Transitioning to a fleet of electric school buses wouldn't only improve the health of countless New Jersey residents; the move would equip New Jersey with long-lasting batteries on wheels that could be used to power the state in times of need, according to a report released on Thursday.

As New Jersey lawmakers debate a proposal to spend tens of millions of dollars on electric buses over the next few years, the report from Frontier Group and Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center suggests that any cleaner buses purchased here should be equipped with vehicle-to-grid technology that would add to the state's capacity to store electricity.

"As electric school buses are mostly only in use during short, specific periods, buses could absorb renewable energy when it is available in abundance and release it during periods when it isn't, such as at night," the groups say. "It could also allow electric school buses to provide additional power during unexpected demand spikes or emergency power during outages."

If every school bus currently in operation in New Jersey were replaced with an electric bus that has vehicle-to-grid technology, the additional power storage would be enough to power more than 68,000 homes for a day, according to the report.

"Electric school buses obviously provide that immediate benefit of the schoolchildren that are on those buses, and that cannot be underestimated, but they also provide a larger benefit to the grid and to school districts that are adopting this vehicle-to-grid technology," Doug O'Malley, director of Environment of New Jersey, said during a press event about the report.

Recommendations in the report include funding for electric school buses and vehicle-to-grid pilot programs. The groups involved with the report also say that utility companies and regulators should establish partnerships with school districts and public officials, as well as help finance electric buses, and that school districts should commit to a full transition to electric buses on a specific timeline.

Legislation approved by a second Assembly committee on Thursday would require the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to implement a three-year electric school bus program that would make up to $45 million available for electrification. A Senate version of the bill was approved by a committee in February.

Environmentalists are also waiting on word from federal officials about billions of dollars that are to be released specifically for the transition to electric school buses. Priority will be given to states that are already making investments in this area.

“New Jersey is lagging very far behind other states in the region regarding the electrification of the state’s school bus fleet," said Bill Beren, transportation chair for New Jersey Sierra Club. “Only $25 million has been allocated out of the Volkswagen settlement and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative payments to buy 77 electric school buses. Meanwhile, Montgomery County in Maryland has signed a contract to replace all 250 diesel school buses in their fleet, and both New York City and now New York State have set a goal to replace all their diesel school buses by 2035.”

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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