Highland will serve as the preferred provider of fleet-electrification-as-a-service for Illinois...

Highland will serve as the preferred provider of fleet-electrification-as-a-service for Illinois districts making the switch to EV buses.

Photo: Highland Electric Fleets

The Illinois Energy Consortium Powered by Future Green and Massachusetts-based Highland Electric Fleets have partnered to provide a comprehensive solution to fleet electrification, management, and renewable energy infrastructure integration for Illinois school districts.

The partnership is expected to help districts across the state transform their operations while mitigating the risks associated with school bus fleet electrification.

The partnership leverages the IEC-FG's expertise in traditional energy solutions, renewable energy production, and procurement. In most cases, school districts will be able to package the installation of onsite solar, charging infrastructure, and electric school buses with little to no upfront costs. Highland and the IEC-FG, in conjunction with utility providers, will help districts optimize their beneficial electrification plans. As organizations that work with all OEMs, IEC-FG and Highland plan to deliver preferred pricing from all manufacturers and support districts in deploying the technologies they want. The partnership will promote buses that deliver full vehicle-to-grid capabilities, including the ability for districts to generate revenue by selling excess energy back into the grid during peak demand hours.

"If you didn't care about electric school buses, or thought they were unaffordable, think again," said James Rajiah, Highland regional business manager. "We're excited to partner with Illinois districts like Hardin County CUSD #1 and now with IEC-FG to show that upgrading to electric school buses can be both simple and affordable. And with V2G programs, the buses become active members of the community that support grid reliability and resiliency."

"Parents, teachers, administrators and students all recognize the benefits of switching to electric buses and mitigating the harmful effects of diesel fuel emissions," said Thomas Bertrand, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards. "This partnership accelerates that transition and puts many more districts in the driver's seat and enables them to control their energy future and save money while doing so."

This initiative, with Highland as the IEC-FG's preferred provider of fleet-electrification-as-a-service, cuts through the noise around energy solutions and fleet electrification to make it easier and faster for Illinois school districts to transition to cleaner technologies. It also should guarantee Illinois school districts savings on their traditional energy bills, solar, storage, school buses, chargers, training, maintenance, and fleet management.

"We were fortunate enough to win funding for seven new electric school buses and their associated charging infrastructure from the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean School Bus rebate program, which just closed its first round of funding. The buses will be fueled by energy from a rooftop solar array engineered by the IEC Powered by Future Green team," said Tim Farquer, superintendent of Williamsfield Schools and administrative lead of the Bus-2-Grid Initiative. "With onsite solar production and full fleet electrification, we anticipate a 60% reduction in energy costs. These buses are a key part of our overall energy savings and emissions reduction strategy. We couldn't be more thrilled with the prospect of implementing a microgrid solution at our district that integrates all forms of renewable energy solutions including solar, storage, and electric school buses."

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