AFM works on the new Financing Guideline for electric charging stations

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The Program for supporting the installation of charging stations for electric cars had five budgets, since June 2016. At the same time, there were two ministers of Environment and two presidents of the Environment Fund Administration (AFM), an institution for which, a new boss is still to be found.

The potential beneficiaries showed little interest for the program, and some of the reasons are related to the lack of clarity of the Financing Guide and to the overly restrictive conditions included in the Guide. The document is now in full process of review and the experts in AFM should balance not only the speed – for starting the program as soon as possible, with care – to avoid wrong allocation of subsidies, but sometimes also the divergent interests of the market players.

In a meeting meant to help improving the Financing Guide, the manager of the General Department of Projects in AFM Andrei Iorgulescu mentioned in the beginning the changes introduced in the program for stimulating the purchase of electric cars: the bonus increased to 10.000 euros and the Rabla Plus program became a multiannual program.

The program for supporting the charging infrastructure for electric cars has as a target to help installing 600 stations freely available to the public by 2020. So far, after the first call launched by AFM, between September 15th and November 15th, 2016, there were gathered only 49 projects, from 39 companies and nine administrative units. Fundings were requested for 150 high power charging stations and 109 normal power stations, which would be installed in 23 counties. As expected, the strongest demand came from Bucharest – 12 requests and 98 stations. “The figures show that the economical agents want to install predominantly high power stations, while the administrative units are more interested in normal power stations”, noticed Andrei Iorgulescu.

Restrictive provisions

Most of the experts who participated at the debate initiated by the Environment Fund Administration stressed out that it is essential that a change to the Financing Guide must occur as soon as posssible, so that the analysis of the first wave of applications to be completed, and new applications to be submitted. “For the future, we need to find a quick procedure for updating the Guide, in order to remove any obstacles as soon as we identify them”, said Marius Tudor, Secretary General of APIA – Association of Automotive Manufacturers and Importers in Romania.

  • The program appears to be designed for individuals, but not for network operators, noticed the representatives from Renovatio, who insisted upon some provisions that have discouraged them to submit funding requests, during the round held and the end of last year:
  • the upper limitation of the subsidy (200.000 euros), allows only the installation of 10 stations at maximum, which seems insufficient for the companies that intend to build extensive networks at regional level
  • to restrict the location of charging stations only in cities with over 50.000 inhabitants is excessive and does not fit to the realities in the field; there are many county towns that do not have 50.000 people, there are many small towns (for example, Voluntari), in which large offices spaces have been developed, and there are also tourist resorts, some industrial parks and some commercial areas near large cities that can not fulfil this obligation
  • the provision by which the company which is installing the charging station has to be registered in a town with more than 50.000 inhabitants is an unnecessary obstacle
  • the requirement that the building where you install the charging station to be under no legal burdens is challenging, given that most of the recent real estate developments were made using bank loans
  • for the assembly and commissioning works, the profit and VAT upon it, are not eligible under the current form of the Guide. Andrei Iorgulescu promised that this limitation will be removed.

In his turn, Sorin Morariu (Electrica) mentioned the difficulties in installing electric charging stations near the highways, on lands that most of the time belong to local councils or the road administration, which are difficult partners, as they lack information and interestin getting involved in such projects.

The representatives from TMC e-mobility have proposed that the Financing Guide should come up with a clearer distinction regarding the types of stations that can be installed. “Let’s finance only the intelligent equipment, and not the basic stations”, would be their key message and the AFM officials have asked for specific proposals for a minimum of requirements that would have to be met by the equipments in order to be admitted to the program. Andrei Iorgulescu rejected the idea of introducing restrictions for equipment produced outside EU, arguing that once they are imported, traded and installed on the common market, such equipment must also meet the standards and obligations imposed at European level.

Connecting to the grid

The most painful aspect turned out to be the mandatory provision that the beneficiary of a de minimis aid should submit a “certificate issued by the operator of the network for electricity distribution”, in order to qualify for claiming reimbursement. Once again, the representatives of Renovatio discussed some very common situations when the charging station is installed in an office building or a shopping mall. The company that makes the installation does not have a contract with the operator of the electricity distribution network and does not need his consent for connecting the station to the grid. If the electrical service entrance allows it and there is a sufficient power reserve, a certificate for connection is no longer required, considers Alexandru Teodorescu, CEO Renovatio “The end user should not be called to guaranttee for balancing the network.”

In his turn, Sorin Morariu said that high-power charging stations also intorduce in harmonics into the network, and they are causing technical difficulties that should be prevented. “Many of those who applied into the program will have problems with the permits from the power distributors”, said Morariu.

A possible solution brought up in the discussion, was that the operator who installed electrical charging station, must provide, for costs reimbursement, a correspondence with the distribution operator that would clarify that on the certain situation in discussion, there is enough reserve power available and there is no need for a new technical approval of connection.

During his intervention, Călin Vilt, adviser at CNR-CME, proposed that the charging stations for electric cars should be included in the urban plans of major municipalities, an approach through which numerous technical problems that are currently expected could be avoided. In their turn, the representatives of e-mobility underlined the need for a technical guide for installing charging stations, approved at the intergovernmental level. They admitted, however, along with all those present at the debate, that this is an objective for the distant future.

For now, the urgency is that the Funding Guide to be updated for removing the main obstacles, and that the projects that will be accepted by AFM to start as soon as possible. Andrei Iorgulescu anticipated that in the coming days the Guide would be modified. Up to one month there would still be necessary for the assessment of the already submitted applications, and a new call for projects will be launched somewhere during the mid year.

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