In the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, good news of an economic boost could not come at a better time. Greenville Transit Authority, deservedly, received great news in receiving a $5.7 million grant to fund new electric buses and the needed charging station infrastructure for the buses — a welcome improvement for Greenville’s public transportation system.
The Greenlink grant comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), which earlier this month announced a $130 million nationwide investment in electrification projects as part of its Low- or No-Emission (Low-No) Grant program. Grants can only be used for zero-emission and low-emission transit buses and supporting facilities, making Greenlink a perfect fit for the program and helping to expand Greenville’s growing electric bus fleet.
Greenville’s electric bus fleet has been a great benefit to the community by providing a clean, low- or no-emission ride for thousands of Greenville residents per week. These electric buses are on the cutting-edge of transportation improvements both in technology and health. Oh, and that’s not to mention that they are built in Greenville … by Greenville … for Greenville, providing jobs and cost-savings.
Expanding Greenville’s charging infrastructure is another important element of the grant. For many considering electric vehicle purchases, not having enough charging stations along their driving route causes “range anxiety,” making it tougher for them to commit to the switch. The more we focus on improving the infrastructure, the more we help to eliminate a consumer barrier and grow the market.
Legislation recently approved in the SC Senate takes a common-sense, business-oriented approach to the sale of electricity from charging stations. Senate Bill 922, which may be taken up in the House this fall, levels the playing field for places of business to sell power to electric vehicle owners from charging stations on their property. Since South Carolina RV parks and marinas are already permitted to sell power to customers, this minor legislative fix could have major benefits to our state in expanding access to charging infrastructure.
Nearly half the country is already working under the model that Senate Bill 922 would create. While South Carolina historically has been a little behind, passing this bill would allow the state to catch up quickly. Utilities could continue selling electricity, drivers would have more consumer freedom to choose the vehicles they want, and mom-and-pop stations could expand their revenue opportunities. It’s a win-win-win.
Improvements have been made in responsible energy investment and solar legislation, creating jobs and powering homes affordably and reliably. Continued focus on growing our solar and battery storage options is critical and will see that South Carolina “keeps the lights on” for many years to come.
I applaud White and Greenville City Council for their forward thinking in applying for the USDOT funds. Their planning will result in new electric buses and more charging stations in Greenville, providing encouragement for the future of sustained electrification in our area. I am proud of Greenville for advancing vehicle electrification as a natural next step toward a clean energy future for the Upstate and for South Carolina.
Sen. Ross Turner, a Republican, represents District 8 (Greenville County) in the South Carolina State Senate.
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