“(Grant) Investment + Energy Conservation +

Reduced Emissions + Indoor Air Quality = Environmental Justice.” That’s the tagline on every email sent by Gilbert Blue

Feather Rosas, energy education specialist for Stockton Unified School District east of San Francisco. The equa- tion is a “disadvantaged community formula for change,” he explained. And electric buses are key components. By tapping into different grant funding sources,

Stockton acquired a fleet of 11 electric buses and had 24 charging stations installed, all in less than a year. The fact that Stockton, a district serving primarily low-in- come students, has adopted electric buses on such a relatively large scale and so quickly can serve as inspira- tion for districts nationwide. “We’re a road map for people to use throughout the

country,” Rosas said. “We’re on the fast track, from noth- ing a year ago to everything showing up.” Stockton utilized a California Air Resources Board

(CARB) grant for the charging infrastructure and four electric buses, along with electric tractors and mow- ers. Construction on the charging stations started last September and was completed in early May. The buses were on the road in time for summer school. The district also received a California Energy Commission grant for two electric buses and a San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District grant for five more. “Even with COVID-19 and budget cuts, we’ve been good

stewards with our money and got it done,” said Rosas. He noted that the district got the 24 chargers—each able to charge two buses at a time—with the intention of continuing to increase the fleet size. He added he hopes the district’s 93 buses will soon all be electric. “That’s our slogan, fill our yard,” he explained. “We’re

serious about trying to get to zero emissions. Three more sets of 24 will get us to 96.” Rebates from utility Pacific Gas & Electric also helped

make the charging stations doable. And the district has solar power, which means the buses are literally powered with clean energy, while also allowing it to tap further financial incentives. The district has already applied for a U.S. Department of Transportation grant that could help fund charging infrastructure, and a Stockton community emissions reduction grant for more electric buses. Rosas noted that driving range is always a concern

with electric buses. But the district is working with en- ergy management firm Mobility House to maximize the charging efficiency and range, including training drivers to get the most out of each charge—“100 miles, easily,” Rosas said. Mobility House helps Stockton Unified leverage Low

Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits, which are difficult for a district to obtain on their own but worthwhile to access with support from an entity that specializes in the program. Such credits are available to districts with clean

38 School Transportation News • JULY 2021

fuels in California and Oregon, and states including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Washington are also considering similar programs.

New Credits and New Models Mobility House helps districts collect the charging data

needed to secure LCFS credits and works with partners to “sell those credits into the market and also optimize the credits by coupling them with renewable energy credits” (RECs) purchased in markets, said Zoheb Davar, Mobiity House’s director of business development and growth. In addition to grants and incentives, Davar noted

companies are increasingly looking at a business model of charging as a service, where a third-party private company pays the electric bills and the district pays a monthly fee. The arrangement is similar to that of a lease. Davar noted that working with energy managers is crucial to this model. “The financial partners doing charging as a service can

only do it if they have predictable costs,” he noted. “If you charge at all times of [the] day, you hit different demand charges. You can’t really do it because you’re not manag- ing costs in a predictable way.” Vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, is another way districts could

potentially help fund electric buses in the future. While this model is still in its infancy, it’s expected that utilities or other parties will increasingly pay owners of electric vehicles for the ability to use their plugged-in vehicles as batteries on the grid, providing power when needed. Davar said that businesses employing charging as a ser- vice may have such revenue “baked into their business model.” Additionally, “utilizing the battery to provide resiliency

during climate disasters” could help schools or the utility and wider community during mass outages, Davar said. “That’s a real thing, it’s really quite valuable,” he added. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has called for electri- fying 20 percent of the nation’s school buses, or rougly 96,000 vehicles, by 2030. Vice President Kamala Harris has also long been a proponent of bus electrification, having first introduced a bill in the Senate two years ago to provide funding. Hence more federal funding for school bus electrification is likely to be available. “There’s a lot of funding coming down the pike,” com- mented Davar.

Incentives and Deals Meanwhile, Twin Rivers Unified School District, locat- ed about 60 miles north of Stockton in Sacramento, has the nation’s largest fleet of electric buses, with 40 ac- quired since 2016. Transportation director Tim Shannon explained that the district is bidding to add 82 additional charging stations, and has 18 more electric buses slated to arrive by the end of 2021.

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