State Director, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center
State Director, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center
Trenton — As early as later this month, billions of new federal dollars will start to become available for school districts across the country to transition to clean, electric school buses. Today, most of the nation’s nearly half a million school buses run on diesel fuel, producing harmful emissions that children are forced to breathe. With the support of the World Resources Institute’s Electric School Bus Initiative, Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group are releasing a new report, “Electric School Buses & the Grid” examining how the transition to electric school buses, in addition to keeping diesel exhaust out of developing lungs, could help speed up the expansion of clean energy by providing a critical source of reliable battery storage. The report comes on the heels of legislative consideration of S759/A1282 which will invest more than $45 million into electric school buses over the next three years, which is being heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee this afternoon.
“Getting to school shouldn’t include a daily dose of toxic pollution,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center. “Transitioning to all-electric buses would first and foremost ensure our children have a clean and healthy ride to school. But beyond that, it also provides an excellent opportunity to make dramatic improvements to our state’s electric grid, providing significant new benefits for communities.”
The report, entitled Electric School Buses and the Grid: Unlocking the power of school transportation to build resilience and a clean energy future, finds that if every yellow school bus currently in operation across New Jersey were replaced with an electric bus equipped with the right vehicle-to-grid technology, this would add over 2,179 MWh to the state’s capacity to store electricity, enough to power more than 68,142 average American homes for a day.
“On a typical school day in New Jersey, more than 800,000 students ride to school on one of the state’s 15,000 diesel school buses,” said Senator Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “School buses are known to emit greenhouse gases and carcinogens, both of which contribute to climate change and threaten exposed individuals with elevated lifetime risks of developing cancer, asthma, and heart disease. As a state, we have goals to significantly lower our carbon emissions and become a greener place to live. Transitioning from the conventional diesel-fueled buses to those with zero-emissions will significantly decrease our state’s pollution levels.”
“Investing in electric school buses is investing in a sustainable, healthy future. We have an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enable vehicle to grid technology. This is just the beginning of how electric school buses will power our future,” said Assemblyman Sterley Stanley (D-Middlesex), Vice Chair of the Assembly Environment Committee.
This additional storage could speed the transition to a renewable energy grid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both the transportation and power generation sectors. As electric school buses are mostly only in use during short, specific periods, buses could absorb renewable energy when it is available in abundance and release it during periods when it isn’t, such as at night. It could also allow electric school buses to provide additional power during unexpected demand spikes or emergency power during outages. Electrical utilities and system operators could compensate school districts for the grid services their buses provide, allowing school districts to save significant money over time.
“New Jersey is lagging very far behind other states in the region regarding the electrification of the state’s school bus fleet” said Bill Beren, Transportation Chair for the Sierra Club, NJ Chapter. “Only $25 million has been allocated out of the VW Settlement and the Regional Green House Gas Initiative payments to buy 77 electric school buses. Meanwhile, Montgomery County in Maryland has signed a contract to replace all 250 diesel school buses in their fleet, and both New York City and now NY State have set a goal to replace all their diesel school buses by 2035.”
“New Jersey’s students are ready to move into the future on zero-emissions school buses. It’s especially critical that communities that bear the burden of the cumulative impacts of air pollution from heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and buses, along with other environmental and climate risks, are the first to make this important transition away from diesel burning buses,” said Melissa Miles, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance.
“Replacing dirty diesel school buses with clean, electric school buses will protect children, bus drivers, other school personnel, and our communities from exposure to toxic diesel exhaust air pollution that is known to cause cancer, asthma attacks, and other loss of health,” said Dr. Robert Laumbach, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, School of Public Health, EOHSI.
The report gives recommendations for lawmakers, utility companies and schools, including:
- Lawmakers should provide funding for electric school buses, vehicle-to-grid and energy storage pilot programs and support research to develop and standardize technology, regulations and practices regarding the use of electric vehicles to store and return energy to the grid. Lawmakers should prioritize funding for underserved communities.
- Utility companies and regulators should establish partnerships with school districts and public officials, help finance electric buses, restructure electricity rates to accommodate electric vehicle technology, and clarify regulations regarding the use of electric vehicles to store and return energy to the grid.
- School districts should commit to a full transition to electric buses on a specific timeline and invest in as large a fleet as possible as soon as possible. They should also establish solid collaborative partnerships with utilities from an early stage.
“Students in every community deserve the health and air quality benefits of electric school buses. With record funding on the way, now is the time to make it happen,” said Sue Gander, director of the Electric School Bus Initiative at WRI. “But the benefits don’t stop there. We are excited about this report, which shows that, with the right policies and investments, electric school buses can play a crucial role in promoting grid reliability and transitioning to renewable energy.”
“The renewable, resilient electricity system of the future will rely on batteries to store clean electricity,” said James Horrox, lead author of the report. “Electric school buses with vehicle-to-grid technology can play an important part in building that system, even as they clean the air our children breathe today.”
“Kids need a clean ride to school and a future powered by reliable, renewable energy,” said O’Malley. “By fully embracing the power of electric school bus technology, we can invest in cleaner, more efficient transportation and energy systems all at the same time.”
Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.
Frontier Group is a nonpartisan research and policy development center, providing information and ideas to help build a cleaner, healthier and more democratic America.
Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group are part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.