Fri, May 24, 2024

Major investment in electric buses and training

Students in the Richmond County School System will benefit from a $1 billion federal investment in clean energy buses, while Goodwill prepares to train the workforce needed to support the electric vehicle industry.

In a news release, Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga) and Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, Michael Regan said the money is through Warnock’s Clean Commute for Kids Act that was included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The bulk of the money, nearly $60 million, will go toward funding 25 of the buses for RCSS, along with buses for DeKalb, Bibb, Clayton, and Glynn County Schools, as well as Marietta and Carrollton City Schools.

“This is about converting fleets of diesel-powered school buses into clean energy vehicles for the future. This is a ride to the future, and this investment demonstrates the power of bipartisan cooperation to deliver tangible results for our communities,” said Warnock in a statement.

Although electric buses can cost more than twice that of a diesel bus, the investment balances when future costs for fuel, parts, and maintenance are factored in. Electric energy to refuel the buses costs less than diesel and, with fewer moving parts, the cost to maintain electric buses is lower.

The trick is finding a trained workforce to service and maintain electric vehicles (EVs), particularly in Georgia, which has seen a shift toward facilities that manufacture EVs along with industries that support EVs.

Goodwill Industries International is trying to address the challenge of training workers for clean energy jobs. It has partnered with Accenture, a global professional services company, to launch “The Goodwill Clean Tech Accelerator.”

According to an announcement on the Goodwill website, the workforce training program is to address the most in-demand, entry-level, clean energy jobs. Participants will gain skills for jobs in electric vehicle charging and other industries, including solar.

“As our labor market transitions, we see important opportunities for people to move into more promising roles with better pay. It is essential that we provide the training and other support needed to ensure people capture these opportunities,” said Steve Preston, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries International, quoted in the news release. “The Goodwill Clean Tech Accelerator will open doors for people in an expanding industry and provide support to employers who are helping us transition to a more sustainable world.”

The accelerator will provide people with skills and certifications for job opportunities with higher wages and better career advancement. The program will target under and unemployed individuals.

According to the Warnock release, nearly 25 million children ride more than 500,000 predominantly diesel buses to school in the U.S., exposing children to polluted air.

“Exposure to diesel exhaust from these school buses negatively affects the health and well-being of children, especially those with asthma or other pulmonary ailments. This federal funding will help support and grow jobs at Georgia companies like Fort Valley’s Blue Bird Corporation, which has been an industry leader in green commute technology,” according to the statement.

Augusta is jumping into green energy technology with the construction of Aurubis Richmond, LLC, currently under construction in the Augusta Corporate Park off Mike Padget Highway. The Aurubis plant will recycle copper, precious metals, and non-ferrous materials nationwide, once it is in operation. That is expected to be early this year, according to a release from the company.

“The world needs metal which can be recycled without loss of quality or performance for cars, mobile phones, batteries, cables, and computers,” said Aurubis CEO, Roland Harings, during a recent visit to Augusta. “These are things that we all depend on every day.”

Aurubis says the plant will have the capacity to process up to 90,000 tons of complex metals, including printed circuit boards.

Aurubis will be joined by Denkai America, which will locate its new manufacturing facility and North American headquarters in Richmond County. The company’s initial investment will be $150 million to establish an ED copper foil production facility, with a focus on electric vehicle (EV) battery foil, on a 115-acre site, with a goal to invest a total of $430 million and create 250 new jobs over the next five years.

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