Five public-access natural gas vehicle (NGV) fueling stations are among 15 projects that were granted a total of $23.1 million in funding Wednesday by the California Energy Commission (CEC) as part of the state's alternative transportation fuels program. Several other projects will benefit NGVs as part of research and development on all the alternative fuels.

Both compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling projects received CEC funding, which is aimed at proving "a crucial boost to emerging fuels and vehicle technologies," said CEC Commissioner Carla Peterman. "[The funding] supports a range of efforts, from cutting-edge scientific research to the development of alternative fueling stations."

A side benefit for the state, Peterman said, is that the grants will help create jobs and air quality improvements. The grants are provided as part of the state's Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, which offers up to $100 million annually in outlays.

More than $1.6 million of the grants go to five NGV fueling station projects spread around Southern California and the Sacramento metropolitan area:

The proposed Sysco and SCAQMD fueling facilities will displace more than a million gallons of diesel fuel annually. The Atlas facility will serve its more than 60 refuse trucks, but also will be open to other public- and private-sector fleets with the capacity to fuel about 155 vehicles daily. The SCAQMD station will be located at a Southern California Gas Co. facility with 24/7, seven-day-a-week access for the general public. Riverside's facility will supplement an existing one that has experienced a 19-fold increase in the volumes of CNG dispensed since it went into service in 2004.

Other grant funding is aimed at alternative fuels collectively, and developing ways to more effectively speed the transition to their use. For example, the University of California, Davis, campus and its Institute of Transportation Studies received two grants totaling more than $3 million. The largest one -- $2.7 million -- is to fund research looking at the "comparative value, benefits and drawbacks of all types of alternative fuels in California." The results will be used by the CEC to guide its future funding grants under this program, a CEC spokesperson said.

Another $2.2 million grant was awarded to Sacramento-based Tmdgroup Inc. to develop a statewide outreach and marketing campaign to "accelerate market acceptance of using alternative fuels and new efficient low-carbon vehicle technologies." Another $2.1 million grant to the U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is aimed at having NREL outline "how much investment is needed to bring the alternative fuel vehicle market to maturity and when can that be expected."

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