How Is California Spending Its Advanced Fuel Technology Budget?

Last week, the California Energy Commission (CEC) released its fiscal-year 2012-2013 investment plan for the state's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), which reflects continued financial support for advanced transportation initiatives.

The program, which was enacted by California lawmakers in 2007, leverages a $100 million annual budget to support an aggressive goal: to increase the use of alternative fuels in transportation to 26% of all fuel consumed by 2022. Right now, that figure stands at 4%.

Since the program's inception, the CEC has invested more than $200 million in alternative fuel technologies, and another $150 million from fiscal years 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 is in the queue to be deployed. Each year, the CEC adjusts the allocations into different segments based on how these emerging markets are developing.

Over the past four years, program funding has been directed mostly to alternative fuel production, fueling infrastructure and vehicles, with a smaller proportion of the budget going toward manufacturing, workforce training and development, and other areas tied to overall market development. The emphasis on fuel production, infrastructure and vehicles will continue for 2012-2013, according to the CEC.

In California, alternative fuel production has focused on mainly on ethanol, but biomethane and biodiesel are also supported under the ARFVTP. Boosting the state's portfolio of production sites has been a priority, with more than $88 million being invested in biomethane and gasoline/diesel substitutes since fiscal year 2008-2009. For the coming year, a total of $20 million will support in-state production of all alternative fuel types.

In terms of advanced fueling infrastructure, projects related to hydrogen have received the lion's share of ARFVTP funding to date, and that trend will continue in 2012-2013. The CEC has recommended that $11 million go toward hydrogen stations (adding to the $37.4 million invested in the last four years), and electric vehicle charging network technologies will receive $7.5 million.Â

On the other hand, the CEC has proposed that funding be eliminated for propane and biodiesel fueling infrastructure, and total funds directed toward E85 and natural gas fueling infrastructure projects have been reduced to $1.5 million each.

However, supporting the deployment of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) themselves is still a key priority for the CEC, with $12 million being proposed to bolster such projects. More than $35 million of ARFVTP funding has already been aimed at NGV deployment, compared to $5.7 million for propane vehicles (plus another $2 million in 2012-2013) and $4 million for medium- and heavy-duty EVs (which are no longer being funded).

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