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Central Coast school districts eligible to apply for electric school bus incentive program

School buses sit idle in a bus yard.
Getty Images
School buses sit idle in a bus yard.

Central Coast school districts can now apply to replace diesel school buses with electric ones through an incentive program with Central Coast Community Energy, or 3CE.

Any school district located within the Central Coast Community Energy Service area is eligible to apply. 3CE currently serves about 450,000 electricity customers across 33 communities in Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.

Peter Berridge is the manager of energy communications at 3CE. He said the Electric School Bus Program is meant to provide schools with funding to cover 50 percent of the cost of an electric school bus.

He said reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one of the agency’s main goals.

“Here on the Central Coast, approximately 60 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector," Berridge said. "So, transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.”

Berridge said schools within disadvantaged and income-eligible communities will receive priority funding. Schools have to have a partner to match the funds provided by 3CE to ensure the electric school bus is fully paid for.

“Local air districts can sometimes be contributors," Berridge said. "There are potentially state and federal funds that schools can tap into.”

Berridge said the cost of building electric vehicle infrastructure, like charging stations, can often be a barrier for communities. But, he said, schools can use other incentive funding from 3CE, through the Electrify Your Ride Program, to help cover the cost of electric vehicle charging stations.

Berridge said there are a number of benefits to making the switch to an electric school bus, like cheaper maintenance and fuel costs. He said they also emit less harmful pollutants, contributing to better air quality.

“It’s been proven that cleaner air is linked to increased school attendance, improved academic and physical performance and improved cognitive function,” Berridge said.

Berridge said electric buses also have better driver visibility, a tighter turn radius and wider aisles.

Alisal Union School District in Monterey County is the first district to have received an electric school bus through the program.

3CE funds The Electric School Bus Program and other electrification programs by reinvesting about four percent of its rate payer costs each year.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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