- Published: 31 August 2023
EVs drive urban resilience: harnessing cross-government strategy and funding for sustainable transformation.
As the effects of climate change become more apparent, cities and counties across the U.S. are turning to electric vehicles (EVs) to build more sustainable and resilient urban environments. The stage is set for a transformation, with the United States now allocating over $5 billion in grants for EV infrastructure.
As EV adoption ramps up, local leaders are finding the most success by taking a “whole-of-government” approach to planning and integration. Often lead by newly emerging office of sustainability departments, this coordinated strategy creates more effective project governance by leveraging cross-departmental expertise, reducing redundancies and integrating energy resilience into all decision-making.
Here's a look at the benefits cities across the country are seeing from EV implementation, and how cross-departmental coordination is leading to more sustainable and efficient urban infrastructure.
TACKLING THE EV TRANSITION WITH A 'WHOLE-OF-GOVERNMENT' APPROACH
Successfully integrating EVs into city infrastructure and government fleets will come with unique challenges for each locality. More and more frequently, sustainability officers are tackling these issues via a comprehensive master planning approach. This entails convening representatives from various city functions — including public safety, city planning, transportation and city hall — to collaborate and combine resources. This is what is referred to as a “whole-of-government” approach.
Common considerations that benefit from collaborative master planning include:
- Energy resources – Transitioning to EVs means assessing local grid capacity, as well as the source of electricity used for charging. Governments should ideally opt for distributed renewable energy sources and consider the potential of microgrids to bolster grid resilience.
- Local buy-in – Government staff, and the public at large, should be educated on EV technology well in advance of new installations. City leaders should plan to formally train key staff and host public informational events to build community buy-in, making the process of transitioning to EVs smoother.
- Equitable access – To ensure that more citizens can benefit from EV adoption, local government should ensure that new investments are well dispersed throughout their communities to ensure equitable access to modern infrastructure.
- Economic development – Local governments should take places where people are already using electric vehicles into account and consider how placement of charging stations can be used to help boost economic development.
- Strategic project funding – A huge amount of state and federal funding is available to support local governments as they modernize their infrastructure and transition to EVs. Start thinking about funding during the planning phase, so that projects are designed in ways that maximize funding eligibility.
Engaging with a wide range of stakeholders will help local governments to anticipate and address potential concerns. This coordinated approach maximizes the benefits while minimizing the drawbacks, resulting in truly sustainable (and inclusive) EV rollouts.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS BENEFIT FROM EV ADOPTION: U.S. SUCCESS STORIES
- The Future of Mass Transit - Montgomery County, Md.
More and more local governments are transitioning to EVs for cost stability improvements in their mass transit, public safety and sanitation fleets. That’s because EVs have lower lifetime fuel and maintenance costs compared to traditional vehicles. One report found, for example, that municipalities have the potential to save nearly $11 billion over the next decade by transitioning to EVs in their light-duty fleets. Plus, state and federal incentives for electrification – such as the Commercial Clean Vehicle Tax Credit – now exist that can eliminate the upfront costs of the switch to EVs.
One locality seeing the benefits of an EV fleet is Montgomery County, Md. Spurred into action after extreme weather disrupted power for days, county leadership from public infrastructure, energy and sustainability, and mass transit set out to modernize, while advancing their ambitious sustainability goals — reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2027 and achieving zero emissions by 2035.
The result: The Brookville Smart Energy Bus Depot. What was just another diesel bus depot is now a source of reliable transit and stable power for the region’s 1.1 million residents. The depot houses a 6.5 MW microgrid, including on-site solar generation and battery storage, that can support 70 electric buses. By transforming its diesel bus fleet to be fully electric and installing a microgrid to power the buses with renewable energy, the Brookville Smart Energy Bus Depot has improved air quality, delivered significant energy savings and eliminated 160,000 tons of CO2.
- Prepping to Weather the Storm - Jersey City, N.J.
In the face of increasingly frequent extreme weather events, local governments are grappling with strained budgets and resources. However, the adoption of electric vehicles in municipal fleets can greatly enhance a city's resilience and ability to respond to severe weather by:
- Ensuring the smooth operation of essential public services during disruptions;
- Sustaining municipal operations during severe weather events;
- Speeding up the recovery process to resume full operations swiftly; and
- Minimizing long-term damage.
EV municipal fleets essentially give cities access to a fleet of "rolling batteries" at their disposal, ready to provide backup power to critical facilities like disaster shelters and medical centers. EVs can even be deployed to neighborhoods, doubling as mobile charging hubs for crucial devices like cellphones and medical equipment. Embracing widespread use of EVs can also help prevent blackouts and brownouts by efficiently shifting power supply from low-demand to high-demand periods. Taken a step further, EV fleets can also be integrated into microgrids, ensuring grid stability during emergencies.
Jersey City, N.J., has received attention for its plans to install the nation’s first self-sustaining microgrid, which incorporates a new, entirely electric sanitation vehicle fleet. Reliable trash and debris removal is crucial to rapid disaster recovery and mitigating long-term damage. In times of emergencies or fuel shortages, Jersey City’s sanitation system will now be able to remain up and running.
The EV sanitation fleet, solar power, battery storage and backup generation combine to form a microgrid that will ensure the city can continue reliable operation for up to 14 days — even if there is a power grid failure. Transitioning the sanitation truck fleet to electric vehicles will also save the city in gas and maintenance costs. Together, these improvements are projected to reduce Jersey City’s costs by $13 million.
- Doubling Down on Economic Development - Sierra Vista, Ariz.
Looking ahead, electric vehicles (EVs) offer an enticing, sustainable economic development opportunity for local governments.
Investing in EVs can bolster local economies in several ways. For example, installing personal use chargers in downtown areas offers a fresh way for communities to generate revenue. Moreover, a robust EV charging infrastructure serves as a visible symbol of a community's dedication to modernization, sustainability and resilience. This makes areas more attractive to new residents and businesses that are looking to settle (and bring new jobs) to future-focused locales.
Sierra Vista, Ariz., included public EV charging stations as part of its city wide economic development initiative, aimed at a long-term vision to become a leading attraction for sports and recreation in the state. EV charging fit well into their mission to improve city grounds and facilities, creating ideal locations for local events, vendors and visitors alike. As of Q1 of 2021, the city of Sierra Vista had generated $1.6 million in economic impact from all of their tourism upgrades, with the yearly impact projected to be $6.5 million.
Sierra Vista approached this project with a master plan in mind to take a deficit — the need for energy improvements and upgrades — and turn it into an asset to achieve long-term goals. That meant close collaboration on funding and project timelines between a wide array of city departments, from the mayor and city manager’s offices to Leisure and Library Services.
REALIZING THE BENEFITS OF EV IMPLEMENTATION
Adopting a “whole-of-government” approach to EV implementation will help cities reap the environmental, public health and economic rewards that come with a more sustainable transportation network. It is up to our cities' leaders to collaborate and drive this transformative change to secure a better future for all.
With a plethora of federal funding now available to modernize transportation systems, as well as the energy infrastructure needed to support the increase in electric load, now is the time to begin the transition. Take the first step to incorporating more sustainable infrastructure into your long-term goals by reading our guide, "Built to Last: A Sustainable Infrastructure Primer for Local Governments."
Quelle/Source: Governing, 23.08.2023