Citrus County will soon have a total of 11 Duke Energy charging stations set up to accommodate folks who drive electric vehicles.
Seven of them are already installed in Inverness and four are planned for the Discover Crystal River Visitor Center at 915 U.S. 19, north of West Venable Street by the airport.
It’s part of Duke Energy’s new pilot program, called “Park and Plug,” which will see more than 530 such charging stations throughout the state. About half of them statewide are already installed.
Duke Energy Florida state president Catherine Stempien announced the news during Friday’s monthly Citrus County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Citrus Hills and it was met with applause from some of the 160 attendees.
Stempien said she knew they would be popular, but the reception to these charging stations even caught her unawares.
“I’m pretty surprised by the demand,” Stempien said.
Duke’s idea is to promote cleaner energy and improve access to electric vehicle (EV) charging. But they do more than that. Every time someone uses one of these stations, the chargers collect data, which analyzes the effect EV has on the power grid and that gives Duke a way to figure out how to expand the technology going forward.
Duke estimates 10 percent of the charging stations will be installed in income-qualified communities to make the benefits of cleaner electric transportation available to all customers.
In the city of Inverness, six are located in public parking lots off North Pine Avenue: at the city government center, at the parking lot next to Brannen Bank and by Oscar Penn’s parking lot.
The other in Inverness is at King Financial Services, 3354 State Road 44.
The use cost is 11-and-a-half cents per kilowatt hours. That rate was set by Duke and is the amount the city pays for the electrical service to those units, City Manager Eric Williams said.
Williams said he’s received positive comments about them and visitors have said they like the “green footprint” the city has when visiting.
These chargers, he said, are“not something you see all the time in a small town in Florida.”
Electric vehicle sales increased 81 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the Edison Electric Institute. But Edison expects the number to grow to 18.7 million. In addition to the Duke stations, there are more than 2,000 electric vehicle charging stations in Florida and many being added monthly.
Stempien said the Park & Plug program is one of several new technological initiatives Duke Energy is focused on. She outlined several at Friday’s luncheon that included continuing investments in solar power and drones.
Other highlights from Stempien’s presentation:
• By mid-2020, all customers will have smart meters, which give them instant access to daily usage of energy, allows them to pick their billing date and receive alerts.
• 44 percent of Citrus customers are now served by the company’s smart-thinking grid technology that anticipates outages and reroutes power to speed power restoration or even avoid outages completely.
Duke has 47,500 Duke customers in Citrus County.
Stempien said the recently completed $1.5-billion combined-cycle natural gas plant north of Crystal River provided more than $600 million in local economic benefits. Duke paid $29 million in property taxes in 2019 on its county facilities.