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ND regulators are skeptical about funding a study on the impact on the electric vehicle network

Members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission expressed skepticism Tuesday about funding a study that would assess the impact of electric vehicles on the power grid in the state and other surrounding states.

The University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center requested $375,000 for the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Regional Resiliency Plan, which would examine ways to mitigate problems caused by the increasing use of electric vehicles in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota could arise. The federal Energy Department would provide $1.5 million for the study pending negotiations.

There are over a dozen partners for the project, including utilities and other government agencies in the four states, although contributions from them would be “in kind,” according to an EERC official. The project application lists the use of other partners' infrastructure and information as some of the ways they will contribute to the study.

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According to Reice Haase, deputy director of the Industrial Commission, a state funding recommendation came from the Renewable Energy Program, an advisory board primarily focused on promoting biofuels.

The three-member Industry Regulatory Commission, consisting of the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner, ultimately decided to table a decision on supporting funding until it could obtain more information, mostly related to other states' share of the costs, in particular to Minnesota, which is more affected by the climate.

“We’re putting a lot of money into this thing; “Minnesota should probably invest the most because of its policies and actions,” said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, referring to legislation passed in recent years in Minnesota to make electricity generation in the country carbon-neutral by 2040.

According to the Nasdaq stock exchange, North Dakota had the lowest share of electric vehicles in the country as of July last year, with just 640. Minnesota had 24,330; Montana had 3,260; South Dakota had 1,170.

A combination of power plant shutdowns and energy permitting restrictions, coupled with increasing electricity demand – including from the use and production of electric vehicles – is putting increasing strain on the power grid across the country. The phenomenon can lead to rising electricity tariffs and also poses the risk of increasing power outages, warn regulators.

The state on Tuesday approved $87,000 for the EERC to update North Dakota's Grid Resiliency Plan at the request of the State Transmission Authority, an agency under the Industrial Commission. The focus will be on the grid's broader capabilities to meet the state's electricity needs beyond pure electric vehicles.

Anna Harden

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