support a wide variety of upfront capital costs so that could be the purchase, the installation, design permitting as well as infrastructure upgrades,” related to power sources.
However, any costs related to power usage, warranties, and operations for the chargers will not be covered by the funding, alongside any administrative duties for units, says Kurppa.
Senior municipal administrators have recommended implementing user fees for the charging stations like most EV stations do, to cover utility and maintenance costs, says Kurppa.
“We don’t subsidize conventional fuel, so why should we subsidize these types of fuels.”
However, there could be some challenges getting revenue considering that it may take years for a steady population to use the units, said Dan Small, the county’s interim CAO.
“If we charge whatever the market rate is, and you have enough vehicles plugging in, it will pay for itself. Will it pay for itself in year one or year two? Probably not,” and that may present a challenge for recouping year-round servicing costs—that have yet to be estimated, said Small.
“If we only have one or two hooking up a day, we're going to be carrying much of the cost,” he continued.
The additional costs and challenges to recoup any funds is something that Mayor Paul Reutov says will have to examined further before more stations are planned.
“We have $200,000 but we have to realize that there are additional costs. You get the $200,000 — but now you have a liability that’s going to be there for years.”
Moving forward, while the grant application process and approval are pending, municipal officials plan on taking advantage of the initial opportunity to enter the EV world. Currently, the two sites are slated to be at the Bold Center and the Plamondon Arena to provide access and coverage throughout the county.
“It’s free money. Let’s go grab it and we’ll deal with the rest of the sites when the time comes,” said Coun. Jason Stedman.
Council will get an update on the outcome of the application in the coming weeks.