EPA Announces Recipients of Clean School Bus Program Rebates

EPA Announces Recipients of Clean School Bus Program Rebates

On May 29, the EPA announced the award recipients for the Clean School Bus Program rebates. In total, the state of Wisconsin received $22.9 million in funding spread across 24 school districts. It’s exciting to see Wisconsin school districts leading the way in the transition to electric school buses, ensuring a cleaner and healthier commute for students across the state.

The Clean School Bus Program is focused on replacing traditional diesel-powered school buses with cleaner ones. This initiative, established under the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), allocates $5 billion over five years for this transition. As of 2024, we’re in the third year of funding.

To be selected for the rebate, school districts are required to fill out a rebate form and are then entered into a lottery. Congratulations to those who received funding from the EPA for this round, we’re looking forward to supporting them as they transition to clean buses.

Here is the full list of Wisconsin award recipients:

  • Alma School District: $345,000
  • Auburndale School District: $200,000
  • Augusta School District: $530,000
  • Beloit School District: $8,705,000
  • Boyceville Community School District: $50,000
  • Elmbrook School District: $200,000
  • Green Lake School District: $200,000
  • Isthmus Montessori Academy Public Agency: $345,000.00
  • Ithaca School District: $25,000
  • Lancaster Community School District: $400,000
  • Marion School District: $420,000
  • Mayville School District: $800,000
  • Menominee Indian School District: $690,000
  • Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District: $200,000
  • Milwaukee School District: $7,465,000
  • Mount Horeb Area School District: $200,000
  • North Crawford School District: $690,000
  • Oneida Nation School: $245,000
  • Oregon School District: $200,000
  • Osseo-Fairchild School District: $200,000
  • Pittsville School District: $690,000
  • Platteville School District: $25,000
  • River Ridge School District: $25,000
  • Sheboygan Area School District: $100,000

To see the full list of recipients, please click on this link to go to the EPA website about the Clean School Bus rebate: Clean School Bus Program Awards.

Wisconsin’s EV Infrastructure Gets a Major Boost

Wisconsin’s EV Infrastructure Gets a Major Boost

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has revealed the locations of the first 53 Level 3, DC-fast charging, electric vehicle (EV) stations across Wisconsin funded through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program. This marks a significant milestone in the state’s journey towards a sustainable transportation future.

The announcement follows the signing of legislation in March — Senate Bill 791 and Senate Bill 792, now 2023 Wisconsin Acts 121 and 122. These laws enabled WisDOT to receive and administer over $78 million in federal NEVI funds allocated to Wisconsin. For these initial projects, $23.3 million was awarded. This funding represents a critical investment in the state’s EV infrastructure.

Private Sector Commitment

The drive towards a sustainable future is also being fueled by Wisconsin-based companies. Industry leaders such as Kwik Trip, Menards, Culver’s, Potawatomi Fire Side Market, and Oneida Casino have demonstrated their commitment to the state’s economic future. Collectively, the private sector’s commitment is a substantial one, totaling $10.5 million. This strong state support underscores that the push for new, robust EV infrastructure is coming from within Wisconsin itself.

This significant investment underscores the value that electric vehicles can bring to Wisconsin’s overall economy. It also highlights the confidence that industry stakeholders have in the future of EV adoption and EV infrastructure in the state.

The public-private partnership showcased in this initiative is evidence of the understanding that reliable charging infrastructure will be a benefit to both residents and businesses across Wisconsin. The EV charging network will support drivers, businesses, tourists, and the overall economy of Wisconsin.

Extensive Coverage Across the State

By ensuring that the first round of funding covers a wide range of locations and communities across Wisconsin WisDOT is doing its part to spread the benefits of this new infrastructure. With the strategic placement of these charging stations throughout the state, residents across the state will no longer question whether they could be stranded without power for their EVs.

One of the significant barriers to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles has been range anxiety—the fear that an EV will run out of power before reaching a charging station, much less one that will recharge a vehicle quickly. The establishment of these 53 fast charging stations is a substantial step towards eliminating both concerns. With a robust network of fast charging stations, drivers can feel confident in making the switch to electric, knowing they will have access to fast, convenient, and reliable charging options.

