It Takes a Village to Make a Bus, and That’s a Very Good Thing

Earlier this year, the city of Gardena took five of its old, fossil fuel-driven buses off the street, sent them 60 miles away and waited. A few months later and almost like magic, the first of the buses rolled back into town looking brand new and quietly gliding along on a clean energy all-electric power train.

The “magic” was done by workers at the Complete Coach Works (CCW) assembly plant in Riverside. There, the buses were overhauled all the way down to the chassis level. The gasoline-hybrid engines, transmission and associated parts were gutted and replaced with a battery-powered zero-emission propulsion system, new upgraded interiors were installed, and the exteriors were revamped with a modern look and design.


The work was done by CCW’s diverse workforce. The plant takes pride in employing people from various ethnicities and backgrounds. Of its 334 employees, 65 percent are minorities.

“A vast majority of our employees came here with little or no formal training within the transportation industry,” said CCW Sales Manager Ryne Shetterly. “But we have a series of excellent training programs that provided the skills they needed for the workforce we needed.”

Gardena’s bus overhaul is being made possible by a $2.7 million grant from the California Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. The program invests up to $100 million annually for technology to reduce California’s reliance on fossil fuels, curtail greenhouse gas emissions and meet clean air standards.

Gardena’s GTrans public transportation agency is conducting the pilot program to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of converting a few buses before committing its 57-vehicle fleet of gasoline-hybrid buses to run on a variety of alternative fuel sources.

Gardena is an ethnically mixed city with about 62,000 residents, and all of the newly refurbished busses will operate on routes serving economically disadvantaged communities, said GTrans Director Ernie Crespo.

Symposium Highlights EPIC Grant to Bring ZNE to Low-Income Housing Project

The California Energy Commission holds its 2016 EPIC Symposium Dec. 1 and invites you to learn about innovative energy projects including one that aims to turn an existing low-income housing unit into the nation’s first-ever zero net energy (ZNE) retrofit.

Each year, the Energy Commission awards more than $120 million in grants through the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program for innovative projects that bring clean energy ideas to market and that benefit the ratepayers of the three largest electric investor-owned utilities in the state.

Many of those grants support projects designed to improve communities such as a $3 million award to San Jose-based Prospect Silicon Valley earlier this year to demonstrate the nation’s first ZNE retrofit of existing low-income mixed-use housing.

Low-income multi-family housing was selected because it represents a substantial opportunity for energy conservation and consumer savings. But it can also present special challenges including significant labor and capital costs, building conditions and occupant behavior.

Prospect Silicon Valley’s demonstration will be in a building in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Cost-effective windows, advanced LED lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning and systems that provide high performance at a reasonable cost and require minimal adjustment for occupants will be installed. Several design firms and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are collaborating on the project.

For more about this and other projects, attend the 2016 EPIC Symposium Dec. 1 in Sacramento or participate online by registering at the EPIC Eventbrite page. The event is free and open to the public.

California Energy Commission to Host “A Conversation with Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan”

World-renowned climate change expert Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan will speak at the California Energy Commission’s second Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Symposium Dec. 1, at the Sacramento Convention Center.

The symposium highlights cutting-edge advancements in key research and technology topics shaping the future of California’s 21st century electricity system.

Dr. Ramanathan will discuss the recent Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, a two-week climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco, where more than 100 countries representing over 75 percent of global emissions formally joined the Paris Climate Agreement. He will also share his thoughts on the urgency of reducing global warming agents.

Dr. Ramanathan is a professor of atmospheric and climate sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and is the chair of an international science team from Asia, Africa and Latin America under the Atmospheric Brown Clouds Program sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Program.

In 1975, he discovered that chlorofluorocarbons were powerful contributors to the greenhouse effect and was among the first to propose that short-lived climate pollutants should be targeted to reduce climate change.

During his career, he has advised world leaders, including Pope Francis, Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr., and the head of the UN environmental program on climate change and on protecting the poorest populations from its effects. He has been elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and in 2013, the United Nations named him the Champion of the Earth.

Dr. Ramanathan’s talk begins at 12:30 p.m. He will also participate in the symposium’s Thought Leaders Panel Session.

The symposium is free and open to the public. To register visit the EPIC Eventbrite web page. To participate remotely, register through the Eventbrite link or view WebEx directions in the event notice.

Energy Commission Chair Supports U.S. Long-Term Climate Strategy Plan

California Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller expressed support for the United States’ long-term vision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050.

On November 16, the U.S. submitted the Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22) in Marrakesh, Morocco. Canada, Germany and Mexico are the other countries that have submitted strategies.

The U.S. was among the first countries to submit a long-term climate change strategies to the UN as part of the global climate agreement adopted in Paris last year. The Paris Agreement calls for limiting the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius or even 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Under the Paris agreement, the U.S. pledged to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The long-term strategy, which builds upon the existing pledge, states that the U.S. “can meet the growing demands on its energy system and lands while achieving a low-emissions pathway, maintaining a thriving economy, and ensuring a just transition for Americans whose livelihoods are connected to fossil fuel production and use.”

