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New report outlines how cutting-edge technology could enable electric school buses to store energy and return it to the grid, increasing energy storage capacity and grid reliability.
DENVER — With only a few months left before Colorado’s ozone dirty air season arrives, advocates showed off one of Denver’s newest electric school buses at an event demonstrating the support of dozens of groups for a $150 million air quality investment Governor Polis proposed in cleaner, electric school buses. The advocates highlighted the number of benefits offered by electric school buses beyond cutting ozone pollutants, including reducing toxic emissions that kids breathe while riding the bus, especially in low-income and Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other communities of color, and cutting fuel and maintenance costs for school districts.
At the event, advocates unveiled a new report illustrating additional benefits of electric school buses unlocked through cutting-edge technology – increased energy storage capacity, which can improve the reliability of the energy system.
Toxic diesel pollution is linked to higher rates of cancer, heart disease, respiratory disorders and premature death. Advocates emphasized the environmental justice benefits of electrifying school buses, especially if those buses can be prioritized in the communities most heavily impacted.
“Protecting the health of our children is a top priority and ensuring clean transportation to school is a commitment to our kids,” said State Representative Alex Valdez, who represents north and central Denver.
“As a student attending Denver Montessori Junior Senior High School, I am excited about the prospect of having electric school buses that will not spew dirty smelling diesel exhaust anymore when they sit idling on the street next to our playground where the 6th and 7th graders gather. Most of my friends have asthma, and when the buses idle spewing the diesel smoke everyone complains of headaches and has to use their inhalers more,” said Elena Madrid, DPS student.
Working alongside advocates from GreenLatinos, Conservation Colorado, CoPIRG, and the World Resource Institute, the Electrification Coalition unveiled a letter of support earlier today from 93 individuals representing 53 organizations in support of the governor’s proposed $150M investment to accelerate Colorado’s transition to clean, electric buses.
“There is resounding support from Coloradans for the governor’s funding proposal to electrify our school bus fleets,” Electrification Coalition Communications Director Julie Sutor said. “In our conversations with school districts, businesses, vehicle manufacturers, school transportation managers, health advocates, and parents, we’re hearing a lot of agreement: Coloradans want their kids to ride to school in clean, electric buses.”
The funding proposal, which will be introduced at the General Assembly soon, will help school districts overcome the upfront costs of purchasing new electric buses, making it feasible for districts to purchase buses that would otherwise not have that option. Dedicated funding at the state level will also make it easier for Colorado school districts to leverage federal funding coming through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act via the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program.
The legislative electric school bus proposal comes as a new report by World Resources Institute’s Electric School Bus Initiative, CoPIRG Foundation and Frontier Group examined the impact that electric school buses with vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology would have. With vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies, the batteries of those buses can be used not just to power the buses but to store electricity to support the grid and, in their vehicle-to-building (V2B) applications, provide backup power to buildings and critical facilities during emergencies.
V2G provides additional pollution benefits beyond removing school bus tailpipe emissions:
- A 2016 study found that the use of V2G in electric school buses could eliminate an average of more than 1,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of the bus. The same study found that the use of V2G eliminates enough pollution to completely offset the air pollution damage caused by charging electric school buses from the grid.
- A Columbia University study calculated that a fleet of 1,550 electric school buses providing peak shaving services – managing overall energy demand to eliminate short-term consumption spikes – could reduce CO2 emissions by 5,500 tons over five years and produce a decrease in electricity-related local air pollution.
- By enabling utilities to draw on distributed sources of energy, large-scale adoption of V2G technology could potentially also lessen the need for new physical power plants, bringing savings for utilities as well as environmental and health benefits – particularly for minority and low-income areas, since peaker power plants are often located in these areas.
“We need to find better ways to get our kids to school that don’t include toxic diesel pollution,” said Alex Simon with CoPIRG Foundation. “The transition to electric buses not only provides children with a cleaner, safer, healthier ride to and from school but also can make a dramatic improvement to our nation’s electric grid. Kids breathe easier, air pollution is reduced, and we increase our capacity for energy storage and resilience: electric school buses are truly a win-win-win opportunity.”
“The climate and air quality crises have already had devastating impacts, from loss of homes to loss of life,” said Jenny Gaeng, Transportation Manager for Conservation Colorado. “We need our state legislators to act as quickly as they can, just as we need Congress to pass comprehensive climate legislation. Electrifying school buses will have the immediate impact we need in order to clean up our air and combat climate change.”
“We know that greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to climate change and poor air quality in the Denver metropolitan area as well as across other population centers of Colorado and the impacts are even more pronounced in our disproportionately impacted communities where black and brown people suffer more cases of respiratory disease than other communities,” said Juan Roberto Madrid, GreenLatinos Colorado Clean Transportation and Energy Policy Advocate. “We need our elected leaders to move swiftly to pass legislation that takes on toxics be that Air or Water toxins that are harming our disproportionately impacted communities and Electrifying school buses is but one piece of improving air quality and addressing climate change.”