Iowa ruling confirms – an EV charging point doth not a utility make


A ruling by the Iowa Utilities Board in the US in early-October has affirmed what many might assume – an electric vehicle (EV) charging station is not a public utility.

The decision has removed what many consider to be a significant obstacle to the widespread development of public charging stations for EVs, as public utilities are subject to state oversight on all aspects of their business, including price-setting. 

The finding also clarified that sellers of charging services are able to set fees as they see fit, and in most cases, even sell power they generated on-site such as with solar panels.

“This is a very good market signal,” said Justin Wilson, director of public policy for charging station developer ChargePoint. “This is a big deal for us because it gives us a lot of freedom and flexibility to price charging services and meet the needs of different kinds of customers.”

Ambiguity and possible misinterpretation surrounding the state’s policy on charging stations “had essentially frozen development,” according to Josh Mandelbaum, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “This will unfreeze it and hopefully lead to more development.” 

The Iowa Utilities Board opened a rulemaking procedure in 2018 to review its electric vehicle charging policy after the owner of the Iowa 80 Truckstop Inc., the self-proclaimed “world’s largest truck stop,” asked Iowa regulators to resolve a dispute between it and local electric utility Interstate Power and Light. It was alleged that when the truck stop began planning to install a vehicle charger, Interstate informed the owner that it could not charge by the kilowatt-hour, claiming that doing so would be a violation of Interstate’s state-granted monopoly.

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Delia Meier, an owner and senior vice president of Iowa 80 said in that Interstate had offered to help her devise an alternative in 2018 – a flat charge based on vehicle type, type of charger, and time of day, with a chart available to determine the payment required.

 “I cannot imagine that’s in the customer’s best interest,” she said at the time.