News Story

EPA: Wind, solar are intermittent, but electric buses can help

Power the electric grid with this one weird trick

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is marketing the electric school bus as a source of energy during the grid shortfalls that will accompany the transition to wind and solar energy.

Last year, Michigan lawmakers enacted a 100% clean energy package that was pushed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The package requires that Michigan’s regulated utilities run on 100% renewable energy, such as solar and wind, by 2040.

Energy regulators warn that shortfalls will accompany the government-driven transition from reliables, such as coal and nuclear and natural gas, to renewables.

Lawmakers pressed forward anyway. That there will be shortfalls is as an accepted truth.

A story on the EPA website, titled “What If Electric School Buses Could be Used to Supply Power When Off Duty?”, sells the electric school bus as a solution to a man-made energy crisis.

“Renewable energy is intermittent—the wind blows and the sun shines, but not always when consumers need electricity,” the EPA admits.

The EPA continues: “As more renewables are added to the grid, energy storage technologies like V2G (vehicle-to-grid) batteries can store surplus energy, and then send it back to the grid when it is needed most—they can help balance load.”

Jason Hayes, the Mackinac Center’s director of energy and environmental policy, noted that in the future, the vehicle and the grid will be powered by the same wind and solar. One cannot feed the other, as they rely on the same source. A source the EPA admits is intermittent.

“What happens when wind and solar fails and they need the buses for grid support?” Hayes asked. “How do they recharge them before heading out to pick up the kiddos? Wind and solar have already failed, so what is going recharge the buses to get them ready for work?”

Hayes added: “It’s not hard to imagine a situation where the bus batteries are needed to keep a township or city running through the night, but wind and solar are incapable of recharging the batteries in time for the kids to get to school.” 

The EPA does not say that electric buses have this capability; it asks us “what if” they did, and assures us that experts are “exploring advancements.” It notes no achievements.

“Upfront costs are high,” the EPA warns, adding that new buses can cost two or three times more than a diesel bus. “However, compensation for supplying power back to the grid could help defray the upfront costs of going electric while making the grid more reliable and resilient—a power-full win for school districts, electric utilities, and the planet.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.