Valley residents can get up to $9,500 to replace high polluting vehicles

The Valley Air District’s Drive Clean in the San Joaquin program just launched a new vehicle replacement option, offering a huge incentive for Valley residents to replace their 1999 or older high-polluting vehicle with a newer, fuel efficient gas powered vehicle, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or battery electric vehicle.

The new “Replace” option offers $2,500 to $9,500 for residents in the eight-county Valley air basin. The incentive amount is based on the replacement vehicle and the applicant’s household income. Specifically, the program is available to individuals whose household income is at or below 400 percent of federal poverty level. Residents living in disadvantaged communities (determined by zip code) that choose to purchase a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or zero-emission vehicle can receive a higher funding amount. An additional $2,500 may be available through the California Air Resources Board if a new clean vehicle is selected.

While meteorology, geography and topography play a key role in the Valley’s air pollution problems, motor vehicles are the largest source of emissions. Since the Valley Air District does not hold regulatory authority over tail pipe emissions, a robust grants and incentives program is among its many strategies to reduce air pollution and protect public health in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Replace option is the latest piece to the Drive Clean in the San Joaquin incentive program which has long offered “Repair” and “Rebate” options which provide funding for residents to repair their emission plagued vehicles or a rebate for the lease or purchase of newer technology like hybrid and electric vehicles.

Interested individuals can start their vehicle replacement application online, anytime, at www.valleyair.org/drivecleaninthesanjoaquin.

For more information, call a District office in Fresno (230-6000), Modesto (209-557-6400) or Bakersfield (661-392-5500).

 

Valley residents can get up to $9,500 to replace high polluting vehicles, by Staff, Hanford Sentinel, September 14, 2018.

Drive Clean Effort Highlighted In National Drive Electric Week

National Drive Electric Week is being observed Sept. 8 through 16, and the Valley Air District is highlighting the widespread availability, practicality and affordability of today’s plug-in vehicles. The District’s Drive Clean in the San Joaquin program provides Valley residents and businesses with a rebate of up to $3,000 when purchasing or leasing a battery-electric, or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

The San Joaquin Valley air basin fails to meet federal, health-based standards for ground-level ozone and particulate matter pollution. While meteorology, geography and topography play a key role in the Valley’s air pollution problems, motor vehicles are its largest emission source. Since the Air District does not hold regulatory authority over tail pipe emissions, a robust grants and incentives program are among its many strategies to reduce air pollution and protect public health in the San Joaquin Valley.

Electric vehicles are less expensive to maintain and more convenient to fuel than gasoline vehicles, are better for the environment, and most importantly, produce zero emissions.

Through the rebate option of the District’s Drive Clean in the San Joaquin incentive program, individuals or organizations who purchase or lease a new, electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle, are eligible for rebates up to $3,000. Additional state and local incentives offer significant rebates beyond that offered by the District.

To learn more and download the application, visit: http://valleyair.org/drivecleaninthesanjoaquin/rebate/.

Businesses and public agencies are also encouraged to help build the Valley’s EV infrastructure by installing electric vehicle charging stations using the District’s Charge Up! Program. Charge Up! provides grants to organizations that install charging stations on site for public and employee use. For more information on Charge Up!, visit: www.valleyair.org/chargeup.

For more information, call the local Air District office in Modesto at 209-557-6400.

 

Drive Clean Effort Highlighted In National Drive Electric Week, Oakdale Leader, September 12, 2018.

Fresno sits at the crossroads of California’s climate-change policies

Thousands of delegates from around the world gather in San Francisco this week for the Global Climate Action Summit. Committed to achieving the Paris Climate Accord’s goal of net zero emissions by midcentury, the international effort is humankind’s attempt to save itself from itself.

For a quick glimpse at their prospects, delegates should come to Fresno. Our city is at the crossroads of California’s climate change policies, in the heart of a valley that has been trying unsuccessfully for nearly three decades to reduce ground-level air pollution to safe levels.

