The Port of Camas-Washougal has installed a charging station in front of its Washougal office in an effort to encourage electric vehicle (EV) use and bring more visitors to East Clark County.
The ChargePoint station opened for business earlier this month, about one year after Port leaders first discussed the possibility of bringing another much-needed charging option to the area.
“We are working on our strategic plan, and one of our initiatives is to become more sustainable,” Port Chief Executive Officer David Ripp said during a commissioner meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 17. “This is the first charging station that has been completed on Port property. I’m very excited (about it).”
The Port received help from the Clark Public Utilities’ EV Grant Opportunity Program, which offers funding to support the construction of publicly accessible EV charging infrastructure in Clark County. The program will reimburse the Port for “exactly half” of the total project cost of $37,940, according to Port finance director Krista Cagle.
“It’s really great. It’s a really nice program,” Port commissioner Cassi Marshall said while charging her vehicle at the station for the first time on Friday, Aug. 19. “It’s a win-win — it encourages (EV use), it’s great for anybody stopping here at the Port or the marina or the waterfront, and it’s also good for the entire EV promotion (aspect). It’s really important when we look towards the future and keep a healthy balance of things for the next generation. It’s a big deal. All of these little steps add up to make a difference.”
Port leaders wanted to bring a charging station to Washougal for several reasons, according to Marshall.
“We want to do our part to make it easier for people to drive electric. We’re at the ‘gateway to the Gorge,’ so it’s a good stopping spot,” she said. “Also, there’s a great economic development component to having a charging station. People can come here and charge (their vehicles) while they have lunch at The Puffin or walk on the waterfront. And (the nearby Best Western) hotel is excited about it. They do not have their own charging stations yet, and they get requests on that, and this is exciting because we can partner up, and it will be a really great service for Best Western.”
During their Aug. 17 meeting, Port commissioners approved a motion to allow the agency to charge station users between 15 and 30 cents per kilowatt hour.
“Our goal is to encourage its use,” commissioner John Spencer said at the meeting. “It makes a lot of sense to start low with permission to raise (the fee) whatever we need to meet the maintenance contract.”
“We’re looking at just covering costs,” Marshall told the Post-Record. “The actual electricity is the cheap part because our commercial rate here, I think, is six cents a kilowatt hour. So if we can cover the maintenance and the overcharges that ChargePoint has, we don’t need to make money on it. We just need to cover costs. (Fifteen to 30 cents) is very reasonable.”
The charging station is a key component of the Port’s greater sustainability initiatives, according to Marshall, who added that the agency is planning to install six charging stations at its new industrial park building, which is currently under construction and slated to open in 2023.
“We’re looking at efficiency and electrification wherever we can, so I think this is a really big part of it,” she said. “Making it easier for people to drive EV (is important to the Port), and that was one reason that we were talking at our meeting about trying to keep the rate low. It is affordable, and we want people to take advantage of it. Adding more opportunities (to charge outside of) home is also really important. We want to make it as easy as possible for as many people as possible.”
Marshall said that the Port will take a look at the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which became law with President Biden’s signature on Monday, Aug. 16. The act is designed to reduce the United States’ deficit and lower inflation while investing in domestic energy production and lowering health-care drug costs.
“It has big federal dollars attached to it, and a lot of it is focused on energy, so that will be great,” Marshall said. “There’s a segment of that act that is specifically for ‘clean’ ports. I’m not sure if our port (will qualify). I think it has more to do with terminals and shore power and that kind of thing for bigger, deepwater ports, but we’re sure going to look into it and see what we might be able to get.”
Ed Fischer, the former owner of the Camas Bike & Sport shop in downtown Camas, installed two SemaConnect EV charging stations outside the bike shop in June 2021. At the time, the two plug-in stations were the only public EV chargers between 192nd Avenue in Vancouver and Skamania Lodge, 28 miles east of Washougal in the Columbia River Gorge.
According to the United States federal government’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, 66,810 EVs were registered in Washington state as of Dec. 31, 2021, behind only California (563,070), Florida (95,640) and Texas (80,900).