Cassandra Sweet:

As utilities across the U.S. grapple with stagnant electricity sales, many see opportunity in the fledgling need for electric-car charging stations. But some companies’ tactics are spurring complaints from consumer advocates.

Electricity companies are asking permission to let them tack on fees to customer bills to fund pilot projects for building networks of charging stations. Critics say the requests are unfair because they would make all customers pay the high cost of experimental equipment even though it would benefit only a few—often affluent—people.

In San Diego, Sempra Energy’s SRE +1.04% power utility wants to install 5,500 electric-car chargers at hundreds of office parks, apartment buildings and condominium complexes at a cost of $100 million. The company says convenient, easy-to-use charging stations will encourage more Californians to adopt electric cars, improving air quality for everyone. The utility wants to add a surcharge to all San Diego customers’ bills.

The Utility Reform Network, a nongovernmental organization that fights rate increases, has asked state regulators to reject the new fee, about 40 cents a month for an average customer.