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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

EV Chargers, Microgrids Discussed at Duke Energy Franchise Agreement Reading for Lake Wales

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by James Coulter

The possibility of electric vehicle chargers and microgrids coming to Downtown Lake Wales was discussed by Lake Wales City Commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday evening.

Commissioners voted unanimously on the approval of the first reading of a new franchise agreement with Duke Energy. The agreement will allow the electric company to continue using the city’s right-of-way for the continued operation of its electric utility infrastructure.

Duke Energy approached the city for a new agreement as its former 30-year-agreement had expired, the ordinance memo explained. The franchise agreement will allow Duke Energy to operate within the same boundaries as the city limits, and thus will be able to expand or contract its services along with those limits, the memo states.

Approximately $1.6 million in revenue for the city’s general fund is estimated to be generated through this new franchise agreement. Also, the possibility of renewable energy options from providers other than Duke Energy was presented through this new agreement, as, according to the memo, it “provides for the use of the City’s rights-of-way for the purpose of construction or installation of solar-generating facilities by [other] entities.”

“Understanding that innovations in energy-generating technology may arise in the future, DE has agreed to a 10- year agreement term that will be renegotiated in a much shorter timeline than the previous Franchise Agreement,” the memo states.

Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson discussed the possibility of renewable energy, both provided through Duke Energy and other providers. He mentioned how the company will have exclusive rights to provide electric power, and how other companies have done things through such exclusive rights.

For example, he floated the possibility of installing electric vehicle chargers in Downtown Lake Wales. These installations would help facilitate the vision of Lake Wales Connected, an $18.5 million project to revitalize and redevelop the downtown and northeast city districts.

“We want to do everything we can to make this place a destination, [to] come, enjoy, spend money, and leave,” he said. “One way to do that is to have electric vehicle charging stations. Those are utilized with people with disposable income, which is what this [project] is designed to attract.”

Gibson mentioned how Duke Energy had implemented programs in other cities to help install EV chargers. One such program was the Park and Plug pilot program, which has helped install more than 600 stations throughout the state of Florida, including the city of St. Petersburg, according to the company website.

“This large EV network promotes cleaner energy and improves access to EV charging for everyone,” the website states. “Park & Plug chargers also collect data on EV charging behaviors

and analyze the effects EVs have on the grid. This insight will help determine the best way to further expand EV charging.”

Gibson inquired about implementing such a program for Lake Wales, and asked if it were possible to add a provision for it within the franchise agreement.

Kris Tietig, a Duke Energy representative, answered that, while such a provision could not be added to the franchise agreement, the city would be eligible for such a program. In fact, Duke Energy could potentially incorporate other programs to install fast-charging stations and even provide rebates.

Another idea floated during the discussion was microgrids, which are local grids that are capable of disconnecting from traditional electric grids and operating autonomously as their own isolated utility.

Gibson asked if a test program for a microgrid were possible if the city were to provide its own land. Tietig replied that an engineering analysis could be implemented and that a pilot program was possible.

City Commissioner Terry Howell moved to approve the ordinance, and her motion was seconded. The city commission voted unanimously to approve with a 3-0 vote.

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