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Cash for clearing the air

Cash for clearing the air

First the good news: No matter what you want to do to help make your fleet more fuel-efficient or to reduce emissions, odds are there is funding available from someplace to help you do it.  The not-so-good news: Finding those sources can be challenging, and applying for grants can be even more difficult and time-consuming. 

Still, if you want to retrofit older vehicles with new engines, reduce idling by adding auxiliary power units, add aerodynamic systems, or invest in new technologies or alternative power vehicles, it can be well worth the effort to find out what resources might be out there to help fund your project.

“Funding absolutely still exists at the federal, state and even local levels,” says Carolyn McGough, senior program manager (a.k.a. the grant guru) at consulting firm Gladstein, Neandross & Associates.  “State agencies in particular [still have money for projects].  There are also quite a few Dept. of Energy demonstration and research projects.”

Not only are there lots of different funding sources, but each also has its own goals and procedures.  Some focus on advancing new technologies, some on reducing fossil fuel consumption, and some on curbing regulated emissions.   “Each agency has a different priority, so you have to understand their goals and whether or not your own project fits in,” McGough explains.  If there is a fit, you have to make sure that your application makes that fit easy for the agency to understand and appreciate.

If you do decide to plunge in and write the grant application in-house, McGough offers this additional advice: “The biggest thing to keep in mind is that it is a lot of work to put together a grant proposal, so allow enough time.  You also need to make sure that you provide all the information required; you don’t want to get disqualified because you are missing one attachment.  If grant-writing is not your day job, you may want to get help from us or from someone else.”

It may make sense in some cases to partner with another fleet or fleets and apply for a grant together, especially if you have very few units in your operation, she notes.  It does mean that you will have to share any funding rewarded, but it might also improve your odds of having your proposal accepted.

Here is a brief overview of some of the funding opportunities available now or in the near future for various clean energy projects.  The National Idling Reduction Network News was a primary source for links to the programs listed here and is a great resource for anyone who wants to keep an eye on funding opportunities as well as regulatory changes and news.

You may also want to build your own customized “Watch List” of agencies and organizations that are a good potential fit with your operation—agencies that you might choose to approach now or in the future concerning grants, vouchers and other financial incentives.

Here are some links to grant opportunities:

