BOSTON — As more people are encouraged to drive electric cars to curb greenhouse gas emissions, utilities are pitching plans to build infrastructure to support the shift.
Both National Grid and Eversource, two of the state's largest electric utilities, have submitted plans to the state Department of Public Utilities seeking to supply more electric vehicles and set rates for their drivers.
Currently 18,000 electric vehicles drive on Massachusetts roads, according to the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The state hopes that number swells to 300,000 within the next four years.
National Grid is seeking approval for a $278 million plan to install charging stations, facilitate electric fleets and other large vehicles, and set commercial rates for charging.
Eversource has proposed a $190 million plan to build the "electric backbone" for the state’s electric vehicles. It would also facilitate more charging stations and establish new commercial charging rates.
The utilities will likely pass the costs to consumers.
A law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker this year requires utilities to submit plans to expand electric vehicle infrastructure. The move aims to help the state cut tailpipe pollution and meet a mandated goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
"Although the transition … will happen over multiple decades, the investments necessary to support our customers in this transition must begin immediately and be aggressive," Kevin Bouhgan, Eversource's manager of research and business development, wrote to regulators.
Both utilities are also asking for changes in commercial rates for electric charging. Eversource, for example, has proposed a two-part system that would be based on consumption.
Utilities regulators will hold a public hearing on the proposals on Sept. 14, which will be livestreamed on the agency's website.
A coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and National Resources Defense Council, have asked to be included in the process to ensure the programs "are designed to protect ratepayers and promote (electric vehicle) adoption."
In filings to regulators, the Sierra Club noted it is "broadly supportive" of National Grid's proposal but says its members "have a direct interest in ensuring that performance incentives are appropriately crafted and sized to maximize benefits to customers."
"This balance of cost and environmental interest is not adequately represented by any other party in this proceeding," the group wrote.
Meanwhile, a number of electric car makers and charging companies, including Tesla, have asked to be included in the proceedings.
The state offers tax rebates for the purchase of e-vehicles to encourage more people to make the switch.
About 40% of the state's carbon emissions come from trucks and personal vehicles.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.