The Los Altos City Council last week unanimously approved a fee change for its downtown electric-vehicle charging stations in an effort to recoup operating costs.
The council opted to raise the fee from $1 per hour to 32 cents per kilowatt-hour after a cost-recovery analysis showed the program operated at a loss of $1,930 last year. The change was included as part of the council’s vote to approve the city’s overall fee schedule for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
City Manager Marcia Somers told the council that changing the charging method to the staff-recommended minimum of 30 cents per kwh for the EV stations, located downtown in Plaza 3 and next to Bus Barn Theater, would be “more equitable” and allow the city to recover the annual operating cost for the program, including PG&E charges. City expenditures for the program totaled $6,664 for the year, while revenue fell short of 100 percent cost recovery at $4,734 under the $1 per hour fee.
Staff reported that based on current usage, the 30-cent-per-kwh fee would net the city an additional $2,060 per year. That puts the city in the black by $130.
Mayor Megan Satterlee convinced her colleagues to increase the charge to 32 cents per kwh. She noted that while the recommended 30-cent charge covers annual costs, it wouldn’t recover the city’s original costs to install the stations – nor the need to replace them in the future because of wear and tear.
“I would rather up it a couple of cents. … I think we need to at least have in our minds that covering the electricity and service charge is not sufficient. We need to do full cost recovery,” she said.
Councilwoman Jan Pepper agreed. She said a list of neighboring municipalities’ charging methods included in a city staff report showed charges as high as 49 cents per kwh in Santa Clara County.
“Changing to a charge by the kilowatt-hour, I think, is definitely the appropriate way to do it since we are charged by PG&E by the kilowatt-hour,” Pepper said prior to her vote. “I do fully support having the city achieve full cost recovery for the EV charging.”
The staff report indicated that charges by Los Altos and Los Altos Hills electric-vehicle owners accounted for 25 percent of the total sessions tallied throughout the past year at the city’s three stations. Charges listed from Brentwood (178 charges), Palo Alto (161) and San Jose (155) zip codes rounded out the top five users. The average charging session lasted two hours.
In addition to the boost in EV charging rates, the council approved increased park-in-lieu fees for property developers as part of the city’s 2014-2015 fee schedule. As previously reported by the Town Crier, the city will increase the park-in-lieu fees for new single-family homes from $30,000 to $56,500 per unit. New multiple-family home developments will also see a bump – from $18,000 to $35,500 per unit.