My colleague Eric Roper last week highlighted Council Member Gary Schiff’s opinion that the city’s three forthcoming electric vehicle charging stations in the Haaf parking ramp downtown ought to charge drivers for their juice when they plug in. As matters now stand, the city plans to offer the power for free, aside from the parking fee.
Busy minds inside the city bureaucracy note that had Schiff wanted to set a pay-for-power policy, he’s had at least three chances. The council’s Regulatory Energy and Environment Committee, on which Schiff sits, has considered the Haaf plug-in proposal twice. It’s also been before the full council once, and is due there again Friday, although Schiff isn’t expected back from a trip to Israel for that meeting.
Schiff responded from Israel, where he's traveling with a delegation of Minneapolis politicians, that he’s a recent convert to his point of view after touring an electric car factory in that country. “Frankly, in the past I probably thought free electricity it was a low-cost gimmick that would make Minneapolis look good and encourage people to buy electric cars,” he said..
“Now I see that we can provide incentives like premium space parking (close to the entrances) that raise the visibility of the new technology without costing taxpayers anything. The expectation of free electricity paid for by city taxpayers is not only unsustainable, but sends completely the wrong message about energy. Energy is never free, and never should be.”
But Public Works officials argued for free electricity for at least a year, eating the city's cost of up to $1,800 annually. They argue that no city they’ve found charges for plugging in for at least the first year, that the cost is low, and that charging pluggers would still cost the city money in credit card fees and bookkeeping.
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