Wisconsin school buses are going electric!

Wisconsin school buses are going electric!

The new fleet will ensure cleaner air and protect children’s health.

This month, the Biden-Harris Administration announced nearly $1 billion in Clean School Bus Rebate Awards for 389 school districts in the country. Wisconsin School districts will receive $25.6 million to replace 65 diesel school buses with new electric school buses. Electric buses can run on renewable energy from solar and wind farms – instead of imported diesel fuel – resulting in zero emissions and lower energy costs. The $25.6 million award represents a significant milestone for Wisconsin and puts the state on a path to cleaner, healthier, and more affordable transportation.

The new zero-emission school buses must be in service by October 2024 and will save Wisconsin School Districts more than $11 million in fuel and maintenance costs over the life of the buses. In addition to the cost savings, zero-emission buses provide the following benefits:

  • Cleaner air by eliminating school bus exhaust, which is linked to asthma.
  • Reduced health risks, especially for children whose lungs are still developing.
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.
  • Grid resilience. Using bidirectional chargers, school buses can store energy for distribution to the grid when needed.

Zero-emission vehicles are a proven technology in the United States, where electric buses have been operating successfully in Michigan, Minnesota, and Alaska. Wisconsin’s first sixty-five electric school buses will serve fifteen rural school districts in Buffalo, Clark, Dodge, Eau Claire, Jackson, Jefferson, Marathon, Marinette, Oneida, Pepin, Sheboygan, Vilas, Waushara, and Winnebago counties. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded funds through a lottery that prioritized applications from low-income, rural, tribal, and high-needs school districts. Nearly 200 Wisconsin school districts were on the priority list.

Here is the list of school districts that will receive new electric school buses:

EPA 2022 Clean School Bus Rebates Awards for zero-emission buses – Wisconsin
School District Name Total Number of
Buses Requested
Total Rebate
Amount Awarded
Augusta School District 3 $1,185,000.00
Coleman School District 2 $790,000.00
Edgar School District 1 $395,000.00
Granton Area School District 5 $1,885,000.00
Lac du Flambeau #1 School District 10 $3,950,000.00
Lakeland UHS School District 10 $3,950,000.00
Lomira School District 4 $1,580,000.00
Melrose-Mindoro School District 1 $395,000.00
Minocqua J1 School District 12 $4,740,000.00
Mondovi School District 5 $1,975,000.00
Palmyra-Eagle Area School District 6 $2,370,000.00
Pepin Area School District 1 $395,000.00
Random Lake School District 1 $395,000.00
Wild Rose School District 2 $790,000.00
Winter School District 2 $790,000.00

 

The $1 billion School Bus Rebate Awards are the first round of funding from the $5 billion Clean School Bus Program of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) signed by President Biden last November. More funding opportunities for additional clean school buses will be announced in the future. Subscribe to RENEW’s Newsletter to stay updated on the Clean School Bus Program.

 

The Energy Future of Wisconsin is Bright: RENEW Staff Joined President Biden to Celebrate Inflation Reduction Act

The Energy Future of Wisconsin is Bright: RENEW Staff Joined President Biden to Celebrate Inflation Reduction Act

With an invitation extended by Governor Tony Evers, RENEW’s Interim Executive Director, Jessica Niekrasz, and Emerging Technology Director, Francisco Sayu, joined President Biden, his cabinet, and lawmakers at the White House on Tuesday, September 13, to celebrate the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

The celebration – including a surprise appearance by James and Kim Taylor – was a stunning reminder of our collective power to accomplish “big things” when we work together. “Today offers proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright, and the promise of America is real,” Biden said during his speech on the South Lawn.

RENEW applauds the Biden administration for signing the IRA – the most significant climate legislation ever passed in the U.S. The IRA includes $369 billion to help families save money on energy, improve quality of life, create stable jobs, and fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions.  

RENEW is dedicated to building a stronger, healthier, more vibrant Wisconsin through the advancement of renewable energy. The clean energy investments in the IRA will boost renewable energy and beneficial electrification in Wisconsin, limiting our dependence on imported gas and petroleum. This market transformation is needed to begin transitioning our economy away from fossil fuels that bleed our state’s economy by $14 billion yearly.

