In Largest Approval Yet, Energy Commission OKs $730M for Clean Projects

By Published On: December 9, 2021

This week, the five members of the California Energy Commission approved the largest one-time spending to date for clean energy research and development. Most of the grant money is to advance zero-emission cars, trucks and buses.

“It is our job to remain at the cutting edge,” both in this country and globally, “on zero-emission transportation and building out that infrastructure,” Commissioner Patty Monahan said during the Dec. 8 meeting.

Commissioner Siva Gunda applauded the “eye popping” $730 million in funding.

Two of the grants will provide up to $500,000 for car charging stations, to help the state get closer to its target of 250,000 chargers by 2025. The CEC estimated that by 2030, 1.2 million charging stations will be needed to support 7.5 million light-duty EVs.

CalStart and the Center for Sustainable Energy were each awarded block grants of $250,000 to fund charging projects for light passenger vehicles, with an emphasis on installations in low-income and disadvantaged communities.

Another $226 million was awarded to CalStart to install charging and hydrogen refueling stations for trucks and buses. Last June, the CEC estimated that 157,000 stations are needed for some 180,000 alternative-fueled medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

The funding for zero energy vehicle stations is part of the $1.4 billion in Clean Transportation Plan funding for fiscal years 2021-23 approved last month.

Monahan said that the funding will help ensure that 1,000 buses, 1,000 trucks and 1,500 drayage trucks are fueled by electricity or hydrogen. That in turn will reduce heavy pollution, particularly at the state’s major ports, which bleed pollution into surrounding communities.

Gunda said the new installations should provide data on the time of charging and discharging because increased vehicle charging will heavily affect the grid, and such data is currently lacking.

Hydrogen-fueled mobile backup

This week the energy commission also approved a $3 million grant for two trucks equipped with hydrogen fuel cell generators designed to go to areas that have lost power to allow people to charge cell phones and other electronics. They also are to carry 10 gallons of water. Water pulled from wells is often inaccessible when the power shuts off.

The trucks themselves will be powered by hydrogen. Neither this hydrogen nor the fuel in the backup generator fuel cells is required to be clean, meaning it will be made from fossil methane.

The Commission also approved a $1.1 million grant for software from Touchstone Benchmarking that aims to keep better track of the energy use in commercial and multifamily buildings, 50,000 square feet and larger. Buildings of this size are required to report their energy use. The cloud-based software is expected to provide data that tracks reporting compliance, allows comparisons of building energy use, and tracks national efficiency Energy Star scores.

With the growth of energy efficiency that can reduce demand, and provide demand response services, “we have to go the extra mile to make it quantifiable,” said Commissioner Andrew McAlister.

Source of photo: CEC

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