The two efforts share a common feature: cap-and-trade, the market-based system designed to reduce air pollution through the buying and selling of pollution credits like commodities. It’s a trading system structured to ensure economic stability, and it does lead to less air pollution … only very, very slowly.

San Joaquin Valley residents have been waiting 28 years and the end is not in sight. How long does the planet have?

For greenhouse gases, California sets a good example. Our efforts to decarbonize are underway, and a long list of courageous state legislators have taken turns leading the effort.

Governors from Gray Davis to Jerry Brown and laws ranging from former state senator Fran Pavley’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act to this year’s 100 percent Clean Energy bill authored by Sen. Kevin de León have placed the state on the right path.

These policies are still evolving and improving. That’s to be expected given this is the largest undertaking in California – in human – history and that policymakers face almost unanimous resistance from fossil fuel, industrial, and agricultural interests.

Despite cap-and-trade’s industry friendly approach, for decades lobbyists for these sectors have worked to delay or block every air pollution rule and regulation. From cars’ carbon monoxide and diesel trucks’ toxic fumes to ammonia from dairies and methane from oil fields, we continue to inhale a long list of hazardous pollutants. Countless lives have been damaged or lost.

The response to greenhouse gases has been no different. The stakes are just so much higher now, and we’re quickly running out of time.

Local politicians have proven especially disappointing on this front. In recent years statehouse representatives Michael Rubio and Henry T. Perea, both Democrats, left office early to end up as oil industry lobbyists, and the Fresno City Council has been voting unanimously to ignore state laws requiring industrial developments assess and mitigate ground level air pollution and greenhouse gases.

Most impacted are the residents of Malaga, Calwa, Daleville, La Vina, Lanare, and a long list of other vulnerable communities.

These families already bear the brunt of industrial and agricultural air pollution, water contamination, and toxic emissions, but climate investments in high speed rail, dairy digesters, biomass plants, and more are resulting in even greater impacts.

Take high speed rail. Making and pouring concrete is one of the most greenhouse gas-intensive activities there is, and the greenest buildings are the ones already built. So due to HSR’s many years of construction and demolition, it will be decades before the greenhouse gases emitted now might possibly be offset by reduced passenger vehicle emissions.

Meanwhile, people living alongside the construction route throughout Fresno are inundated with dust and diesel when what they need are basic, electrified transit services which, importantly, would immediately reduce greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants alike.

Even worse impacts are being caused by the state’s headlong rush into biofuels of every type. Dairies are being subsidized to produce methane rather than avoid it. Wood is being ground, hauled, and burned in highly polluting biomass plants rather than being incorporated into soils, spread on dusty roads, or kept in solid form. Again, residents of vulnerable neighborhoods are being assaulted by increased pollution.

Our best hope is for the California delegation to return home from San Francisco – with a side trip through Fresno – with a newfound sense of urgency and commitment to funding a just transition. One that protects life rather than imperils it, prioritizes local jobs in clean energy, and results in a stable atmosphere as soon as humanly possible.

Kevin Hall has lived in Fresno since 1971, where he works as an air quality advocate and community organizer.

 

Fresno sits at the crossroads of California’s climate-change policies, by Kevin Hall, The Fresno Bee, September 10, 2018.

CARB selects Los Angeles and Kern County communities for in-depth study of air quality impacts near oil and gas facilities

SACRAMENTO – As part of the state’s ongoing commitment to clean the air in communities most impacted by pollution, today the California Air Resources Board announced the selection of four communities for a new program to monitor air quality near oil and gas extraction facilities.

It is well known that short and long-term exposure to air pollutants can contribute to negative health outcomes, including asthma, cardiovascular disease, and in some cases, cancer. Limited information exists, however, on how oil and gas extraction facilities affect air quality in neighboring communities.

The Study of Neighborhood Air near Petroleum Sources (SNAPS) program was established to help fill the gap using a focused community-level approach. The selected communities will host mobile air monitoring units to identify and measure pollutants of concern over several months to help inform efforts to protect public health from environmental hazards.