“Making that transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy nationally would mean investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy and zero-emission vehicles, policies that California has adopted to combat climate change,” Weisenmiller said.

On the final day of the Marrakesh climate change conference, California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier Christy Clark issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to climate action.

“Today, as COP22 comes to a close – two weeks after the Paris Agreement came into force – leaders from across the globe have renewed their commitment to climate action. In California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia – from the Mexican border to the edge of the Yukon Territory – we stand with the international community. Our success demonstrates that taking action on climate change goes hand-in-hand with robust job creation and a thriving clean energy economy,” said part of the November 18 statement.

California is a world leader in setting aggressive climate goals, broadening collaboration among subnational leaders and taking action to reduce climate pollutants. State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) led a delegation of California officials who attended COP22.

“California has ambitious climate goals, but only represent 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emission, so it is imperative that we reach out to partners at the subnational and national levels if we have any chance of slowing climate change,” said Weisenmiller.

Last year, California and Baden-Württemberg, Germany formed the Under2 Coalition – an international pact among cities, states and countries to limit the increase in global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius, the level of potentially catastrophic consequences.

With 29 new members added at a signing ceremony at Marrakesh, a total of 165 jurisdictions have joined the coalition representing more than a billion people and $25.7 trillion in combined gross domestic product – more than one-third of the global economy.

This year, Brown signed Senate Bill 32, which requires California reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Last October, he signed SB 350 to double the rate of energy efficiency savings in California buildings and generate half of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Energy Commission Preps for Second EPIC Symposium

Registration is open for the California Energy Commission’s second Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Symposium Dec. 1 in Sacramento.

The symposium will highlight some of the many EPIC-funded research and development projects and will feature panel discussions on research areas supported by EPIC investments. About $120 million in grants are awarded annually through the program for innovative projects that bring clean energy ideas to market and that benefit the ratepayers of California’s three largest electric investor-owned utilities (IOUs).

The event is hosted by the Energy Commission, Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison. It is being held to help researchers, builders, government agencies, innovators and the public engage and learn more about cutting-edge energy strategies that are helping to evolve California’s electricity system.

There will be nine panel discussions and topics will include bringing emerging energy efficiency technologies to low income or disadvantaged communities, overcoming challenges to implementing zero net energy buildings, developing pathways for carbon reductions in the energy sector, creating advanced energy communities, and accelerating the adoption of microgrids and energy storage.

Panelists will include representatives from the Energy Commission, the IOUs, research organizations, and state and federal government. Wall Street Journal reporter Cassandra Sweet will moderate the discussions.

The symposium is free and open to the public. To register, visit the EPIC Eventbrite web page. To participate remotely, register through the Eventbrite link or view WebEx directions in the event notice.

Energy Commission Taking Steps to Support Adoption of Zero-Emission Vehicles in California

Californians are driving an increasing number of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) and the California Energy Commission is strategically locating and funding electric vehicle charging and hydrogen refueling stations to enhance the adoption of ZEVs statewide.

That is according to the latest Tracking Progress report on ZEVs and infrastructure, which provides an update on the Energy Commission’s progress in ZEV infrastructure construction and vehicle deployment.

The state’s transportation system is responsible for 37 percent of California’s greenhouse gases, which is why Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has set a goal of getting 1.5 million ZEVs on the road by 2025. The Energy Commission and other state agencies are working to implement the actions from Governor Brown’s ZEV Action Plan.

The transition to zero-emission vehicles will help California meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals, improve air quality, and reduce petroleum dependence. That transition is taking place through the efforts of state agencies such as the Energy Commission and a number of partners at the local level.

The Energy Commission’s Fuels and Transportation Division administers the Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP), which invests up to $100 million annually in projects that support the advancement of alternative and renewable fuels and advanced vehicle technologies.

As part of its investments in ZEVs, the Energy Commission is funding plug-in electric vehicle charging stations and hydrogen refueling stations.

Some efforts that the Energy Commission has taken include:

  •  To date, the Energy Commission has awarded more than $51 million for more than 8,500 electric vehicle charging connectors. That investment is helping to develop the largest network of electric vehicle charging stations in the nation.

  • The Energy Commission has funded 48 hydrogen stations as part of the initial introduction of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles in the California marketplace. The Energy Commission is working to ensure as many of them as possible are open by 2017. As of mid-November, there were 23 open retail stations.

    Assembly Bill 8 specifies that the ARFVTP allocate up to $20 million per year through January 1, 2024 for hydrogen station development until there are at least 100 stations.

    In April, the Energy Commission released a grant funding opportunity for $33 million to support hydrogen refueling infrastructure. The proposed awards are scheduled to be announced in the first quarter of 2017.

  • The Energy Commission issued two grant funding opportunities to support the deployment of 24 direct current (DC) fast charger corridors to help reduce the existing gaps for battery electric vehicle drivers by supporting charging needs and enabling interregional and interstate travel.