Electrifying Madison’s Bus Fleet

Electrifying Madison’s Bus Fleet

Within the next 12 months, the City of Madison plans to transition about a third of its 192-bus fleet to all-electric buses, a feat made possible through funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The transition is expected to improve riders’ experiences while maintaining overall services.

The new 60-foot buses, manufactured by New Flyer, boast a range of 152 miles and will be supported by charging station infrastructure installed at the end of each route. Riders can expect a quieter, emission-free ride without an increase in bus fare.

“Ultimately, what we wanted to make sure what happened was that the transition to electric did not impact service quality by limiting range or increasing downtime,” said Justin Stuehrenberg, City of Madison Metro Transit General Manager.

The drivers, the people making sure the buses get where they’re going, will also experience an upgrade in their experience with the buses. While training with the buses, drivers have quickly learned how to handle the additional length of 60-foot buses.

“It just took like two turns for me to get used to it, our brains are thinking this is a 60-foot bus, so I need to turn a little bit different,” said Nicodemus Braxton, Transit Operator and Operator Instructor. “I was really wide in those first two turns. I didn’t have to make the turns that wide, I could just make it like it’s a 40-foot bus. Actually, it turns a little bit better because it’s 30 feet and then 30 feet. You’re really just worried about the first 30 feet.”

Braxton noted that the drivers he has trained all had similar experiences, and many appreciate the upgrades that come with the new buses. Additional features like a quiet ride, brake interlock, and wheelchair securement system, to name a few, will improve the level of comfort and safety for riders and drivers alike.

Nicodemus Braxton on one of the new electric buses.

“The brake interlock is going to be really good for us,” Braxton said. He explained that the interlock, engaged by holding the brake for two seconds, locks the brakes, which will help drivers keep the bus in place on hills and prevent driver fatigue.

The new wheelchair securement system, known as Qstraint, will also make it easier for those using wheelchairs or other mobility devices to safely seat themselves on the bus without much assistance from the driver. This will help to give riders who use such devices more autonomy during their commutes.

Additional enhancements include a more spacious interior, the ability to enter the buses from any of their five doors, and interior bike storage.

These upgrades are all thanks to the $75 million in federal funding the city received through BIL and the FAST Act, which covered about 80% of the cost of the 62 electric buses. More than $48 million of those funds came through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program between 2020-2023. The program makes competitive grants available to states and direct recipients like the City of Madison for the purpose of purchasing, replacing, or rehabilitating buses and bus infrastructure, including changes and innovations focused on low and no-emission vehicles.

“46 of them (buses) are funded through the bus rapid transit project, which is federally funded,” Stuehrenberg said. “It’s an infrastructure project that also includes the buses, and so we were able to leverage the money we already had programmed for bus replacement…”

In 2023, the city was awarded $37.9 million through the Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program, which paid for an additional 16 buses. Those 16 buses are meant to support high ridership routes along the university and campus area and some of the routes out to EPIC Systems in Verona.

These 62 buses were almost completely paid for through grants and will help the city save on fuel costs and, eventually, maintenance costs. The upfront costs of training staff as well as purchasing new tools and parts will cause an initial delay in costs savings from reduced maintenance, but a reduction in oil changes and other service work will ultimately save the city money.

In the meantime, the city continues to capitalize on the available BIL funding and has again applied for a grant in hopes of adding another 15 electric buses to its fleet. Earlier this year the FTA announced the availability of $1.5 billion in funding for the Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program.

Electric buses may eventually be implemented on lower-frequency routes, once expected improvements to electric buse technology arrive on the market. This will allow for buses that can run full routes without the need for on-route charging infrastructure.

“Our hope is that over the next couple years is there will finally be a bus that can get through an entire day’s cycle on a single charge, and we won’t need to build those charging facilities,” Stuehrenberg said. “For now, our expectation is that these 62 will be the extent of what we can do with these high-frequency routes.”