“Many Californians live in communities near oil and gas facilities – but we know very little about the impact of these facilities on their neighbors’ health,” said Chair Mary D. Nichols. “We need up-to-date information to assess whether existing standards and regulations are effective, and to lay the groundwork for any needed improvements.”

Discussions on the SNAPS program started in November 2017 when CARB began holding public workshops, community meetings and tours of neighborhoods near oil and gas facilities. The process resulted in 56 candidate communities that were evaluated using eight metrics including CalEnviroScreen score, air pollution levels, density of oil and gas wells and community engagement, among others.

The four selected communities are located in the historic oil regions of the south San Joaquin Valley and Los Angeles County:

  • Lost Hills, Lost Hills Oil Field, Kern County
  • Baldwin Hills, Inglewood Oil Field, Los Angeles County
  • McKittrick and Derby Acres, McKittrick Oil Field and Midway-Sunset Oil Field, Kern County
  • South Los Angeles, Las Cienegas Oil Field, Los Angeles County

These communities are diverse in size and population, reflecting many other oil and gas communities around the state. The study involves a 3-4 month monitoring campaign in each area including air monitoring trailer installation and community meetings to gather ideas, hear concerns, foster ongoing feedback, communicate results and discuss solutions.

“CARB recently adopted more stringent regulations requiring enhanced inspection of oil and gas operations including pump jacks. The rules require the use of technologies including chemical sniffers to better pinpoint and repair any leaks that are identified,” said Executive Officer Richard W. Corey. “The SNAPS program will complement the regulation to better ensure oil and gas operations that impact nearby communities are identified and addressed.”

SNAPS also complements the Community Air Protection Program (CAPP) under AB 617 by providing additional capacity to evaluate the effects of oil and gas facilities in particular. AB 617 requires CARB to select communities heavily impacted by air pollution for focused actions including setting up community air pollution monitoring systems, developing emissions reductions plans, or both. On September 27, the CARB Board will consider approving staff’s first ten community recommendations pursuant to AB 617. Together, the two efforts will provide focused, community-level action in fourteen of the state’s most polluted areas.

 

CARB selects Los Angeles and Kern County communities for in-depth study of air quality impacts near oil and gas facilities, Press Release, California Air Resources Board, September 7, 2018.

Elected officials urge state to stop issuing permits for fossil fuels in California

Two local elected officials — the mayor of Huron and a council member from San Joaquin — on Thursday urged Gov. Jerry Brown to phase out fossil fuel production in California.

Huron Mayor Rey Leon and San Joaquin Council member Jose Ornellas are among 150 local elected officials statewide who signed a letter urging that no more permits be issued for new fossil fuel project.

At a news conference in Fresno, they said they supported the goals of the letter by Elected Officials to Protect America, an advocacy group urging the state to commit to 100 percent renewable energy.

“The disastrous impacts of fossil fuel use, including air pollution, droughts, fires, mudslides, storms and sea level rise, already cost more tan 1,200 lives and $100 billion annually,” the letter states.

Science has linked climate change to petroleum use and Huron is suffering from it, Leon said. It is among the poorest cities in the state and is exposed to emissions from diesel truck traffic nearby on Interstate 5, Leon said.

“We’re in the San Joaquin Valley, the most contaminated air basin in the nation,” he said. “In the city of Huron, our economy has been blasted due to the drought, very much related to climate change. … Pollution has increased one hundred fold due to the wildfires that are occurring all around us.”

Gov. Brown’s press office said “no jurisdiction in the Western Hemisphere is doing more on climate” than California.

“Clearly, the world needs to curb its use of oil and the phase out is already underway in California where the state is committed to cutting consumption in half,” spokesman Evan Westrup said.

Since 1985, oil production in California has dropped 56 percent, he said.

Last year, California’s oil production declined by about 33,000 barrels per day, the third straight year of reductions, he said.

Eric Payne, a State Center Community College trustee, also signed the letter.

