Electric Vehicle Travel from Peaks to Prairies
Growth of electric vehicle (EV) sales in Alberta is driving an expansion in charging station deployment. While much of this growth is occurring in and around Calgary and Edmonton, there exists great opportunity to electrify rural regions like Southern Alberta.
By strategically deploying fast charging stations throughout Southern Alberta, we can ensure that rural communities gain economic and environmental benefits from EV travel all while supporting greater adoption of EVs across the province by enabling long distance travel.
Peaks To Prairies is a community-driven initiative to support EV travel to and within Southern Alberta. The project will install 20 fast charging/Level 2 stations throughout the region as well as engage in a broad outreach and education campaign.
The objectives and goals of the project are:
- to increase electric vehicle adoption;
- address GHG emissions related to the transportation sector; and
- to facilitate regional travel by electric vehicle.
In addition, Peaks To Prairies is supporting the renewable energy sector in the region by powering the stations with 100% renewable energy through renewable energy certificates sourced from southern Alberta projects (solar, wind or hydro).
The rural and dispersed nature of Southern Alberta communities demands solutions that are innovative, collaborative and reflective of the local challenges and opportunities.
This is why, in 2016, regional economic development organizations, Southgrow Regional Initiative and Alberta Southwest Regional Alliance, began discussing the opportunity of developing an EV charging network in their region. With strategic siting and regional collaboration, such a network could bolster local economies, connect Southern Alberta to surrounding jurisdictions and highlight the growing renewable energy sector in the region.
The City of Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, as well as Medicine Hat College joined the collaboration to form the Peaks to Prairies partnership.
All partners recognize the necessity of the regional network to support EV adoption, and the opportunity to connect to surrounding charging networks like those emerging in Montana and the recently completed Accelerate Kootenays project in BC.
Founding partners began collaborating in 2016 - Alberta Southwest Regional Alliance, Southgrow Regional Initiative, the City of Calgary, the City of Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Medicine Hat College - and have been the core drivers of the initiative since then.
The initial funding from all 5 founding partners was leveraged to secure grants from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Province of Alberta to deploy the project at its full scope - 20 fast charging/Level 2 stations.
Owner Operator Partner
After a competitive RFP process developed and managed by project partners, ATCO was identified as the long term owner and operator of the equipment, and FLO as the chosen network operator. ATCO will be facilitating and managing the installation of each of the sites and will own and maintain the units for the long term.
The partnership with ATCO alleviates small communities from the burden and liability of owning and maintaining the fast charging equipment while allowing them to gain maximum co-benefits from the investment.
"ATCO is excited to bring our expertise and enthusiasm to this project as we continue to support electric travel to and throughout the region."
Maximizing co-benefits for rural communities
From the outset, the Peaks To Prairies partners understood that with EV ownership growing in Alberta and in surrounding areas, their communities had much to gain from facilitating travel to their region.
Therefore, the initiative prioritized strategic siting of the charging stations to support network connectivity, but also to maximize potential economic benefits to the region. Charging stations are sited so drivers can easily access local amenities like shopping, restaurants and cafes, as well as parks, museums and other local attractions.
Balancing EV driver needs with local economic development opportunities ensures the project is leveraging the investment to gain as many benefits as possible.