Stuehrenberg noted that the city is considering adding additional hybrid buses to service the low-frequency routes.

Charging Ahead on EV Infrastructure

Charging Ahead on EV Infrastructure

On March 12, 2024, the Wisconsin State Senate passed Bills 791 and 792, allowing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to charge by unit of electricity instead of time spent charging. The bill helps provide clean energy access to all Wisconsinites and is a testament to Wisconsin’s commitment to embracing new, proven clean energy technologies. The new law addresses several critical areas to standardize EV usage and infrastructure deployment for private developers. Let’s dive into some of the key parts.

NEVI Funding Unleashed

The cornerstone of the bill is the activation of National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) funding for “Level 3” fast chargers. This funding, totaling a substantial $78 million of federal dollars for Wisconsin, will be channeled toward the building, operation, and maintenance of fast-charging stations across the state. These fast chargers, capable of significantly reducing charging times for longer trips, are vital for reducing range anxiety. 

Charging All Over the State, Not Just in Cities

NEVI funding also avoids putting the cart before the horse by providing charging stations across the state, along highway routes for the next five years, paying for the cost of the station, the operations, and the maintenance. Check out the map below to see the routes.

Jobs, Training, Reliability & Safety

But the bill doesn’t stop there. It also emphasizes the importance of training, ensuring that those responsible for these chargers are equipped with the skills necessary to maintain their reliability and safety. Chargers must be operable at least 97% of the time to receive the funding. This commitment to training not only boosts job opportunities but also ensures that the infrastructure remains robust and dependable.

Protects Level 1 and Level 2 Chargers

The Legislation clarifies that residential Level 1 and Level 2 chargers are clear of tax and regulation. It also provides regulatory certainty for groups looking to install public level 1 and level 2 chargers to avoid classification as a public utility, clearing up a large regulatory hurdle for EV Charging implementation. This protection ensures that these residential and light commercial chargers have a realistic path forward in Wisconsin. This move is a win for EV owners and businesses alike, fostering a more flexible and user-friendly charging landscape.

Tax and Road Fund

A tax, similar to the gas tax, of 3 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity used for charging will be implemented for public EV chargers. This measure brings EVs in line with gas and diesel cars. Charging by the kWh also ensures customers pay for the amount of fuel received instead of the amount of time spent charging, a policy that favored individuals with more expensive cars. Now, all users will pay a fair price for their power and end the inequity of time-based charging. Unfortunately, EVs are still required to pay $175 for registration, $75 more than fossil fuel cars.

This bill pairs regulatory certainty for charging station owners with equitable locations and rates for EV drivers. The bill also clarifies how and when local governments can own EV charging stations, and does not effectively change the situations of previously existing chargers.


If you have any questions contact our staff attorney, Orrie Walsvik.

Clean Energy Legislative Update • March 2024

Clean Energy Legislative Update • March 2024

As the legislature wraps up for this session, RENEW is celebrating several victories and reflecting on some of the other renewable energy measures being considered by the state legislature.

Big Win for Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

Senate Bill 791, the Electric Vehicle Charging Bill, passed the legislature with several amendments. The legislation exempts private entities that develop charging stations from being regulated as a public utility but allows them to measure the cost of electricity used for charging EVs by the kilowatt hour (kWh). Establishing this new kWh standard to calculate how much electricity is used, rather than how long it takes to charge the vehicle, provides an essential uniform requirement for the industry. It is also required by the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program for Wisconsin to qualify for $78 million dollars in federal funding, an 80% cost share, for level 3 chargers to build corridors for charging. RENEW will be developing a detailed overview of the passed legislation for those interested in more information. The bill received bipartisan support and limited opposition. In other actions related to electric vehicles, the Legislature also passed SB 792, which establishes the infrastructure program and enables the state to utilize the federal NEVI funding. Additionally, with the passage of SB 617, the DOT will issue registration plates or stickers for existing license plates that indicate the vehicle is electric.