Lewis Griswold: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold

Community Voices: Let’s breathe in clean air with SB 100

San Joaquin Valley residents will find scant relief when the blanket of wildfire smoke eventually dissipates. When the fires are finally doused and the smoke blows away we’ll still have some of the nation’s dirtiest air.

But there’s a bill moving through the state Legislature that provides a measure of hope for cleaner air and quality jobs for this region that has historically suffered some of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Senate Bill 100, The 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2017, by Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), will put California on the path to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. With the transition to clean energy, thousands of clean-technology jobs are guaranteed to follow.

But the clean-tech jobs and reduction in pollution from carbon-fired energy plants won’t materialize if SB 100 is killed on the Assembly floor where it awaits a critical vote. The bill has some powerful opponents.

California has already seen an economic boost from the move to renewable energy. We easily lead the nation in clean-energy jobs, with more than a half million Californians employed in the sector.

The San Joaquin Valley has also shared in the bounty. Between 2002 and 2015, renewable energy created 88,000 direct and ancillary jobs. Renewable energy construction projects poured $11.6 billion into the Valley’s economy.

According to a 2017 university report, a significant number of good-paying, career-track jobs constructing renewable power plants in Kern County and statewide have gone to low-income residents and individuals living in communities of color.

Nearly 45 percent of entry-level electrical workers on solar power construction jobs in Kern County lived in disadvantaged communities or those with high unemployment rates, according to the report.

The money’s good too! A first-year electrical apprentice starts at $16.49 with raises and benefits throughout the five-year training program. A journeyman electrician can earn more than $40 per hour.

Then there are the health benefits of SB 100.

The energy sector contributes more than 16 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Air pollution made worse by climate change is a threat to all Californians but that’s particularly true in the San Joaquin Valley.

The American Lung Association gave an “F” grade to every county in the Valley – eight in all – for unhealthy PM and ozone pollution days.

Nearly 322,000 Valley residents have asthma – 40 percent of them are children. Another 184,500 have heart disease. They are all at risk. So are the nearly 838,400 residents living in poverty who suffer disproportionately from environmental degradation.

But things are looking up.

California is already moving toward its clean-air future. Today, state law mandates that California achieve 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030. We’re on pace to hit that goal by 2020—a full decade ahead of schedule.

That’s good, but not good enough. We need SB 100 to reach the ultimate goal of carbon-free electricity for the protection of our air and the lungs of generations to come.

Dean Florez, a former member of both the California Senate and Assembly, is a Shafter native. He can be reached at dean@balancebpr.com.

 

Community Voices: Let’s breathe in clean air with SB 100, by Dean Florez, The Bakersfield Californian, August 19, 2018.

Wasco, California to Save $8.6M with New Solar Project

Wasco, Calif. projected to achieve more than $8.6M in energy savings, 41.7M kWh in reduced energy usage by end of 15-year performance contract

An energy savings performance contract (ESPC) with Siemens will allow the city of Wasco, Calif., to use energy savings to fund a solar project situated on a former burn dump. The renewable energy produced will help offset approximately 60 percent of the city’s current energy usage and costs associated with its municipal buildings as well as the treatment and distribution of water and wastewater.

“This project means a great deal to our city, and it’s our first ever renewable energy project,” says Gilberto Reyna, Mayor of Wasco. “By the end of the performance contract, we’re projecting to have saved enough energy to power nearly 3,100 homes for a year[1]!”

In municipalities, water and wastewater utilities are typically the largest energy consumers, often accounting for 30 to 40 percent of total energy consumed.[2] Operating expenses to treat water, pump it to homes and businesses, and then treat the resulting wastewater can be costly. Wasco is no exception, as it uses approximately 4.7M kWh annually and spends $713,000 per year for water/wastewater treatment and distribution.

