Residents get charged up over free electricity

Council voted to keep the status quo leaving electric vehicle charging stations free

The electric vehicle charging stations at Oak Bay municipal hall will remain free to use with a 30 minute charging limit, at least for now.

Council voted to keep the status quo, following director of engineering David Marshall’s recommendation that no changes be made until fall so more information can be gathered about what other municipalities in the region are doing.

Municipal staff has been fielding complaints from electric car owners that the 30 minute charging limit is too short, while others are complaining that the electricity should not be given away for free, at a cost to taxpayers.

“The initial intent (of the 30 minute limit) is to allow people to top up their vehicle while shopping in the village. Not to fully charge their car, “Marshall said.

“Everywhere is making the power free to access and we can’t charge for electricity,”

The municipality cannot charge for power as it is illegal to “resell electricity” under the Utilities Commission Act. Charging users would have to be labelled as a parking fee to recoup installation, maintenance and operational costs, Marshall said.

The two charging stations, located in the municipal hall parking lot, were installed in March 2013 for $10,605, with 75 per cent of the cost covered by the province.

By Jan. 29, the stations had been used 210 times, for a total of 483 hours and 15 minutes, and used 1774 kw/h of electricity, costing $177.

A $10 card from AddEnergie Technologies or a credit card is required to access the free electricity. The company has a five year contract to provide realtime usage data to Oak Bay for free until March 31, 2018. An annual fee of $540 will be billed to the municipality after that.

Should Oak Bay start charging users, funds collected will be split 50-50 between the two.