Progress on Community Solar

The community solar bill, Assembly Bill 258, did not pass either the Senate or Assembly but did get a hearing in the Assembly Committee on Energy & Utilities. This is a significant development considering the heavy opposition from Wisconsin Utilities. The public hearing was a great opportunity for the benefits of community solar to be shared with state legislators. During the hearing, supporters of community solar were able to answer questions, correct misinformation, and show their unity and strength. Establishing a community solar program for renewable energy generation is essential for those without the option to install panels on their own roofs, or the financing necessary to cover costs. Under the community solar arrangement, the participants subscribe to the developed project and receive a credit on their electric bill for solar electricity generated on panels installed in a community setting. The developer arranges permitting, financing, and installation, as well as maintenance. If passed, the legislation would require approval of the location by local governments and be limited to 5 megawatts or about 26 acres. Each project would also require at least four subscribers. With fierce opposition in some areas to larger utility-scale operations, the community solar model is a better fit.

Other Legislative Wins

There were numerous bills that aimed to limit renewable energy development, including restrictive sitting and increased regulation. They did not pass, and in most cases, did not receive a hearing. These bills ultimately died in committee.

Assembly Joint Resolution 6

Assembly Joint Resolution 6 (AJR6) would give the Wisconsin Legislature control over how federal funds are spent, rather than the Governor, on behalf of the state. Recent examples of federal funds distributed to the states include the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), both have benefited Wisconsin’s clean economy. The Wisconsin constitution directs the Governor, as head of state, to oversee disbursement. In order to change the constitution, identical legislation has to pass the legislature twice in a row and then be considered by state voters. Because it is not regular legislation but a joint resolution of the legislature, the Governor does not have veto power. After the passage, the resolution language will become the referendum during an upcoming election, with the resolution language being the exact question asked. If voters approve the referendum, the state will need to modify the constitution. The consequences of this change can impact many efforts, such as conservation measures, disaster relief funds, higher education, and more. The earliest statewide election when this referendum can be placed on the ballot is the August primary. Efforts are on the way to provide information and educate the voters on the impact the change could have on issues of importance to them.

Plugged in and Powered Up at Palmyra-Eagle Area School District

Plugged in and Powered Up at Palmyra-Eagle Area School District

“About six years ago, this school district was on the verge of dissolving for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Ryan Krohn, district administrator. “When we doubled down our efforts as a board to stay open, we said we’d invest in innovation and sustainable efforts.”

In the fall of 2022, the district applied for the Clean Bus Program Grant through the EPA, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. As they charted their path forward, the leaders of the Palmyra-Eagle Area School District had to shift their thinking about the future, which ultimately led to electric buses.

When the school district learned about the EPA grant, they brought the idea of transitioning to electric buses to the school board. Together, district leaders and the board looked at how this change aligned with their goals of safe, healthy, and effective schools.

“We knew it was going to require new thinking, new experiences, and ultimately, we looked at this as a starting spot to transform our system,” Krohn said.

When considering the transition to electric school buses, the district looked at efficiencies that would be gained, not only in terms of the costs from fuel savings but also in terms of health, safety, and the environment. Addressing these aspects required the district to strengthen and build new partnerships with key stakeholders. This included energy utilities, local police, the transportation company they work with, and many other partners. Thanks to the support they received in return, they became the first school district in Wisconsin to start using electric buses to transport their students.

“There’s no way our school district, being led by someone like myself, was going to be able to be able to pull this off (alone),” Krohn said .”My background is not in this.”

The district was ultimately awarded $2 million dollars, enough for six electric school buses. Since receiving the buses, Ryan has been participating in webinars and other events to share the story of Palymra-Eagle’s journey. That journey and the connections they made along the way have led to the district leaders altering how they look at their 10-year capital plan. It has also led to greater engagement with the community.

“Our recent efforts, just because of this, ended up in our community donating money for a new greenhouse,” Krohn said. “We have a strong agricultural program in our school district.”

Both the electric school buses and this new greenhouse serve as educational tools for the students of the Palymra-Eagle School district. As Dr. Krohn said, it also empowers their students and engages them in thinking about the shifts that need to happen for our energy future.