To help reduce its water pumping and treatment expenses, the city entered into a 15-year performance contract with Siemens to build a 1.8 MW-solar power system on a 6-acre site adjacent to the city’s wastewater treatment facility. Wasco is projected to realize $410,687 in energy savings and reduce its energy usage by 2.8M kWh the first year post-construction, with expected total energy savings of more than $8.6M over the life of the contract.

“Performance contracting is part of Siemens’ Total Energy Management approach. It can provide options for reducing energy usage and operating costs, increasing energy efficiency and sustainability, and making better use of existing infrastructure,” says Andrew Krynen, Zone Vice President, Siemens Building Technologies Division. “The solar project with Wasco combined all three elements, while also helping the city remain fiscally prudent.”

The solar project will also take advantage of a Pacific Gas & Electric (PGE) program called Renewable Energy Self-generation Bill Credit Transfer (RES-BCT), which allows cities to build up to 5 MW of renewable generation on one site, and provides a credit for excess solar energy that is produced.

Wasco is located about 140 miles northwest of Los Angeles in the San Joaquin Valley. Its former burn dump was capped and remediated in the 1970s, and has very limited use. However, it provided an ideal location for a sizable solar panel installation to support the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

“We’re tapping into a program that will offset our energy costs for water pumping and treatment, and we’re able to make creative use of a site that would otherwise be left vacant. We’re looking forward to the years ahead,” says Mayor Reyna.

Siemens has helped its customers realize more than $2 billion in energy and operational savings over the past 10 years. The company has implemented more than 1,000 guaranteed performance contract projects for its customers, updating thousands of buildings with the latest energy savings technologies. Its energy services and solutions range from energy savings analysis, to implementation of facility improvement measures, to ongoing monitoring and verification.

About Siemens

The Siemens Building Technologies Division (Buffalo Grove, Ill.) is the North American market leader for safe and secure, energy-efficient and environment-friendly buildings and infrastructures. As a technology partner, service provider, system integrator and product vendor, Building Technologies has offerings for fire protection, life safety and security as well as building automation, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), and energy management. Siemens’ Total Energy Management approach helps customers consume sparingly, spend wisely, generate responsibly, and analyze continuously.

Siemens Corporation is a U.S. subsidiary of Siemens AG, a global powerhouse focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalization. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is a leading supplier of systems for power generation and transmission as well as medical diagnosis. With approximately 372,000 employees in 190 countries, Siemens reported worldwide revenue of $92.0 billion in fiscal 2017. Siemens in the USA reported revenue of $23.3 billion, including $5.0 billion in exports, and employs approximately 50,000 people throughout all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

 

Siemens to help Calif. city save millions through solar energy, by Siemens, EQ International Magazine, August 9, 2018.

 

Wells Fargo completes funding for 200-MW Sempra Great Valley Solar Project

Wells Fargo Renewable Energy and Environmental Finance announced it has completed the final $85 million in tax-equity funding for Sempra Renewables’ 200-MW solar generation facility near Fresno, California. The funding represents the last phase of more than $190 million in financing for four solar farms collectively known as the Sempra Great Valley Solar Project.

Sempra Renewables—a subsidiary of energy-holding company Sempra Energy SRE—built and operates the Great Valley Solar Project, a 1,600-acre facility with 860,000 solar modules.

The 200-MW Great Valley Solar Complex, which began commercial operation in May, will produce and transmit enough renewable electricity to power approximately 90,000 homes. During peak construction, the complex generated 500 jobs. Built on fallow land, the project brings new purpose to the site that is equivalent in size to 1,200 football fields.

Annually, the Sempra Renewables project will provide power under four offtaker agreements:

“The Great Valley Solar Project builds on Wells Fargo’s leadership in clean technology and renewable energy financing,” said Barry Neal, co-head of Wells Fargo Renewable Energy and Environmental Finance. “We’re pleased to partner on another successful and environmentally impactful project with Sempra Renewables.”

