A bill passed the Wisconsin Senate Feb. 15 that would require electric charging stations to use power utilities could impact the future of clean energy infrastructure in the state.

If put into law, Senate Bill 573 and its companion bill AB 588 would prohibit governments from owning charging stations for electric vehicles. They would also require electric charging stations to source all their power from power utilities — meaning charging stations could not use solar power.

Sen. Robert Cowles, R-Green Bay, who introduced the bill, said in a press release that the bill would encourage the private sector to invest in infrastructure for electric vehicles, also referred to as EV.

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“Senate Bill 573 aims to provide the necessary legal structure for private industry to have confidence investing in EV infrastructure and increase the number of public-facing EV charging stations in Wisconsin,” Cowles said. “As a result of passing this legislation, we can spur more economic growth both through more EV sales and through more tourism from in-state and out-of-state EV drivers by eliminating range anxiety among EV owners.”

The bills are opposed by clean energy advocates across the state, who originally supported the legislation before amendments were added that would prohibit governments from owning charging stations and restrict stations to only charging utilities for electricity.

Renew Wisconsin Director of Government Affairs Jim Boullion said the bill would prohibit the City of Madison and other urban areas of Wisconsin from developing public EV stations, which could lead to a decrease in access to charging stations. The City of Madison has installed public EV charging stations in several parking ramps, located across the city, in partnership with Madison Gas and Electric Company, according to Stacie Reece from Rhodes-Conway’s office. 

“It comes as no surprise that the Koch Brother’s lobbying arm wants to preempt public progress in this arena, but it is unclear why public servants in the legislature would want to stifle this type of productive innovation,” Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway said in a statement.

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Using solar energy provides many benefits to EV charging stations, Boullion said. Solar energy could provide power for EV stations in areas that lack the infrastructure to support traditional power lines, which Boullion said could make it easier to drive electric in Wisconsin. Business could also use solar to power their EV stations, saving them money, Boullion said.

Cowles said in his statement the changes made to the bill helps local governments partner with businesses while reducing the risk tax payers must take on.

“With the changes in Senate Bill 692, we can help to attach private financing for more beneficial projects to the property, not the person, helping to close more financing gaps and promote more cost-saving energy efficiency and alternative energy improvements, better preparation for severe weather events, and more EV charging station infrastructure which can drive consumers to local establishments,” Cowles said.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and the Cities of Madison and Milwaukee all voiced opposition to the amendment, according to the Wisconsin Ethics Commission.