The new report is a joint effort by Exelon and several school fleet electrification advocacy organizations.  -  Image: Canva

The new report is a joint effort by Exelon and several school fleet electrification advocacy organizations.

Image: Canva

Replacing all diesel school buses with new electric vehicles would avoid about 9 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, and funding opportunities like the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program provide motivation to accelerate the fleet’s electrification.

A new report developed by Exelon in partnership with CALSTART, EPRI, Clean Energy Works, World Resources Institute, and Edison Electric Institute, offers a guide for public utility commissions, policymakers, and school bus operators hoping to reduce common barriers to adoption and aim for an equitable transition.

The Promise of Fleet Electrification

“School bus electrification has the potential to transform the energy grid by providing stability, capacity and emergency power when needed, but most importantly, this change will transform the lives of the students we serve as well,” said Sunny Elebua, Exelon's chief strategy and sustainability officer. “At Exelon, we are committed to sustainable progress, particularly in communities where there are marked disparities such as air quality. We are proud of this study and the opportunity to address disparities and foster healthier communities.”

About 25 million American children rely on school bus travel for safe transportation to and from school, accounting for billions of miles traveled each year.

Efforts to reduce diesel exhaust from older diesel engines can offer health solutions and reduce harmful emissions – particularly in under-resourced communities that are most affected. Almost 95% of school buses, carrying 55% of all students, run on diesel.

On average, 60% of low-income students ride the bus each day, compare to 45% of students in other income brackets. Black students and children with disabilities also rely more on diesel buses.

Making an Equitable Shift in the School Transportation Fleet

"School bus electrification must scale up quickly and comprehensively to ensure an equitable transition and equal access to zero-emission technologies if we want to both address climate change and also create opportunities for jobs in the zero-emission sector,” said Jared Schnader, senior director and bus initiative lead at CALSTART. "Zooming in on the critical role of electric utilities, as well as clarifying the interactions school districts and operators will need to have with their utilities, will enable this transformation to unfold swiftly and cost-efficiently."

“Electric school buses provide many benefits to the utility as well as the community. But without carefully considering how to operationalize equity, these benefits run the risk of being unevenly distributed,” said Margarita Parra, director of transportation decarbonization at Clean Energy Works. “Equity can serve as a pathway for utilities to be more efficient and effective in achieving their business and energy management goals, while addressing inequities and improving the quality of life for students, teachers, bus drivers, and the local community.”

“EEI and our member electric companies are committed to delivering resilient clean energy across our economy, and we are excited about all of the work underway to use that energy to reduce emissions from the transportation sector,” said EEI Senior Director of Electric Transportation Kellen Schefter.

“Contributing to this project highlights EPRI’s core mission to benefit society,” said David Porter, vice president of electrification and sustainable energy strategy, EPRI. “It not only advances the clean energy transition, but also benefits the millions of children and local residents impacted by cleaner transportation to and from school.”

“The importance of robust engagement by electric utilities in this transition cannot be overstated,” said Sue Gander, director of the WRI’s Electric School Bus Initiative. “This new whitepaper describes the electric power sector’s unique and critical role in school bus electrification. We look forward to supporting utilities in bringing these recommendations to life – to unlock health, environmental, economic, and grid benefits for communities, starting with underserved communities that experience the worst impacts of vehicle pollution today.”

 

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