Over the past two years, Wells Fargo has teamed with Sempra Renewables on seven solar projects throughout the U.S. that will collectively generate more than 1.7 million MWh of clean energy annually, equivalent to the electricity that 245,000 average American homes use in a year. With partners, including Wells Fargo, Sempra owns and operates nearly 2,600 MW of renewable generating capacity, enough to power approximately 600,000 homes and businesses.*

Wells Fargo is helping to fund the shift to a low-carbon economy and is promoting environmental sustainability through products and services, operations and culture, and philanthropy. In April, Wells Fargo announced that it would provide $200 billion in financing through 2030 to sustainable businesses and products. More than 50 percent of the financing will be focused on companies and projects like the Sempra Great Valley Solar Project that directly support the transition to a low-carbon economy, including clean technologies, renewable energy, green bonds, and alternative transportation. The remainder of the financing will support companies and projects focused on sustainable agriculture, recycling, conservation and other environmentally beneficial activities.

Since 2012, Wells Fargo has invested and financed more than $83 billion in renewable energy, clean technology, greener buildings, sustainable agriculture and other environmentally sustainable businesses.

Also last year, Wells Fargo announced a $20-million expansion of its Innovation Incubator (IN2), which advances emerging clean technologies and startups. The $30-million program, co-administered by Wells Fargo and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is expanding beyond supporting entrepreneurs developing commercial building clean technologies to other focus areas. IN2 has implemented a Channel Partner Award program that has funded 20 early stage startups nationwide.

 

Wells Fargo completes funding for 200-MW Sempra Great Valley Solar Project, by Kelsey Misbrener, Solar Power World, August 8, 2018.

Smoke from Ferguson Fire raises air pollution to dangerous levels

The air quality is so bad, nobody is immune from ill health effects, especially those with asthma or lung disease. Dr. John Gasman is a pulmonologist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fresno. He is seeing patients having problems because of the air quality.

“Many of them have to come into their primary care doctor, to me, I met a few in the hospital this weekend because things flared up because of the weather,” said Dr. Gasman.

He says while those with existing problems will have it worse, anyone can be impacted by this bad air.

“A healthy person is going to have irritation of the eyes the nose, the throat, nasal drainage cough sneezing some people are going to have very irritated eyes,” said Dr. Gasman.

The bad air has created a run on air masks. Ian Williams of Fresno AG Hardware has been selling a lot of maks, or “particulate respirators.”

“Any mask is going to be better than no mask but what we recommend is going to be something with a filter on it, this is an OSHA N 95, and it’s just a rating of what it filters out and this will pretty much filter out any kind of fine particle that’s in the air,” said Williams.

Kevin Hall is among those stocking up on masks. He’s with the Central Valley Air Quality Commission. He’s relying on the latest air pollution information from the Purple Air monitoring network. The network is a nationwide series of air monitors set up by individuals and non-profit groups. Hall says.

“The big advantage of the Purple air monitors is they give up to the minute readings, rather than the air district which takes an hour-long average and then posts that, by email and text 15 or 20 minutes after the hour has passed,” said Hall.

But today the Valley Air Districts readings are also off the charts. Hall says you don’t have to rely on monitors and charts to know things are bad.

“If we use some of our common sense we can look around and say that’s smoke and it smells like smoke is I safe, and the answer is, no you are not,” said Hall.

Eleanor Simonsen of Fresno is also buying a mask, for her grandson so he can do some yard work. She has had it with the smoke.

“It’s getting hard to take, it really is,” said Simonsen.

GENE: She says it’s the worst she can recall.

“Not this bad and I’ve lived here most of my life,” said Simonsen.

The App called “Shoot, I Smoke” has used a scientific formula to calculate how the air pollution correlates to cigarette smoking. Based on their formula they calculated breathing the air in Fresno today was like smoking 8.4 cigarettes. The figure for Oakhurst, a foothill community closer to the Ferguson fire was 24 cigarettes. Breathing the air in Oakhurst was like smoking more than a pack a day. There are no indication conditions will change anytime soon.

 

Smoke from Ferguson Fire raises air pollution to dangerous levels, by Gene Haagenson, ABC 30, August 6, 2018.

