Co-ops lead national electric bus initiative - Great River Energy

Co-ops lead national electric bus initiative

Electric cooperatives are spearheading a new initiative to accelerate the deployment of electric school buses (ESBs) across the country.

This coalition was launched with the Beneficial Electrification League (BEL) in advance of the disbursement of federal funds targeted to ESBs included in the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act passed by Congress in 2021.

Great River Energy partnered with member-owner cooperative Dakota Electric Association and Schmitty & Sons in 2017 to bring an electric school bus into service at a Minnesota school district.

The effort brings together cooperative organizations representing more than 300 local utilities from more than 20 states with the goal of facilitating coordination between utilities and school districts on ESB programs. Many of these cooperatives serve rural school districts where 15% or more of the student population lives below the poverty line.

“The aim of this program is straightforward: No school district or utility should miss out on that opportunity simply because they lack access to information or resources to participate in this valuable federal program,” said Keith Dennis, president of BEL.

Great River Energy, one of the generation and transmission cooperatives in the coalition, partnered with member-owner Dakota Electric Association and Schmitty & Sons in 2017 to bring an ESB into service at a Minnesota school district. The program was designed to study the economic and emissions benefits an ESB can provide, demonstrate battery electric technology in a cold-weather climate, and exhibit its performance on suburban and rural routes.

“Our pilot battery electric school bus project has been successful and is beloved by the driver, students, transportation provider, and community,” said David Ranallo, Great River Energy’s director of culture, communications, marketing and member services. “We are eager and ready to join the nationwide cooperative network to make this project replicable and equally successful for students everywhere.”

The Minnesota Rural Electric Association, the statewide organization for electric cooperatives, and Dakota Electric Association are partners in the coalition as well.

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