Wisconsin Families that take advantage of the clean energy incentives and electric vehicle tax credits in the IRA could save more than $1,000 per year. Here are some of the benefits available to Wisconsin residents:

  • Up to $14,000 in direct consumer rebates for families to buy heat pumps or other energy-efficient home appliances, saving families at least $350 per year.
  • 30% tax credit to install rooftop solar systems, saving families $9,000 over the system’s life or at least $300 per year.
  • Up to $7,500 in tax credits for new electric vehicles and $4,000 for used electric vehicles, helping families save $950 per year.

The clean energy investments in the IRA support the Governor’s climate goals, as outlined in Wisconsin’s Clean Energy Plan. These investments will help power homes, businesses, and communities with homegrown renewable energy, improve health outcomes, and create stable jobs for residents of Wisconsin. 

RENEW was honored to be at the White House representing the great state of Wisconsin and thanks Governor Tony Evers for this incredible opportunity.  Inclusion at this historic celebration is a testament to the incredible work the RENEW team has been doing for over thirty years. We look forward to helping our state take advantage of the opportunities offered by the IRA, and will continue to support access to clean energy for families, businesses, and communities in Wisconsin. 

Inflation Reduction Act Breakdown

Inflation Reduction Act Breakdown

The world of clean energy received a monumental win earlier this month with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will be the backbone of the United States’ effort to decarbonize our energy sector, spur clean energy implementation across all demographics, and significantly grow the clean energy economy.

Here is a breakdown of the bill’s elements:

Renewable Energy Generation

Investment Tax Credits

  • Residential Solar: 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) on project costs until the end of 2032, with a step-down of 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034. Credits are retroactive for residential installations from 1/1/2022, meaning that homeowners who installed a solar array at any point in 2022 will qualify for the 30% ITC.
  • Commercial Solar: 30% ITC on project costs until the end of 2024 (ITC on commercial solar is also retroactive to 1/1/2022). Beginning in 2025, the ITC will be replaced by technology-neutral credits, with the following rules in place:
    • 6% base credit; bonus credits up to 30% of costs if the project meets union labor, prevailing wage, and apprenticeship requirements. These requirements do not apply to projects less than 1 megawatt (MW) in size.
    • 10% bonus credits if the project meets domestic content requirements.
    • 10% bonus credits if the project is sited in an “energy community” – a brownfield site or a community with a recent coal plant closure.
    • 10% bonus credits if the project is sited in a low-income community. This only applies to projects that are 5 MW and less.
    • 20% bonus credits if the project qualifies as directly serving a low-income residential facility or another economic benefit system.
    • Interconnection costs -for projects less than 5 MW- with the utility can be included in the credits.

Production Tax Credits

While the Investment Tax Credit applies to the upfront purchase of parts, materials, and labor, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) functions differently. This credit is a direct payment and applies to the production or output of the generation source. This generation source can be solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower, to name a few. These credits are also retroactive from 1/1/2022.

Here is how the PTC breaks down:

  • Direct pay value: $0.026 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) starting in 2022; rate rises with inflation.
  • Bonus credit of 1.5 cents/kWh if union labor, prevailing wage, and apprenticeship requirements are met.
  • 10% bonus credits if domestic content requirements are met.
  • 10% bonus credits if the project is sited in an “energy community” – a brownfield site or a community with a recent coal plant closure.
  • The PTC is available for nonprofits, state and local governments, rural electric cooperatives, tribal governments, and/or other tax-exempt entities. These organizations previously did not qualify for the ITC.
  • PTC will also apply to utility-scale projects.
  • Credits are available for ten years after the project is placed into service.
  • Direct pay/PTC is not available for residential solar installations.
  • PTC is transferable after 2022; however not for individual taxpayers.
  • Commercial solar projects can choose either the ITC or the PTC.

