Andrew Adams
State Journal-Register

People doing construction or renovation may soon have to leave space for electric vehicle charging stations if a state representative gets her bill through the General Assembly. 

Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, is shepherding a bill that would introduce new requirements to make buildings capable of supporting electric vehicle charging stations. 

The House Energy and Environment Committee on Tuesday approved the bill, though it will likely be amended in the House. When that will happen is uncertain.

The House is next scheduled to meet in person during the last week of January, though it has so far canceled all but one day of in-person work this year because of the surge in COVID cases. 

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The bill requires that new and renovated commercial and residential buildings have the physical capacity to support electric vehicle charging, though it does not require the installation of charging stations.

"If they wanted to do a charging station, they could do one easily and wouldn't have to start digging up all the wire and everything," said Gabel in the Tuesday hearing. 

It passed out of committee by partisan vote, 16-7. Some Republicans indicated they didn't have a major issue with the new rule. 

"Requiring new construction to be ready for charging stations — I don't have a big heartburn about that," said Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur. "What we're going to face is going to be totally different. That's the cost of charging stations and the cost of electricity as we continue to shut down our generators." 

Advocates for the new law say it will help people in low-income communities and those most at risk of feeling the effects of climate change.

"It's really vital that environmental justice communities and low-income communities have access to the health and cost savings that come from electric vehicle access," said Dylan DeBiasi, a representative of Carbon Solutions Group. His company does business in geothermal energy and solar energy credits. 

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Home builders are concerned it may increase the price of new homes to the point where it affects how much affordable housing is available. 

Dean Graven owns a home construction business and is the president of the Home Builders Association of Illinois. He estimates building a new home with a three-car garage that includes the proper wiring and electrical panels to have charging stations could increase costs as much as $15,000.

In the Tuesday hearing, Gabel said she expected the rule to increase home costs less than $1,000. 

"We want to work, but let's make this work for the consumer," Graven said. 

Because the bill is pending final amendments, Graven said he hopes the Home Builders Association is able to negotiate some of the details of the final version with the bill's proponents. 

"A lot of our builders live in our own communities," he said. "We're very much concerned about our environment."   

Instead of possibly requiring the actual electrical work to be done for a charging station, Graven suggested requiring conduits in the places charging stations would be.

These empty tubes would cost less and allow homeowners more flexibility to pick different types of charging stations, according to Graven. 

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The bill passed in committee is a much more ambitious package, which Gabel intends to cut down to just contain the requirement for electric vehicle readiness. The provisions to be cut include a requirement that large electric utilities institute programs to lower carbon emissions, replace fossil fuel use and optimize electric grids for renewable energy production. 

This requirement is already part of state law. It was part of the a large renewable energy package passed in September.

That wide ranging law includes the goal of having the state reach 100% renewable energy by 2050, offering rebates on charging stations and ethics requirements for utility companies, among other things. 

Contact Andrew Adams: [email protected]; (312)-291-1417;