NOPEC & EcoEngineers: Driving Toward Sustainability
Accelerating the Adoption of Electric Vehicles
The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) is the state of Ohio’s largest nonprofit energy aggregator, with the mission of aggregating, educating and advocating for its member communities. NOPEC currently serves over one million Ohio residents and small businesses across 242 member communities, supporting their needs of electric and natural gas power.
NOPEC is incorporating electrification advisory into the service offerings provided to its customers. Through its Electric Vehicle Readiness Program, Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) is helping to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, working with EcoEngineers to map consumer behaviors and ease adoption anxiety. (Sidebar: What is an Electric Vehicle?)
Opportunity in Ohio
In Ohio, NOPEC has seen the growth of EV users recently and has recognized a need for EV charging infrastructure within its communities to help their communities transition to electric vehicles. NOPEC engaged EcoEngineers to complete an EV study for Ohio and the NOPEC region and to evaluate options for NOPEC to assist their member communities in their electric mobility transition. The goal was to identify potential opportunities for NOPEC to promote, encourage, and facilitate education for its members with respect to electrification.
“We know the importance of sustainability in improving the lives of our customers, a strategic imperative for NOPEC. We wanted to find the most impactful way that NOPEC could help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles, and we turned to EcoEngineers to bring strategic thinking, and an innovation mindset, to guide us on this journey.”
Joyce Mihalik, Chief Operating Officer — Integrator, NOPEC
To identify the best opportunities for NOPEC, EcoEngineers approached this question from a variety of different angles, including:
- Analyzing the current and forecasted future state of the electric vehicle market, starting with a global and national view and then focusing on Ohio.
- Analyzing the current state of EV charging, nationally and with a focus on Ohio, and projecting the number of EV charging ports needed to meet the expected EV population in Ohio.
- Interviewing regional experts in Ohio transportation and energy trends, including the Ohio DOT, Ohio EPA, NextEra, NOACA, Clean Fuels Ohio, and others.
- Surveying NOPEC’s member communities to understand where they are in their electrification journey.
- Attaining a sampling of vendor quotes to understand what one would need to do to budget for EV infrastructure and how far NOPEC funding could go if it was spent on EV charging stations.
- Assessing the current landscape of grants and programs to ensure that NOPEC doesn’t duplicate the efforts of other organizations and providing ideas for collaboration with other programs.
- Creating a list of potential strategies that NOPEC could pursue to assist their members in electrification using the information learned in the previous sections.
- Providing a series of tools and checklists on how to identify quality sites for EV charging, the type of charging that is most appropriate, and a series of specific locations as examples of potential sites.
The results of the study showed that new EV sales in 2021 represented 3.4% of all auto sales in the United States. EV sales are expected to reach 50% by the end of the decade. Although Ohio EV lagged the national average with just 1.3% of new auto sales, the state is mirroring the rapid growth seen elsewhere in the U.S.
Examining the current number of electric vehicles and charging stations within the state of Ohio, the study showed that as of January 2022, there were 32,250 electric vehicles in Ohio (0.4% of all vehicle registrations) overall, with 12,076 new EV registrations (1.3%) in 2021. The regions of Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati jointly represent 66% of all EV registered vehicles.
There were 892 public EV charging stations in Ohio, representing a ratio of 16 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) to one EV station. These chargers were located within cities with a higher population and along high-traffic transit corridors, but the coverage was thin overall.
The community leaders surveyed stated that while they were planning to add charging stations over the next five years, it was probably going to be insufficient. The response from the survey showed the communities are open to electrification, but only a small number of them are actively pursuing or planning for vehicles and/or infrastructure. Overall, the communities surveyed expressed a need for more information and guidance on how to prepare themselves for the future of mobility.
This represented a real opportunity for NOPEC to help each community develop a plan to support the growing number of electric vehicles.
Mapping Consumer Behaviors to Address Adoption Anxiety
A key challenge to the adoption of EVs is driver anxiety — what if the EV runs out of power in the middle of nowhere?
Analyzing the problem from the driver’s perspective, EcoEngineers found the important factor for transportation planners to consider is not the quantity or ratio of stations, but the locations of the charging stations. EcoEngineers created four types of driver personas and identified the best locations based on the behavior of the different drivers.
Although about 90% of charging is expected to take place at the driver’s home or place of work, there is still a need for third-party chargers that are sited in functional, convenient locations where drivers will be parking their cars for an extended period of time — greater than one hour.
The study showed that it is significantly more useful to have charging stations near an urban core, retail destinations, or schools. Charging stations near walkable retail clusters can drive traffic and spending to those destinations, as drivers shop while charging their vehicles.
Other factors affecting electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) placement in Ohio include population density, social equity, environmental equity, under-served communities, commuter routes, and attractions nearby. Urban areas with higher population density have the majority of the current and planned charging stations and the greater number of EV drivers.
Ohio industry leaders agree that rural areas are falling behind and lack charging capabilities. With less population density and a lower percentage of EV drivers, a significant number of stations are not being built in rural areas.
By working with EcoEngineers, NOPEC is launching a program to help drive adoption of EVs in Ohio. Key steps of the program include:
- Aggregating the financial resources available to its communities to support the vision of DriveOhio, the State of Ohio’s National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) planning convener.
- Educating its member communities and their officials about the benefits and impact of EV infrastructure.
- Advocating and utilizing its influence in the State capital, Columbus, to ensure that federal funds are deployed with consideration to grid resiliency, EV usership, and the DriveOhio strategy, to push for smart grid deployment and upgrades to protect its consumers.
As an Energy Advisor, NOPEC will focus on locations that may be overlooked, such as rural and under-served communities, while avoiding overlap with other Ohio initiatives. The organization will provide an education and outreach program to the communities and offer grant assistance to communities that lack the expertise. NOPEC will also work with other agencies and utilities engaged in the process as potential projects move forward.
NOPEC is a Council of Eligible Governments that can participate in the DriveOhio programs. NOPEC plans to educate community officials about how they can pool funds and influence to participate from the “driver’s side” (as opposed to the “producer’s side”) of the electric vehicle corridors in Ohio communities.
NOPEC is also launching an EV Travel Corridor Financing Program to place more charging stations in the communities through grants and by helping communities secure state and federal funding.
About the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC): NOPEC is Ohio’s largest non-profit energy supplier that provides competitive energy cost savings to residents and small businesses using a buy in bulk method. NOPEC negotiates for lower energy rates and better terms and conditions, educates residents and customers on how they can conserve energy and save even more on their energy bills and advocates for consumer-friendly energy legislation at both the state and federal level. Since 2001, NOPEC has saved Ohio consumers hundreds of millions of dollars on their energy costs. NOPEC has also awarded over $40 million in community energy-efficiency grants.
About EcoEngineers: EcoEngineers is a boutique carbon consulting and verification firm with a team of experts that guide carbon markets from policy to practice and energy projects from concept to commissioning with its proven, systematic Enfoque 360 °. This unique project approach unites a talented team of experts with strong managers who lead six service areas: 1) training and education, 2) regulatory engagement, 3) life-cycle analysis, 4) asset development consulting, 5) compliance management, and 6) verification and validation. As the global energy markets pivot to offering decarbonized products and solutions, EcoEngineers’ client base spans upstream, midstream, and downstream suppliers of fossil and alternate fuel providers and associated industries.