 


Electric Vehicles

New EVs: (Effective 8/16/2022)

  • $7,500 tax credit to be divided into two separate credits:
    • $3,750 credit for electric vehicles with batteries produced in North America.
    • $3,750 credit for electric vehicles using a certain percentage of critical battery minerals extracted or processed in the U.S.
    • Vehicles meeting only one requirement will only be eligible for a $3,750 credit.
  • Vehicles must cost less than:
    • Vans < $80,000
    • Pickups and SUVs < $80,000
    • Cars < $55,000
  • Income requirements:
    • Joint tax return < $300,000
    • Head of household < $225,000
    • Single-payer < $150,000
  • Credit will eliminate the limit of 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer.

Commercial Clean Vehicles: (Effective 01/01/23)

  • Up to $40,000 tax credit for commercial electric vehicles.

Used EVs: (Effective 01/01/2023)

  • $4,000 tax credit or 30% of the vehicle’s sale price.
  • The vehicle’s model year must be at least two years older than the current “new” model year.
  • Vehicle cost must be less than $25,000.
  • Income requirements:
    • Joint tax return <$150,000
    • Head of household <$112,300
    • Single-payer <$75,000
  • Used EV tax credits will continue until the end of 2032.

EV-Charging:

  • Credits for EV-charging equipment and infrastructure will increase up to $100,000.
  • Equipment must be located in a qualified census tract, with similar bonus credits if prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements are met.
  • A direct pay or PTC option is available for charging with transferrable credits.
  • Credits will be available until 2032.

 


Battery Storage

Effective as of 1/1/2023

  • 30% ITC for the cost of installation; credits last until 2033. To qualify, batteries must be larger than 3kWh for residential installations and larger than 5kWh for commercial installations.
  • Commercial battery credits have similar sliding scales as other ITC items: baseline of 6% with increasing credits for prevailing wage, labor, location, etc.
  • Battery storage systems will no longer need to be coupled with solar generation systems to qualify for tax credits.

Energy Efficiency and Electrification

Effective as of 1/1/2023

Federal Tax Credit

  • Heat Pumps: 30% of costs, up to $2,000
  • Electric Upgrades: 50% of costs, up to $1,200/year
Upfront Discounts
  • Incentive levels and eligibility are determined by income
  • Heat Pumps: rebates for up to $8,000
  • Electric Upgrades: up to $4,000 for breaker boxes/electric service; $2,500 for wiring, and $1,600 for insulation/venting/sealing

 


Manufacturing and Production

Effective as of 1/1/2023

  • $30 billion in PTC to manufacture solar panels, trackers, inverters, wind turbines, batteries, and other critical minerals.
    • Solar PV cells – $0.04/watt
    • Solar-grade polysilicon – $3/kg
    • Solar modules – $0.07/watt
    • Wind components – 10% of the sales price
    • Battery cells – $35/kWh
    • Critical minerals – 10% of the cost of production
  • $10 billion in ITC funding for building new facilities to manufacture clean energy products; $4 billion of these funds must be allocated to “energy communities.”
  • $500M for manufacturing heat pumps and processing of critical minerals necessary for heat pump production.

Other Items

  • Carbon Sequestration Credits (ITC or PTC) for facilities that begin construction before 2033 and provide direct air capture of carbon dioxide. Credits will be issued by a metric ton of carbon capture.
  • Clean Hydrogen – credits for production -by unit- of green and blue hydrogen that can be used to offset traditionally carbon-based fuels.
  • Sustainable Aviation Fuel – credits for SAF produced by unit (gallon) with increasing credits based on a percentage of greenhouse gas reduction.
  • Biodiesel/Alternative Fuels – production credits for fuels produced based on life-cycle emission levels.
  • Methane Fees – fees imposed by EPA for facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of CO2 annually.

Additional Provisions

  • $500 million for the Defense Production Act, some of which could be used for solar manufacturing.
  • Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund totaling $29 billion overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Climate Pollution Reduction Grants to state and local governments totaling $5 billion.
  • Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants: $3 billion for disadvantaged communities.
  • $2 billion in loan authority for new transmission construction in designated national interest corridors.
  • $760 million for the Department of Energy to issue grants to state, local or tribal entities to facilitate siting of high-voltage interstate transmission.
  • Additional $1 billion for rural renewable energy electrification loans and expansion of the program to include storage.
  • Additional $1 billion for Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), with total grants limited to 50% of the total cost of an eligible project.
  • $9.6 billion for loans and financing for rural co-ops to purchase renewable energy, generation, zero-emission systems, and related transmission, limited to 25% of total cost.
  • Incentives for build-out of electric vehicle charging networks.
  • Extension, expansion, and changes to electric vehicle tax credits, including a new credit for purchasing used EVs.