    In April, the Energy Commission approved $8.9 million in grants to fund nine projects on nine corridors. The projects will install DC fast chargers and Level 2 chargers along Interstate 5, State Route 99, and U.S. Highway 101. These DC fast chargers allow battery electric vehicles to charge to about 80 percent capacity in 20 to 30 minutes. Level 2 chargers allow most electric vehicles to go from zero to full charge in four to eight hours.

    The second grant opportunity will allow for expanded interregional travel within California and to the Oregon, Arizona and Nevada borders. In October, the Energy Commission released a notice for proposed awards that recommended funding 21 projects on 15 corridors for $13.9 million. The Energy Commission is scheduled to approve the proposed awards at the December 2016 and January 2017 business meetings.

Climate Change Impacts On Mental Health Key Focus of Workshop

The effects of climate change events such as rising temperatures, fires and floods on populations is a big part of the climate change discussion.

Now some are advocating for the mental health effects of climate change to be added.

That issue was a topic at a recent California Department of Mental Health and California Air Resources Board workshop in Sacramento.

“Most of the focus right now is on preparing for climate change with technical adaptations, or the hardening of physical infrastructure and water systems,” said Bob Doppelt, director of The Resource Innovation Group, a climate change education and research organization affiliated with Willamette University.

“All of that is critical, but what has not been focused on is the human reaction,” Doppelt said.

At the workshop, psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren said the mental health effects of climate change needs to be taken seriously.

The number of days that California is projected to exceed an extreme heat threshold each year between 1950-2099. Source: Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

A growing body of evidence has shown that stress from climate change effects has been correlated with the appearance of mental disorders. One study of residents who lived through Hurricane Andrew showed that between 20 and 30 percent of adults met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at six months and two years after the hurricane.

Van Susteren, who is an advisory board member with the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, cited brain tissue inflammation as an example of how climate change can spur mental health effects. Studies have shown that air pollution can cause such inflammation.

“That inflammation can lead to neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS,” she said.

On days with poor air quality, emergency rooms report a higher number of people with extreme anxiety and for threats to commit suicide, Van Susteren said.

She believes there is clear link between extreme climate and events and an increase in aggressive behavior.

“For each standard deviation of temperature and rainfall you can expect a 4 percent increase in conflict between individuals, and a 14 percent increase in conflict between groups,” Van Susteren said.

The stresses of climate change are more likely to be felt in economically disadvantaged communities. One recent Harvard study found that heat-associated mortality between 1997 and 2006 in the United States was associated with poverty and poor housing quality.

Individuals who live in poverty have a difficult time coping with floods, fires and hurricanes since they have fewer financial resources and cannot readily relocate or evacuate, according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

“You can’t just talk about mental health of the individual without understanding other issues that emerge, such as the indirect and direct traumas produced by toxic stressors produced by climate change,” Doppelt said.

The discussion at the workshop suggested that the mental health impacts of climate change will be an emerging field of study.

“If we don’t get out ahead of this issue then the harmful human reactions to climate change-induced toxic stresses are likely to be as bad, or worse than the physical impacts,” said Doppelt.

The issue needs to be embedded into the larger climate change discussion so that proactive actions can be taken so that communities can cope with the effects, he said.

Groundbreaking Ceremony Celebrating Fast Charging Corridor for Electric Vehicles

A corridor of electric vehicle (EV) fast charging stations that will span from Monterey to Lake Tahoe broke ground this week with a ribbon cutting ceremony in El Dorado Hills.

DRIVETHEARC aims to increase the ease of long-distance EV travel in Northern California while studying EV use and driving patterns through a smartphone app. Installation of the 50 fast chargers is expected to be completed by March 2017, while the project to collect and analyze data will be completed in September 2020.

The project is a joint demonstration effort under an agreement between the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), which is Japan's largest public R&D management organization, and the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development. Project partners include Nissan Motor Co., Nissan North America, Kanematsu Corporation and EVgo.

At a Nov. 14 ribbon cutting ceremony at the DRIVETHEARC station at Raley’s, representatives from project partners and state agencies talked about the corridor’s potential impact in advancing EV adoption in California.

“California is committed to zero-emission vehicles and the infrastructure that enables them. Transitioning to cars with no tailpipe pollution will help California meet our ambitions climate goals and our federal clean air standards,” said California Energy Commissioner Janea A. Scott. “The Energy Commission is pleased to celebrate DRIVETHEARC which demonstrates how multi-stakeholder partnerships can come together - combining expertise, leveraging resources, and creating a shared commitment - to accelerate deployment of the infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of California’s growing electric vehicle fleet.”

NEDO is funding the corridor as part of its mission to improve energy conservation and promote new energy technologies. EVgo is installing fast charging stations at more than 20 locations.

Kanematsu has been collaborating with Nissan and EVgo on the smartphone app, which is designed for the DRIVETHEARC stations and the EVgo stations. The app will provide users with key real-time convenience features such as navigation to charging stations within cruising range and will help reduce charge waiting times with charger vacancy information. Captured driving stats will be available to users, and project partners will analyze and measure charger use patterns to better inform future EV charging projects globally.

Project partners believe that the real-time information for drivers will make EV charging more accessible and expand EV travel distances in Northern California.