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To Electrify Trucking, Start With a Blueprint

Ava Community Energy in the San Francisco Bay Area has drafted its Zero-Emission Medium and Heavy-Duty Goods Movement Blueprint to aid in the transition of trucking toward zero-emission vehicles.

Concept image of a large electric truck charging.
A community electricity provider in the San Francisco Bay Area is taking a lead in transitioning the trucking industry toward its zero-emission future.

Ava Community Energy, which provides electricity to Alameda County and surrounding areas, including cities like Oakland, has drafted its Zero-Emission Medium and Heavy Duty Goods Movement Blueprint, which outlines where heavy-duty electric vehicle charging should happen, and is making investments to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Ava is known as a “community choice aggregator” (CCA), a program in California that allows government organizations to purchase electricity from investor-owned utilities. A CCA like Ava reinvests proceeds back into projects and initiatives which benefit the local region.

Part of Ava’s mission, said JP Ross, vice president for local development, electrification and innovation at Ava Community Energy, “is to reinvest the proceeds of our electricity sales into cheaper electricity, but also local projects, and local development activities that further the agenda of our community. And so we have aggressive decarbonization plans for our electricity service.”

Decarbonizing the transportation sector — particularly the heavy-duty traffic associated with the Port of Oakland — is a key goal behind the Goods Movement Blueprint. The plan was developed in partnership with the California Energy Commission, CALSTART.

“We were providing essentially consulting support to Ava in development of the blueprint, in building strategies together, in supporting them administratively, and also supporting them with stakeholder engagement as well,” said Valerie Thorsen, CALSTART’s program manager in the San Joaquin Valley, who had a leading role on the project.

The blueprint study helped to determine where to place a heavy-duty charging depot to serve drayage trucks traveling between the port and warehousing farther inland. Ava then provided a $4.5 million low-interest loan to Forum Mobility to develop the project.

“It’ll provide a lot of really good value for both overnight charging and fast daytime opportunity charging,” Matt LeDucq, CEO of Forum Mobility, told Government Technology last June. The charging facility in the East Bay city of Livermore will be capable of charging 96 trucks with 100 percent renewable energy.

More developments like these can be anticipated as California moves forward with transitioning the trucking industry toward zero-emission vehicles, driven in part by the state’s new environmental requirement that drayage fleets be fully electric by 2045.

Initiatives like helping to fund the development of electric vehicle charging depots are the kinds of partnerships CCAs like Ava can take on, and can also be a “blueprint” of sorts for other similar organizations in other parts of the state and nation to look to, say officials.

“Ava is positioned very uniquely. Because they’re a CCA, they’re not necessarily the utility. PG&E is providing that infrastructure. But they are able to leverage their funds to make meaningful impacts,” said Thorsen.

This project with Forum Mobility has Ava “serving a very high-density transit hub for goods movement within the state,” said Ross, adding that it stands to hasten the electrification of the goods-movement sector, which is in line with Ava’s mission to further electrification with clean power.

“We have strong campaigns and programs related to transportation electrification, as well as electrifying buildings,” said Ross, adding that a long-term goal is to “electrify everything.”

“In order to achieve our goal, the state’s goals, and our climate goals, that’s a key part of that overarching strategy of decarbonizing the economy,” he said.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.