Greener roads ahead

From the August 2019 print edition

British Columbia has the largest public infrastructure network and the highest adoption rate per capita of electric vehicles in Canada.

It’s a big deal for action on climate change, as each EV on the road displaces four tonnes of CO2 annually. Last year, the Province took a step towards transitioning to clean zero emission vehicles. The Ministries of Environment and Climate Strategy and Citizens’ Services jointly released Corporate Supply Arrangements (CSAs) for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, making investing in charging infrastructure more accessible for BC government ministries and the province’s broader public sector, including municipalities, universities, school districts and healthcare.

The CSAs are listed on the province’s website and offer either supply, or supply and install, of EV charging stations. Public organizations can use the CSAs to buy charging stations for use by their fleets and, in some cases, by the public on their property. These CSAs allow hundreds of public organizations to buy EV charging stations from suppliers that have been approved through a fair, open and transparent public procurement process. This initiative followed the model of a successful supply arrangement for LED street lights launched by the province in 2012. By March 2019, over 55 public sector organizations across BC have purchased more than 53,000 LED street lights through the CSA. The CSA is now in the evaluation phase of re-procuring for another three-year term with the option for two one-year extensions to support BC’s remaining communities in the transformation to LED.

The EV charging stations CSA initiative was a partnership involving BC’s Procurement Services Branch and the Climate Action Secretariat. The Climate Action Secretariat began by leading the needs assessment and procurement pre-planning stages. They surveyed the province’s carbon neutral government stakeholders, including ministries and public sector organizations, as well as municipalities to understand which clean tech commodities were most commonly required. When results indicated that EV charging stations were the top priority, they gathered a team of technical experts and stakeholders with experience procuring EV charging stations, including Metro Vancouver, BC Hydro, the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Energy and Mines, Fraser Basin Council and others. This team developed and vetted the technical specifications and evaluation criteria. The partnership also consulted with Ministry of Citizens’ Services’ Real Property Division.

Procurement Services Branch advised during the pre-planning phase and then stepped in to lead the development, implementation and management of the procurement process. They initially ran a Request for Information to seek feedback from the market on this new clean technology, including how it is distributed, installed and maintained. The second phase of the procurement was designed to seek bids for the supply, or supply and install, of charging stations and to accommodate requirements for just-in-time delivery. Arrangements were awarded in six regions across the province: Cariboo, Kootenay, Mainland/Southwest B.C., North, Thompson/Okanagan, and Vancouver Island/Sunshine Coast.

As a condition of holding a CSA, within two years of award installers in all regions must complete BC Hydro EV charging station training, which is coordinated through the electricians’ industry group. This is an important step towards preparing electricians for broader market transformation. The CSAs were awarded in June of 2017. Since then, Procurement Services Branch monitors their usage on a monthly basis, deals with buyer questions or concerns, and connects with suppliers to make sure that they are available to deliver on the supply arrangement.

According to Soledad Reeve, former Director of Procurement Transformation at the BC Ministry of Citizens’ Services, “this supply arrangement will save many public buyers across BC the time, effort and cost of running individual procurements, since the suppliers available through the supply arrangement have been qualified through an evaluation process developed by experts.”

Infrastructure barriers
Public organizations with funding for electric vehicle infrastructure can now plan their expenditures more quickly, efficiently and effectively. Gord Rogers, Procurement Specialist within the Procurement Services Branch at the BC Ministry of Citizens’ Services, believes it’s a step closer to solving the ‘infrastructure barrier’ for adopting zero emission vehicles. He says: “The Clean BC mandate requires us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the public sector wants to buy EV vehicles, but we need infrastructure to support this transition. This supply arrangement helps facilitate a base so that fleets can switch over more easily.”

Alyssa McDonald is program coordinator at MCSP.
Barb Everdene is program advisor at MCSP.

To replicate a similar central procurement for multiple buyers, Reeve stresses the importance of connecting with each type of buyer to confirm their interest in using a CSA, and to ensure all or most of their purchasing requirements are met. Rogers adds that meeting with subject matter experts and suppliers is key to getting a feel for the industry. Lastly, Reeve promotes using central procurements like CSAs for clean tech and other new-to-market commodities to deliver buyer education and guidance. She cites the LED street light supply arrangement, which for the first three years offered a business case calculator for funding applications, guidance written by a leading street lighting designer, links to rebates, and informational webinars delivered by experts or peers sharing case studies and lessons learned.

This article was pulled from the Municipal Collaboration for Sustainable Procurement’s (MCSP) Annual Report on the State of Public Procurement.