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With the help of federal funding, these Virginia school districts could get electric buses

Chesapeake Electric School Bus.jpg
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jul 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 18:31:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- More than 80 different school districts across the Commonwealth are listed as "priority" funding recipients for the Environmental Protection Agency's 2022 Clean School Bus Rebate Program. 

This year's $500 million rebate program is said to cover the purchase of electric school buses and related charging infrastructure, paying about $375,000 per bus. The program also provides about $20,000 in charging infrastructure.

Qualifying priority schools must serve high percentages of children below the poverty line or are in more rural areas.

Goochland County Public Schools is considered a priority recipient.

Rosa Holman, the school district's Director of Transportation, said the district will apply for three new electric buses.

“We are going to go ahead and apply for three because we do want to keep our partnership with Dominion Energy and they require three, in order for us to continue the partnership in doing the infrastructure with them," Holman said.

Dominion Energy helps cover additional costs for charging infrastructure, pledging to cover the maintenance of the charger for 15 years and 50% of the cost of the battery warranty.

"What comes after that, if you are awarded an electric school bus, is the other pieces of the puzzle. So, planning for your charging stations, paying for your charging stations so any cost delta there, permitting, construction, engineering, so all of the work that goes into getting the school bus site ready before those buses arrive," said Kate Staples, Dominion Energy's Director of Electrification. "Not only do we try to help with funding, but we also try to help these school districts with the complexities of getting that infrastructure installed. So, we will install it and maintain it for them."

Some of the looming additional costs may be a deterrent for some school districts.

Hopewell City Public Schools told CBS6: "While it is something that obviously can be helpful if awarded, it does not fully cover what would be required, so there would be substantial costs associated with moving in that direction."

Rappahannock Electric Cooperative is also working with school districts in their service areas to answer funding questions and provide insight on what costs are covered, offering additional funding for charging infrastructure costs.

REC said so far, it does not know of any school district in its service area that has applied for funding.

“A lot of our school districts have reached out to us expressing an interest," said Casey Hollins with REC. “I think the challenge is, it may be out of alignment with the school budget so they may have already dedicated funding, or they’re using the funding, or it just comes at an odd time of year when they’re focused on other things.”

Hollins said schools that are not listed as priority funding recipients can still apply for funding for electric buses and charging stations.

For example, Chesterfield County Public Schools is not listed as a priority school but told CBS6 its transportation department is in talks to see if funding is within the district's needs.

Caroline County, which is in REC's service area, said it had not yet determined if the district would be responding to the funding opportunity.

Staples said Dominion has not been contacted directly from school districts regarding their application status but said about a dozen schools expressed interest at an information webinar on the topic earlier this month.

“We anticipate that school districts when they apply in the middle of August, they will start telling us. We haven’t received applications to date yet either, but that’s just because applications aren’t due for the rebate until next month," Staples said.

The first round of applications is due on August 19.

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