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Rocky Mountain House backs electric vehicle charging initiative

Proposed project would see electric vehicle charging stations in 15 communities

Rocky Mountain House is among a group of municipalities seeking to develop an electric vehicle charging station network.

The initiative called eVenture would see at least two fast-charge stations installed in each of 15 communities from Rocky Mountain House and Nordegg in the south to Grande Prairie in the north, Jasper and Grand Cache to the west and Edmonton to the east.

To get the project rolling, eight communities banded together and invested $40,000 to create an electric vehicle (EV) charging network strategy. Another $30,000 was lined up through Energy Futures Lab, an Alberta-based organization focused on the transition to a net-zero economy.

The initiative was pursued because the communities recognized there was an EV charging gap in their area of the province. Communities risked missing out on economic development and tourism opportunities by not being accessible to EV drivers.

Community Energy Association, which has experience developing similar networks in Western Canada, was brought on to develop the strategy and find a partner to own and operate the stations. ATCO stepped up and has agreed to cover half the $4.4 million cost to develop the network.

An application is to be made for $2.2 million in funding from Natural Resources Canada’s Zero Vehicle Emissions Infrastructure Program, a $680-million initiative to expand Canada’s network of EV charging and hydrogen fuel stations. An answer to the funding request is expected next spring.

Rocky Mountain House Mayor Debbie Baich also sent a letter to the provincial government asking for $2.5 million, which is the same provided Peaks to Prairies project in southern Alberta.

“Our project is seeking a ministry champion to bring this funding ask before the Treasury Board this fall,” Baich writes.

If funding is secured, the 100-kilowatt fast-charging stations could be in place by the end of 2024. They will provide the quickest form of charging, able to bring an EV battery up to 80 per cent within an hour.

Community Energy Association consultant Danielle Weiss said it is a non-profit organization that over the past 30 years has helped numerous communities with climate action initiatives, including helping develop four charging station networks in Western Canada. Among those is the Peaks to Prairies project that saw 20 fast-charge stations installed from Medicine Hat through Calgary to Canmore and at the Crowsnest Pass and as far south as Waterton Lakes and Milk River.

The Peaks to Prairie project has proven successful.

“Year over year there’s been a significant increase in use of stations throughout the region. Prior to that project there were only three charges in southern Alberta.”

EV batteries are improving steadily with a 400-kilometre range now typical. While that is fine for many trips, it puts an EV journey to Grande Prairie just out of reach without a charging stop for a driver leaving from Edmonton. Under the proposed northern network charging stations would be located in Valleyview, Fox Creek and Whitecourt along the highway 43 route and at Edson, Hinton and Grande Cache if highway 40 is taken.

Continuing into B.C. a driver can access charging stations installed in northern and central B.C. as part of the Charge North project.

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