Dominion Energy is planning a major rollout of electric buses for school districts in Virginia.
The initial phase of the deployment aims to have 50 buses fully operational within Dominion Energy’s Virginia service territory by the end of 2020. Phase two of the project, with state approval, would expand the program to bring 1,000 electric school buses online by 2025. Phase three would set a goal to have 50% of all diesel school bus replacements be electric by 2025 and 100% by 2030.
The utility estimates that the first phase of the program will cost approximately $13.5 million, covered by Dominion’s base rate, meaning no additional costs to customers. If the program’s next phases are approved by the state, Dominion expects a rate increase of less than $1 per month.
“We’re committed to lowering our carbon emissions, but we can’t do it alone. Transportation is the No. 1 source of carbon emissions in the U.S., and by partnering with this industry, we can expedite the development of innovative, cleaner, more sustainable solutions,” says Dominion Energy’s chairman, president and CEO, Thomas F. Farrell II. “We think that electric school buses will provide a wide range of benefits for the customers and communities we serve, including cleaner air, cost-savings for school districts and enhanced grid reliability.”
“Once again, Virginia is leading the way in promoting electric vehicle technology and improving our environment,” says Gov. Ralph Northam, D-Va. “This innovative electric school bus program is one of many steps we are taking to make electric vehicles accessible to all Virginians, and we look forward to working with Dominion as they bring electric school buses to communities in all corners of our commonwealth.”
Under the program, Dominion Energy will offset the additional costs of an electric school bus – including charging infrastructure – above the standard cost of a diesel bus. The utility points out that operational and maintenance costs are lower with electric school buses, providing a potential reduction of 60% per year for localities.
Notably, the buses will also serve as a grid resource by creating additional energy storage technology to support Dominion Energy’s integration of distributed renewables, such as solar and wind. The vehicle-to-grid technology leverages the bus batteries to store and inject energy onto the grid during periods of high demand, when the buses are not needed for transport.
“Creating the largest initiative for electric buses in the U.S. to date is a historic commitment that will improve public health and address the climate crisis,” comments Kelsey Crane, the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter’s campaign and policy director. “This investment in zero-emission vehicles puts Virginia on the path to having one of the cleanest and safest transportation systems in the country. Transportation fuels like gasoline and diesel are responsible for almost half of Virginia’s carbon pollution and greatly worsen the quality of the air we breathe. We commend state leaders for prioritizing the health of children and our communities by taking this important first step towards investing in a clean transportation future.”
In the coming weeks, bus manufacturers will be able to submit bids through a request for proposals process. A tele-town hall meeting will be held on Sept. 4 to provide school districts with more information about the program.