The hundreds of thousands of people who pass through the Duquesne Light Home & Garden Show this weekend will find a new section of the title sponsor’s exhibit: two hybrid electric vehicles.
Duquesne Light Co.’s “Electric Lane” display, set up on the second floor of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, also will have promotional materials on electric vehicles, a home vehicle charging unit and an electric vehicle giveaway.
The Downtown-based electric utility announced it will begin encouraging electric vehicles and pushing for partnerships that could expand fleet conversions and charging infrastructure in the Pittsburgh area.
Utility officials portrayed the move as a response to more motorists and business owners expressing interest in the vehicles, as well as an opportunity to boost electric sales here.
“Our industry is changing, and we want to make sure that we’re positioned to meet those customer’s needs and preferences,” said Campbell Hawkins, vice president of customer service.
Like other electric utilities across the state, Duquesne Light has been required by Pennsylvania energy efficiency standards passed in 2008 to reduce the amount of energy its customers use each year. That slightly declining throughput is lost revenue, Mr. Hawkins said.
The electric vehicle plan is “an opportunity to replace the lost throughput on our system to the benefit of all ratepayers, because then you have more units to spread the costs of modernizing your grid,” Mr. Hawkins said.
Electric vehicles have not broken into the market in Western Pennsylvania to the extent they have in other parts of the country.
Pennsylvanians have purchased more than 7,000 electric or hybrid electric vehicles since the beginning of 2011, according to data collected by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. That compares with sales of about 216,000 in California, 18,000 in Washington state, 17,000 in New York and Florida, and 10,000 in New Jersey.
John Freund and Denny Miskevics, carpenters with Carpenter Connection, clean the windows of an electric powered utility truck on display as a part of Duquesne Light's "Electric Lane" display at the Home and Garden show at the convention center on Thursday. (Andrew Rush/Post-Gazette)
Automakers elsewhere have been compelled to sell more electric cars under regulations such as California’s Zero Emissions Vehicle program, which outlines increasing percentages of car sales required to come from clean technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cell, battery electric and hybrid vehicles.
Since that program was enacted in 1990, nine other states and the District of Columbia — not including Pennsylvania — have followed California’s lead with vehicle requirements of their own.
In the Pittsburgh region, there are roughly 120 public charging stations, mostly clustered in the City of Pittsburgh, according to PlugShare, which maps charging stations. In September, Dunkin Donuts made a splash when it unveiled seven new charging stations at locations around Pittsburgh.
But the regional electric utility could be a powerful ally in promoting electric vehicles. And data Duquesne Light has seen shows electric vehicle registrations around Pittsburgh growing from around 1,000 today to 100,000 in 20 years.
The utility said it has started evaluating potential incentive programs, including special rates, more charging infrastructure and partnerships with some of its largest customers — such as the city — to electrify vehicle fleets. The utility has already converted some of its own fleet, buying two hybrid electric bucket trucks and nine hybrid electric Chevy Volts.
Before doors open to the Home & Garden Show, Duquesne Light plans to hold a private meeting with local elected officials and potential community partners to discuss its plan.
Rich Riazzi, the utility’s president and chief executive officer, said the promotion of electric vehicles is the utility’s next step in modernizing itself.
“As we continue our transformation into a next generation energy company, we have been focused on modernizing our physical infrastructure and implementing new technology,” Mr. Riazzi said.
Daniel Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.