The Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, a group of public utilities that supplies electricity to East Grand Forks and 11 other member cities, paid $16,000 to install a dual-port EnelX JuiceBox in a city-owned parking lot behind the River Cinema on DeMers Avenue.
“This charging station is only the beginning,” Keith Mykleseth, the general manager of East Grand Forks Water & Light, said in a press release. “We’ll be seeing additional EV charging stations in our community over the next couple years.”
The station can charge two cars simultaneously, and conduits run to it that allow for more charging stations there in the future. The spot eventually could have room for a further six to eight cars to charge there, according to staff at Water & Light, who, along with officials at the city’s Water, Light, Power and Building Commission, picked the parking lot spot because it’s near privately-owned amenities such as the movie theater and restaurants. A motorist, the thinking goes, might stop at, say, the Blue Moose while they charge their car.
“That was really the deciding factor,” Kevin Hatcher, an energy and customer service specialist at the Eastside utility, told the Herald. “For them to enjoy the things we have here.”
The station is the first in East Grand Forks, according to Plugshare, a map of charging stations toward which Water & Light staff pointed the Herald. There are nine others across the Red River in Grand Forks. Hatcher briefed East Grand Forks City Council members on the plan in June.
Since the station “went live,” so to speak, on Nov. 10, it’s been used twice: once by a Tesla Model 3 on the 20th and then by a Chevy Bolt EV on the 22nd. Hatcher said the city utility doesn’t have any specific usage goals for the station.
The station is owned by the power agency, which bore the entirety of its purchase price and installation cost. City utility staff initially proposed placing the station in the parking lot of the Fairfield Inn & Suites hotel, which sits off Highway 2 near a handful of commercial businesses and the East Grand Forks Civic Center. Hotel leaders, though, weren’t interested.
“They just decided to do it on their own,” Mykleseth told the Herald, referring to the hotel’s managers. “They had more freedom, then. They wouldn’t have to work out agreements with MMPA.”
The power agency is working to promote broader use of electric vehicles, according to David Niles, the vice president of Avant Energy, Inc., a consulting firm that runs the power agency’s day-to-day operations.
“A large, large portion, most of the carbon reduction in the U.S. economy has come from reductions in the utility side,” Niles claimed. “The biggest chunk in the economy right now where carbon still is, is in the transportation sector. And so we believe that utilities like MMPA and its members can be part of the solution of continuing to remove carbon from the economy by transitioning the transportation sector from burning gasoline or diesel or whatever that still has a lot of carbon in it to electric vehicles.”
Other members of the power agency set to receive a charging station this year are Anoka, Buffalo, Chaska, Elk River, Olivia and Shakopee.
A 2007 Minnesota law requires the state to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That means utility companies must have at least 25% of their energy come from renewable sources by 2025. Presently, a little more than 20% of the power agency’s energy comes from those sources, according to Niles, but a proposed wind farm in Rock County, Minnesota, would bump that figure to an estimated 45%, he said.