Electric vehicles gradually spark Valley interest. Will powering up be a problem?

There are fewer than 5,000 automobiles in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties that are powered primarily by electricity – either battery-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles that get their charge from a cord and an outlet rather than a hose and a gas pump.

And despite what auto dealers say is growing popularity among customers, such electric vehicles account for less than half of one percent of all cars and trucks on the road in the Valley. If demand continues to grow, however, researchers say their numbers could put increasing strain on a limited infrastructure of public charging stations at which drivers can power up their batteries – and potentially have consequences for the state’s power grid.

“California’s public charging stations are primarily located around major traffic corridors or highways, or where there is a high PEV (plug-in electric vehicle) density,” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists Anand Gopal and Julia Szinai wrote in an analysis released Thursday. “However, public charging station construction has not kept pace with the existing and expected magnitude of PEV deployment across the state. This shortage of charging stations threatens to become a critical bottleneck to mass adoption of PEVs.…”

California has almost 30.6 million registered cars and trucks; of that, about 342,000 are battery-electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, according to Jan. 1 registration figures from the Department of Motor Vehicles. But aside from owners who may have charging systems installed at their homes, there are fewer than 4,500 public charging stations across the state with about 16,000 charging outlets. That’s not going to be enough, Gopal and Szinai wrote in the report produced for Next 10, a nonpartisan policy organization.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown set an ambitious goal for California to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles – such as electric-powered vehicles – on the state’s roads by 2030. The researchers cited a California Energy Commission estimate that “by 2025 the state will need 99,000 to 133,000 public/workplace chargers and 9,000 to 25,000 fast chargers to support the number of expected PEVs on the road.”

The modest numbers of electric vehicles in the four-county Valley region likely means it could be a while before the charging infrastructure here is stretched thin. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center reports there are 73 public charging locations, offering 179 plug outlets in the Valley. So far, that seems to be sufficient for the 4,973 electric cars and SUVs registered in the Valley, along with those passing through the region on Highway 99, Interstate 5 and other state highways.

Brett Hedrick, owner/general manager of Hedrick Chevrolet in Clovis, said his dealership is seeing greater interest among customers in plug-in cars, whether purely electric or plug-in hybrids that have a gasoline engine as a backup.

“It’s one of those things that’s becoming popular, especially as the range gets better,” Hedrick said. Chevrolet’s Bolt, a plug-in, battery-only car with a range of about 230 miles, and the Volt, which has gasoline power as a backup to extend its 50-mile electric range, “are both selling pretty well for us.”

“What happened with the Volt is that it came into the market (in 2011) and people were unsure about it,” Hedrick said of “range anxiety,” or customer fears of being stranded if their car battery ran out of juice. Because hybrids have both electric and gas, “you never get stuck anywhere.”

With battery-only cars, “you have to plan your trip, because you can only go so far. Those are the kinds of things that people had to get used to,” Hedrick added. “As people became more sure, more people sought to try that kind of (electric vehicle) life.”

Beefing up the infrastructure

Hedrick predicted that as more public chargers are installed in the region, even more Valley drivers will convert to electric vehicles. “The church next door is putting in chargers and those will be available to the public,” he said.

In a telephone interview, Gopal explained it this way: “People are affected both psychologically and in real terms by the lack of charging infrastructure. We live in a world of gas stations which we take entirely for granted. When we buy a car, we don’t even think about where we’re going to fill up; we know it’s just going to be there.

“The public is not quite at that stage yet for electric vehicles yet,” Gopal added. “We want to remove that barrier as quickly as possible” by providing a ready abundance of public charging stations.

Last year, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District joined up with the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency to establish a network of free-to-use public charging stations in rural cities across Fresno County to increase their availability. That means that every incorporated city in the county now has at least one place to charge an electric car.

Not coincidentally, the numbers of electric vehicles in California are concentrated primarily in areas of the state where there are more charging stations. Hedrick said that makes sense because those areas are densely populated.