Conclusion

Much of the implementation and administration of the Inflation Reduction Act is still not understood. This document is meant to summarize the items in the bill that RENEW Wisconsin considers particularly important to the clean energy transition in our state.

For additional information, please utilize the following resources:

Please contact Sam Dunaiski (sam@renewwisconsin.org) with questions.

Leveraging Focus on Energy® to Fight Soaring Energy Costs

Leveraging Focus on Energy® to Fight Soaring Energy Costs

Last month, I joined the Citizens Utility Board of Wisconsin in a virtual discussion about energy costs in the state. I discussed strategies to address rising energy costs during the panel, including energy efficiency and beneficial electrification. The panel focused on real-world actions residents can take to reduce their energy burden. You can watch the webinar replay by clicking on this link. Now, I want to talk about the resources we have to support individual efforts to fight soaring energy costs through energy efficiency. In particular, I want to talk about the Focus on Energy® Program. (Focus).

What do I mean by energy efficiency, and why should you care? Energy efficiency is the use of less energy to produce the same result. For example, a light-emitting diode (LED) lightbulb produces the same amount of light as an incandescent lightbulb using only 15 percent of the energy needed for the incandescent light because LED lights waste less energy in the form of heat. Energy efficiency is important because less energy saves you money on utility bills.

Most homeowners, renters, and businesses in Wisconsin can access resources – such as free Energy Saving Packs – and financial incentives to improve the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses through the Focus program. Focus is Wisconsin’s energy efficiency and renewable resource program that operates on behalf of 107 utilities. Since 2001 the program has saved Wisconsin residents over $1 billion.

Last spring, the Public Service Commission (PSC) made decisions regarding the overall policies and priorities for the next phase of the Focus program. Wisconsin law requires the PSC to review energy efficiency and renewable energy programs every four years. You can read the minutes of the PSC meeting here

 In summary, the PSC provided the following directions for the next four years (period from 2023 to 2026):

  • Focus should play a more significant role in cost-effectively reducing carbon emissions. The next four years should serve as a transitional period during which the program continues emphasizing energy savings while progressing toward a transition to a greater emphasis on reducing carbon emissions.
  • Focus shall not claim savings from fuel switching from unregulated fuels to electricity.
  • Focus shall use the next four years as a transitional period to position the program to take on a more significant role in promoting beneficial electrification statewide. 
  • Focus shall develop and maintain a menu of options for voluntary utility programs to be shared with participating utilities.
  • Focus shall maintain its current level of support for utility demand response programs.
  • The Focus program should continue to offer income-qualified programs and coordinate with the Department of Energy weatherization program to further fill potential gaps in its low-income offerings, including community-based pilot(s) in targeted communities. The Focus Program Administrator shall convene a stakeholder group that includes community-based organizations that work with marginalized communities to address barriers to outreach and participation.

RENEW submitted comments to the PSC supporting the alignment of Focus with emissions reduction goals to lower the state’s dependence on imported fuels and support renewable energy development. You can read RENEWS’s comments on the Focus Quadrennial Planning Process here.

I will write in the future about resources to help you save money through beneficial electrification. Stay tuned! 

RENEW Wisconsin Statement on the Inflation Reduction Act Approved  by the House of Representatives

RENEW Wisconsin Statement on the Inflation Reduction Act Approved by the House of Representatives

After decades of inaction punctuated by occasional half-measures, Congress has passed monumental legislation committing the nation to pursue a clean energy transformation that will benefit all sectors of American society. 

The enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act, which cleared the House of Representatives  today, will signal to the rest of the world that the United States is “all in” on decarbonizing the  domestic economy while greatly expanding investment and career opportunities in the clean energy arena. 

Specifically, this legislation represents a 10-year commitment to scaling up the deployment of clean energy technologies, electric vehicles, and electrified heating and cooling systems produced and delivered by U.S. companies.  

