Touting potential jobs and economic growth, California energy officials on Wednesday approved approximately $100 million in annual state funds to support the development of more alternative and renewable fuel vehicle technologies. Natural gas as a transportation fuel will benefit directly and indirectly for up to nearly one-third of the allotment.

Mandated by state legislation (AB 118), the California Energy Commission (CEC) is charged with administering the ongoing statewide Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, which before the latest allocation invested more than $200 million in the effort while attracting another $375.5 million in private-sector matching contributions.

The CEC distributed funding in 10 categories, half of which include natural gas transportation. The bulk of those funds are part of $25 million allotted for incentives for the development of more vehicles using alternative fuels and advanced technology. “This includes money to help pay the cost difference between conventional and alternative-fuel vehicles,” a CEC spokesperson said.

Natural gas vehicles (NGV) were assigned $12 million; propane received $2 million, and another $6 million was granted for demonstration of medium and heavy duty advanced vehicle technology. The latter involves mostly natural gas-fueled vehicles.

In addition, a portion of $11.5 million spread over four other categories will help NGV development — $3 million to advanced fueling infrastructure, half of which is designated for natural gas; $2.5 million for workforce development/training; $3 million for regional alternative fuel readiness/planning; and $3 million for collaborative work in existing and new alternative fuel technology centers.

“Supporting the development of alternative fuels and new vehicles is the smartest way to diversify California’s transportation options,” said CEC Commissioner Carla Peterman. Subsequently, on Thursday the CEC announced approval of an additional $15 million for developing various biofuel and electric vehicles that includes more than a million dollars to four different sources for the purchase of more than 40 various NGV models for demonstration purposes.

Peterman called the state’s alternative vehicle funding program an “investment plan” that she hopes will provide “a foundation for change that spurs other investment to increase these options.” The multiple goals of the program are: displacement of petroleum, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, and creation of added jobs, she said.

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