The California Energy Commission (CEC) has yet again approved more funding for projects under its alternative fuel program, and this latest round of grants focuses mainly on building or expanding compressed natural gas (CNG) infrastructure at school districts throughout the state.
Established by legislation in 2007, the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP) has an annual budget of up to $100 million to help the development and deployment of clean transportation and fuel technologies in California.
Andre Freeman, supervisor of the CEC’s medium- and heavy-duty vehicle technology unit, says the program supports a wide range of alt-fuel options, including natural gas, propane autogas, hydrogen and electricity.
“The program leads to healthier air for all Californians, reduces greenhouse gases and creates new jobs and industries in the state, while grantees get the financial help they need to switch to alternative fuels while the marketplace develops,” explains Freeman.
These newest program grants total over $2.7 million and will go to five school districts and two cities to help fund CNG infrastructure projects. According to a CEC document, the school districts include the following:
– The Rialto Unified School District has received a $500,000 grant to build and operate a CNG station that will also be open to the local community;
– The Fontana Unified School District has won a $500,000 grant to upgrade its CNG station with new equipment, as the district’s CNG bus fleet is expected to expand;
– The Beaumont Unified School District has won a $500,000 grant to replace an old CNG station in order to better serve the school district and the City of Beaumont;
– The Fresno Unified School District has received a $500,000 grant to expand its current CNG infrastructure as the district expands its CNG school bus fleet; and
– The Lindsay Unified School District (LUSD) has received a $245,418 grant to replace fueling equipment at its existing CNG facility. The CEC document says that because the equipment has been decommissioned, LUSD’s CNG vehicles are “forced to travel many miles off-site to refuel, preventing the school district from achieving the full cost benefits of CNG vehicles.”
Freeman says California school districts, as well as transit and other municipal fleet operators, have increased their adoption of CNG within the past few years.
“As these public fleets replace their aging gasoline and diesel fleets, purchasing natural gas vehicles provides fuel cost savings, fuel price stability and allows these entities to support the state’s alternative fuel usage goals,” he states. “Quite often, these entities face budget constraints that prevent them from adopting CNG vehicles. The Energy Commission’s funding helps to reduce the up-front costs of the fueling infrastructure, allowing these fleets to focus on converting their older polluting vehicles to cleaner alternatives.”
In addition to the five school districts, the cities of San Diego and Sacramento both received a $250,000 ARFVTP grant. San Diego will use the funds to build a new CNG station and enable a switch of the city’s refuse and recycling vehicles to the alternative fuel. Meanwhile, Sacramento will use its grant to install supporting infrastructure for its growing CNG fleet.
As mentioned, these latest alt-fuel grants are just seven of many the CEC has awarded over the years, and the agency, which recently released its draft program investment plan for the next fiscal year, seems determined to continue helping California fleets get cleaner vehicles on the road.
Sure enough, there will be more CEC funding announcements in the future. Stay tuned.