The California Energy Commission (CEC) has unanimously adopted the state’s third annual transportation energy Investment Plan to help change the types of vehicles Californians drive and the fuels they use. The latest Investment Plan for CEC’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program prioritizes $100 million in state funds to leverage funding and investments from federal agencies, research institutions, private investors, auto manufacturers and other stakeholders. Included is significant funding for natural gas vehicle programs.
“This innovative transportation investment program is unique in the country,” said Energy Commission Vice Chair James Boyd. “The funding plan approved yesterday for fiscal year 2011-2012 builds on two earlier versions, fine-tuning California’s seven-year program to increase alternative and renewable fuels and to test innovative vehicle technologies. This investment will also create California jobs, improve the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. An essential element of the California’s climate change and energy policies, this program successfully attracts outside investment and promotes sustainable transportation alternatives within our state.”
Assembly Bill 118 (Núñez, Chapter 750, Statutes of 2007) authorized the Energy Commission to provide approximately $100 million annually over seven years to encourage new fuels and technologies. Funding comes from such sources as vehicle registrations, vessel registrations, identification plates, and smog abatement fees. The Energy Commission’s first investment plan combined $176 million in funds from fiscal years 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. The second investment plan, for fiscal year 2010-2011, provided $83 million.
Funds from the earlier plans were used to help California entities successfully compete for federal funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Projects leveraged with California’s investment of $36.5 million attracted nearly $105.3 million in ARRA funds and $113.3 million in private funding.
Natural gas, biomethane (renewable natural gas) and hydrogen components of the plan:
- $24.5 million to boost the number of natural gas- and propane-powered vehicles in the state and the fueling stations that support them. Natural gas- and propane-powered vehicles help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality; natural gas and propane prices are also less volatile than petroleum prices.
- $24 million to help develop and produce biofuels such as gasoline and diesel substitutes and renewable natural gas. California possesses a significant volume of waste suitable for creating low-carbon fuels – from ethanol and biodiesel to biomethane made from anaerobically digested biomass.
- $8.5 million to support hydrogen fueling stations and to demonstrate fuel cell technology. Fuel cell vehicles are expected to number in the tens of thousands in California after 2015.
Natural gas technology projects might also qualify for funding under the following sections:
- $8 million to develop and demonstrate technology that will improve the efficiency of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
- $10 million to fund projects that establish commercial-scale clean transportation manufacturing facilities in California.
- $9 million to establish training programs to create a skilled workforce able to manufacture low-emissions vehicles and components, produce alternative fuels, build fueling infrastructure, service and maintain fleets and equipment, and explain the newly emerging transportation market. In addition to training, the program will fund sustainability research, public education and technical assistance programs.
California is working to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, decrease petroleum fuel use to 15 percent below 2003 levels by 2020, and increase alternative fuel use to 20 percent by 2020.
Although medium- and heavy-duty vehicles make up only 4 percent of the state’s transportation mix, they account for 16 percent of the state’s petroleum consumption and its greenhouse gas emissions from transportation.
More information about the Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicle Technology Program is available at the Energy Commission’s DRIVE website.
(This article compiled using information from a Clean Energy Commission press release)