AC Electric’s Stockbridge: Push to improve electric vehicle infrastructure is good for climate, South Jersey economy

Atlantic City Electric President Gary Stockbridge is trying to stay ahead of the curve. Better yet, he is trying to make sure the utility he heads is a leader in the state’s effort to battle climate change and make the transition to a clean-energy infrastructure.

It’s why AC Electric made an extensive filing to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities this week, outlining plans to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure, offer rebates and special rates for residents and businesses, and help electrify public transportation.

But, if you think AC Electric is working on its own, think again. Stockbridge understands his utility is just one part of a greater puzzle to prepare the state — and his region — for a very different energy future.

“We realize that we’re working in a family to bring us all together,” he told ROI-NJ. “It’s the state, it’s other providers, other utilities, policymakers, everybody working together to try to figure out how we make sure that what we build in New Jersey is going to take care of what we need well into the future to hit the goals the state has.

“The state is trying to get the 330,000 (electric vehicles) on the road by 2025, and then, associated with that, they’re trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, 80% below 2006 level by 2050. With those two looming goals, we just want to get people understanding what we think is the urgency about moving ahead and embarking on the steps that we think are needed to move this market forward.”

That’s starts with the EV market.

In its filing, Atlantic City Electric says it would implement several key offerings:

  • Public EV charging: Install, own and maintain 245 public EV chargers across southern New Jersey, and provide incentives for additional third party-owned charging stations;
  • EV charger rebates: Offer 50% rebates on EV charging equipment for homes, multifamily buildings, workplaces and business vehicle fleets;
  • EV rate options: Provide residential customers with special electricity rates that encourage them to charge their vehicles during “off-peak” hours;
  • Innovation fund: Provide $2 million in grants for EV efforts in South Jersey, including projects to displace the use of diesel in low-income or environmental justice communities;
  • Electric school bus project: Launch pilot project for electric school buses;
  • Electric public transit: Work with New Jersey Transit to build infrastructure to support electrification of one of southern New Jersey’s bus depots.

“There’s a tremendous amount of discussion out there across the board about electric vehicles,” Stockbridge said. “To some extent, this filing for us is really us getting out there and saying, ‘We have a set of programs that meet all the objectives, bring the state to where its needs to be in our territory, kind of do our part in connecting our communities to whatever the various solutions are in our clean transportation. And we think now’s the time for people to consider that, give us approval so we can move the ball forward.’

“We think the components that we outlined — the public stations, the charger rebates, the creative rate options for our customers to help lower the cost of fueling their electric vehicles, and then a couple other kind of components, like the innovation fund and our school bus project and even working with public transit — we think those are the right implements. And a big piece of this is really us learning is what kind of impact is the market going to have on our infrastructure and (what we have to) do to make sure we’re ready to handle that impact to our infrastructure.”

Here’s where it gets back to the greater good of the community and the region.

Stockbridge said AC Electric, like seemingly all big South Jersey companies, takes its role in helping the South Jersey economy seriously.

“In South Jersey, there’s a heavy focus on collaboration when it comes to trying to drive more business into South Jersey and basically improve the economy down here,” he said. “This is no different because it’s infrastructure. We have a very unique network of charging stations that we’re going to need to support not only the kind of summer traffic that you have in and out of the Shore areas, but also just the comfort level that you can go anywhere up and down the Shore.

“We also have a lot of public transit issues. We’re hopeful and very much interested in working with Rowan (University) and Stockton (University) to understand how we could use some of the innovation funds to come up with ideas and get into our low-income communities and our environmental justice communities. We think that’s a big piece.

“We understand South Jersey has its challenges. We want to make sure we’re understanding how to be a part of that so that everybody has access to electric vehicles, energy efficiency, offshore wind, you name it. We’re working with everybody in South Jersey to understand, where are the gaps in the infrastructure, and how do we close those gaps with what we’ve put together in terms of an offering.”

Electric vehicles, after all, are the future. EV charging in the state is projected to grow electricity consumption by 30% by 2035. Stockbridge said Atlantic City Electric’s new services are designed to handle the expanding public need for EV charging options.

It’s good for the state, Stockbridge said. And good for the climate.

“Our energy grid is the central platform for deploying solutions to tackle climate change,” he said. “This bold and multifaceted EV filing shows how we can use our unique footprint across the region to collaboratively bring new clean energy services to our customers and connect all the communities we serve to sustainable transportation options that will power a cleaner and brighter future for South Jersey.”