With its emphasis on strengthening America’s productive capacity and workforce to deliver  clean energy to our fellow citizens, this legislation is genuinely an industrial-strength response to the climate emergency enveloping our planet. 

We at RENEW look forward to working collaboratively with federal and state agencies,  businesses, farmers, local governments, and schools to help deliver the benefits of the clean  energy transformation to every Wisconsinite.

Apply now for a Clean School Bus in your Community: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) School Bus Rebates

Apply now for a Clean School Bus in your Community: the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) School Bus Rebates

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), was signed last November. It provides $5 billion to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission (ZE) school buses. This funding administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can benefit school districts in Wisconsin by providing up to 100% of the cost of electric school buses, reducing transportation costs by 60%, and improving air quality throughout Wisconsin communities.

Why Clean School Buses? 

School buses collectively travel over three billion miles each year, providing the safest transportation to and from school for more than 25 million American children every day. Exhaust from these buses harms human health, especially for children who have faster breathing rates than adults and whose lungs are not yet fully developed. The Clean School Bus Rebates (CSB Rebates) will fund the replacement of existing diesel and gas-powered buses with cleaner buses that result in better air quality, bus loading areas, and the community in general.

Cleaner buses such as those powered with electricity (electric buses) get the equivalent of 17 miles per gallon (MPG) compared to 6 MPG for diesel buses, providing average fuel and maintenance savings of $170,000 across the lifecycle of the bus. Wisconsin’s electric grid is increasingly powered by renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Transitioning away from diesel and gasoline to local – homegrown energy – will reduce air pollution and strengthen local economies.

2022 Clean School Bus Rebates Overview

The first $500 million of the Clean School Bus Program will be awarded as lottery rebates. The lottery will prioritize applications from low-income, rural, tribal, and/or high-needs school districts. Nearly 200 Wisconsin school districts are on the priority list. School Districts can receive up to $375,000 rebate per school bus (up to 25 buses per district) and $20,000 for EV chargers. The deadline to apply for this year’s rebate program is August 19, 2022.

Important Dates

Activity Date
Online application. Submissions here May 20, August 19, 2022
EPA reviews applications and begins the selection process September 2022
EPA notifies applicants of selection and posts selectees online. Selectees can proceed with purchasing new buses and eligible infrastructure. October 2022
Selectees submit Payment Request Forms with purchase orders  October 2022 – April 2023
Deadline to receive new buses, install EV chargers, replace old buses, and submit final documentation. October 2024

Eligible Applicants

The following entities are eligible to apply for EPA school bus rebates:

  • State and local governmental entities provide bus services, such as public school districts, including charter schools, with an NCES District ID.
  • Eligible contractors such as for-profit or nonprofit entities that can sell or finance clean or ZE school buses or related charging infrastructure to school bus owners.
  • Nonprofit school transportation associations
  • Indian tribes, tribal organizations, or tribally controlled schools are responsible for purchasing school buses or providing school bus service for a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) funded school.

To be eligible for replacement, old school buses must:

  • Have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,001 lbs. or more
  • Be operational at the time of application submission – Able to start, move in all directions, and have all operational parts
  • Have provided bus service to a public school district for at least three days/week on average during the 2021/2022 school year at the time of applying, excluding COVID-related school closures
  • If selected for replacement, a fleet can either:
    • Scrap 2010 or older internal combustion engine buses; or
    • Scrap, sell or donate 2011 or newer internal combustion engine buses.

Eligible replacement buses must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a battery-electric, CNG, or propane drivetrain
  • Be EPA certified vehicle model year 2021 or newer
  • Have a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 10,001 lbs. or more
  • Not be ordered before receiving official notification of selection for EPA funding
  • Be purchased, not leased or leased-to-own
  • Serve the school district listed on the application for at least five years from delivery.

For questions about eligibility, please contact cleanschoolbus@epa.gov.  

Selection Process and Prioritization

The Clean School Bus Program prioritizes high-need school districts. Applicants that serve a prioritized school district will be offered more funding per bus and receive preference in the selection process. 

Here is a list of prioritized school districts in Wisconsin. 

Schools may also contact Francisco Sayu, Emerging Technologies Director RENEW Wisconsin at francisco@renewwisconsin.org, for more information.