  • Arkansas Dept. of Environmental Quality—Small Business Loans:  Makes available pollution prevention/control loans to small businesses in Arkansas with fewer than 100 employees.  Loans are for up to $45,000 and offered at 80% of the Prime Lending Rate over a period of up to 10 years.  Equipment purchases are eligible as are improvements to facilities and other projects.  Application deadline: Rolling deadline until all funds are distributed.
  • California Air Resources Board (CARB) Heavy-Duty Vehicle Air Quality Loan Program: Provides financial assistance to truckers affected by the Proposed Statewide In-Use Truck and Bus Rule and the Proposed Heavy-Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Measure.  The loans are especially targeted to smaller fleets that are “nearly bankable” but having difficulty securing credit through the usual means. Funding is available for technologies to help bring older trucks into compliance, including but not limited to CARB-verified particulate matter and/or NOx exhaust system retrofits; used, lower-emitting trucks; EPA SmartWay-approved energy efficiency retrofits such as low-rolling resistance tires, aerodynamic skirting, and fairings; or new trucks equipped with SmartWay technology.  Some $48 million in total loan guarantees is available in this funding cycle.  Deadline:  Rolling deadline until all funds are distributed.
  • Carl Moyer Memorial Air Quality Standards Attainment Program—California Bay Area Air Quality Management District:  Offers funding support to companies operating equipment within the district’s region, including for the installation of certain verified emissions control devices; replacement of older heavy-duty engines with newer and cleaner engines; replacement of older equipment with newer and cleaner equipment; the purchase of new equipment that is cleaner than the law requires; and installation of electric idling-reduction equipment. Up to $14 million in Carl Moyer Program funding is available for emissions reduction projects in the Bay Area through this year.  Carl Moyer Program funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis based on staff’s determination of completeness of the application.  Deadline: Open as long as funds are available through this year.
  • Diesel Idle Reduction Driver Recognition Program for Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.:  A unique awards program with private sponsorship support to recognize truck and motor coach drivers (and their employers) who are “observed practicing legal and responsible idle reduction procedures.”  Drivers earn certificates of commendation and are entered into a drawing for monthly prizes—dinner out for two in the Baltimore/D.C. area.  Those who receive commendations and win dinners for three consecutive months are entered into a drawing for larger, quarterly prizes. Deadline: Program is ongoing.
  • Georgia Alternative Fuel Vehicle Tax Credit: An income tax credit is available to taxpayers beginning July 1, 2015, who purchase new commercial medium-duty or heavy-duty vehicles that operate using at least 90% alternative fuel.  Eligible alternative fuels include electricity, propane, natural gas, or hydrogen fuel.  Medium-duty hybrid electric vehicles also qualify.  The credit for medium-duty trucks is up to $12,000; the limit for heavy-duty vehicles is $20,000 per vehicle.  There are other requirements.  Deadline: Vehicles must be purchased between July 2015 and June 30, 2017.
  • Maryland Idle Reduction Grant Program: Provides financial assistance for the purchase and installation of idle reduction systems/technology on Class 6-8 trucks registered (or new trucks that will be registered) in Maryland.  Trucks may be owned or leased.  Includes auxiliary power units; fuel-fired heaters; electric truck refrigeration units; battery-operated air conditioning systems; thermal storage systems; and truck-mounted accessories such as inverters, battery upgrades, electrical connections, and heaters and air conditioning units.  Awards are limited to 50% of the installation cost up to $3,000; limit of 10 awards per carrier.  Deadline: Sept. 1, 2014.
  • New Hampshire Dept. of Environmental Services:  Has Federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act  funds to award for upgrades to commercial diesel vehicles that operate primarily in New Hampshire.  Support is available for a wide variety of upgrade purchases that ultimately reduce diesel emissions, including engine replacements, exhaust controls, cleaner vehicles, cleaner fuels and idle reduction technologies.  Rebates are for as much as 100% of the cost.  Deadline: first come, first served, but no later than Sept. 30, 2014.
  • New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program:  A collection of three generous funding programs, including: 
  1. The New York State Electric Vehicle Voucher Incentive Fund is targeted to fleets that operate diesel Class 3-8 trucks that are domiciled (registered and garaged) and operate 70% of the time in one of New York State’s non-attainment and maintenance areas and want to purchase or lease all-electric, battery-electric hybrids, or compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles or install diesel emission control technologies.  Program funds are also available to fleets interested in CNG engine conversions.  There is $9 million total available.  Covers 80% of the incremental cost—not to exceed $60,000 per vehicle.  Application Deadline: First come, first served.
  2. The New York City Alternative Fuel Vehicle Voucher Incentive Fund is intended to support purchase of alternative power Class 3-8 vehicles that are based within New York City and operate there 70% of the time.  Alternative power choices include CNG, CNG engine conversions, hybrid-electric, and all-electric vehicles.   There is $6 million total available to cover 80% of the incremental cost of qualifying vehicles, not to exceed $40,000 per vehicle.
  3. The New York City Diesel Emission Reduction Voucher Incentive Fund has a total of $4 million available for the installation of diesel emissions control devices, including diesel oxidation catalysts and diesel particulate filters on Class 3-8 commercial fleet vehicles.  Awards cover 80% of the cost of the system and installation.   Deadline: Vouchers to be available soon.
  • North Carolina Idle Reduction Technology Rebates:  The North Caro­lina Dept. of Environ­ment and Natural Resources offers rebates of up to $2,500 for approved idle reduction technologies.  Deadline: Rebates will be available until Sept. 30, 2014, or until funding is exhausted.
  • South Carolina Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle Tax Credit:  An income tax credit is available for the in-state purchase or lease of a new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle for taxable years before 2017.  The maximum allowable credit is $2,000.  Deadline: Credits are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

This list only scratches the surface when it comes to funding sources for alternative power or emissions reduction projects.  There are many programs which are ongoing and have annual application periods that often begin in the early spring and end in June.  Federal programs and information sites to watch include the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, which provided for funding programs through 2016; the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program; the Clean Cities Coalition; the U.S. Dept. of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center; and EPA SmartWay.

State programs can be more difficult to track, but many if not most states now offer some support in the form of grants or tax credits for the lease or purchase of alternative-power vehicles or for installing systems to reduce fuel use or emissions.  The trick is knowing who to contact.  It is often the Energy Office (or division or department) or a Dept. of Environmental Quality.  If you operate in a port city, there are also apt to be programs tailored specifically to drayage operations.

Truck OEMs and dealerships or leasing companies can also be a great source of information and support, and they are an easy call to make first, especially if you are considering purchasing or leasing alternative power vehicles.

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